I’ve waited 42 years for this. 42 long years, pretty much encompassing life, the universe, and everything.
I went to see Episode IV in 1977 when it was released, and was of course blown away by the innovation and game-changing nature of A New Hope. Like everyone else, I was all, “Huh? Episode IV? What’s that all about?” As time went on and when in 1980 George Lucas’ grand vision for a “nonology” became known, I was ecstatic. Episodes V and VI were released, and the world seemed rosy; a new episode would be released every three years until the series was complete.
- Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
- Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
- Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi (1983)
Well, about that. George Lucas ran head-on into reality; By 1981, the stress of producing the original trilogy had sapped him of his passion for the series, and he announced that there would be no further sequels. As a result, 1986 to 1999 there was a thirteen-year gap in the Star Wars chronology.
But thanks to changes in technology and advances in the field of CGI, Mr. Lucas changed his mind and ended up producing the Prequel Trilogy, which – together with Episodes 4 through 6 he referred to as “The Tragedy of Darth Vader.”
- Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
- Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
- Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Over the next six years as the Prequels were released, a strange thing began to happen to the Star Wars fan base. Instead of rejoicing in new episodes of space opera and opportunities to revisit old heroes and villains like Yoda and Palpateen, massive opprobrium was heaved at Lucas for things like the existence of Jar-Jar Binks, the acting prowess of the young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), the petulant Skywalker-turned-Vader (Hayden Christensen), and the heavy dependence on CGI rather than classic effects, among other things.
Finally, after the completion of the Prequels, Lucas gave up the Star Wars world altogether and turned it over to Disney, although he hoped that his ideas for the conclusion, included in the sale, would be factored in to any future films. That was not to be, and the saga took a different turn than its original creator had envisioned.
- Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
- Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
- Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
The opinion of fans on the final three installments of the saga have been widely divergent. Some loved them, others hated them, for reasons which seemed good to them. As for myself, I just got back from seeing Episode IX this afternoon, and while I promised no spoilers I have this to say:
The entire saga is an absolute masterpiece. My hat is off to George Lucas and everyone who took up the torch after him, or who helped to bring these amazing films to life – from the writers, directors, and producers, to the brilliant actors both old and new, to the stage crews, to the special effects and art and sound and music people, to the people who provided canteen services and emptied trash cans on the set and elsewhere – simply everyone. Bravo. Bravissimo.
The final episode was an immensely satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker epic. I laughed, I cried, I clapped, I cheered, and walked out fulfilled. This is the opinion of one old geek and, of course, your mileage may vary.
And naturally this is not all of Star Wars.
- Rogue One (2016)
- Solo (2018)
In A New Hope, a major plot point was the Death Star and the acquisition of the plans (with the weapon’s weakness) by the Rebellion. Rogue One is the story of how the plans for the first Death Star were acquired. And it was poignant, and important to the saga, and brilliant.
While I held off a while watching Solo because in the back of my mind I just kept thinking, “How can they do Solo without Harrison Ford,” when the time came I found that I enjoyed the film thoroughly. It was a worthy addition to the Star Wars universe.
And doubtless, more is to come. Disney+ is currently streaming “The Mandalorian,” which is very well done and has captured the imagination of a new generation with a character called (perhaps erroneously) as “Baby Yoda.” How that will play out remains to be seen. A new trilogy (separate from the Skywalker saga) is in the works, a prequel to Rogue One is planned, and an Obi-Wan Kenobi series is being drafted.
How fans will relate to all of this new material remains to be seen. And while I don’t think I’ll be queuing up in the theaters to see future releases as I did for the original movies, they will definitely be on my watch list.
May the Force be with us all.
The Old Wolf has spoken.