DECEMBER 8 — In 1999, I had one thing to look forward to. It was not — I am sure to my dad’s consternation — my graduation from university nor was it any significant event in my own life.
Rather, it was the arrival of Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace. I had been looking forward to this since the re-release of the original trilogy in 1997 when Lucasfilm announced this major event.
I was aware of the buzz much earlier, of course, having been a Star Wars fan since my childhood. I was such a fan that in my early teens, I watched at least one of the original films per day. I was actually able to reel off lines from entire scenes!
But the prequels — Episode 1, 2 and 3 released in 1999, 2002 and 2005 — let me down considerably.
I remember walking out of the cinema on that warm evening in 1999 feeling that something was missing. Like a bottle of soft drink which simply lacked any fizz.
That heady emotional cocktail which underpinned the original trilogy was simply gone. Even the Jedi mythology — sacred to longtime fans like me — had been tampered with.
Nearly 20 years later, many older fans think of that trilogy as a bad dream. I may not go that far but I still cannot bring myself to watch them again.
So in 2015, after George Lucas had sold his company to Disney, came Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Disney had promised fans that it would not be following the prequels. That certainly set millions of fans at ease.
I was quite excited to learn that the three original cast members would even return in this instalment of the Star Wars franchise. Imagine, Luke Skywalker on screen after 33 years (Return Of The Jedi was in 1983!).
Sadly, even this could not restore my Star Wars romance. While it was miles better than the prequels, it was simply a magnification of the original plot.
Instead of being capable of wiping out a planet in one go, this new cannon could wipe out several! Then we had the Jedi prodigy discovering her true destiny and eventually finding her way to Luke Skywalker, who had absolutely no lines in the film at all. The Force Awakens was simply underwhelming to me.
And now we have Star Wars: The Last Jedi. There are huge expectations for this film. For a start, Rey, the emerging hero of the last film, is to receive training at the hands of Luke Skywalker, as the trailers show us.
Wait, what? Isn’t this exactly like The Empire Strikes Back? In that film, it was Luke himself who received training at the hands of Yoda, whose peculiar speech patterns remain a cultural artifact 37 years after its introduction.
We will also get to see in which direction Kylo Ren develops. Will he regret killing his father in The Force Awakens and return to the Jedi or complete his training as a Sith?
This ambiguity is again an approximate repeat of Darth Vader’s (Kylo’s grandfather) own nascent dilemma in the aforementioned The Empire Strikes Back. Vader was seen to be against the idea of killing off Luke Skywalker and instead turn him to the dark side.
My point in these comparisons is to submit that perhaps Star Wars has lost its originality. Does it all have to involve gigantic weapons, new Jedi and their training and a conflicted Sith? In the interim movie which was Rogue One, we had an amazing relatively Jedi-free film and it was refreshing. We learnt that the Jedi weren’t the only users of the Force too which was again, a breath of fresh air.
With Disney promising to churn out more and more Star Wars films, they run the risk of doing something Lucas scrupulously avoided during the post-Return of the Jedi years — cheapening the franchise.
It would be a shame because for fans of my generation who were mere children when the originals first came out, Star Wars was more than just entertainment, they were our very culture.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.