OPINION: Disney didn’t ruin Star Wars — fans did

by | Dec 11, 2020 | Opinion

George Lucas’ long-running sci-fi franchise is one of the most popular in the world and yet somehow, it has some of the most toxic fans. In 1997 or so, my dad rented a VHS from Showcase Video, a store near our house and Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back was the first movie I saw that wasn’t a cartoon. I was fascinated with the story of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Han Solo and Princess Leia and the concept of The Force.

My dad took me to see The Phantom Menace in theatres in 1999 and it began a new journey with the prequel trilogy.

Despite its world-building, the prequel trilogy fell short with Lucas’ inability to write a consistent dialogue (“I don’t like sand. It’s coarse, rough and it gets everywhere,” from Episode II: Attack of the Clones, for example) and that’s when the anger and frustration with fans became evident.

Jake Lloyd, the child actor who played young Anakin in Episode I, became a target of bullying, so much so, that he chose to not pursue acting.

The appreciation and respect for the prequel trilogy didn’t come until Dave Filoni brought the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars out in 2008. While I greatly enjoyed the series, I have never been a fan of retroactive storytelling. Material either stands on its own or it doesn’t.

For the insufficient price tag of US$4.05 billion, the Walt Disney Company acquired Star Wars from 20th Century Fox in 2012. They immediately got to work on a sequel trilogy which did not go well upon release. The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, while performing well financially, fell short with a large number of movie-goers.

Some reasons were ridiculous, like choosing Rey (Daisy Ridley) being the main character, which is a reflection of the darker parts of the internet (or incel) culture. The trilogy primarily suffered from a lack of planning and then back-peddling with sequels to try and course-correct in order to please fans.

Kelly-Marie Tran who played Rose Tico in The Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker, received so much abuse on social media for her character that she left social media entirely.

If you asked me, those are not fans.

The Mandalorian on Disney+ has been collecting excellent reviews yet there have also been people who hate on it solely for its varied episode runtimes, like being only 32 minutes long some weeks. On the other hand, shows that drag on for too long also gets crucified for being boring and slow.

The Mandalorian’s show-runner, Jon Favreau, comes from the Marvel side of Disney where it can be argued creative freedom is more apparent, and bringing that energy to Star Wars creates a better environment.

Disney’s previous CEO, Bob Iger, did admit they rushed the sequel trilogy, and that created an environment that hurt the brand more than help it, but it doesn’t excuse the actions of the fanbase.

Nothing is immune to criticism. Film and television are an art form and art is meant to be interpreted and deconstructed. What cannot be tolerated is abuse from the people claiming to support and adore it. Be passionate, be involved, be obsessed, but do not be cruel.