And I Explain Why I can’t Review Star Wars Films
Hi out there internet people. This blog post is going to be a little different than most of mine. This is not a review but rather a few thoughts I want to share on my favorite franchise and favorite film of all time. I have a duty as a Star Wars fan to notify anyone reading this that there are HUGE spoilers in this essay for several Star Wars films. I know, it’s a forty year old film and perhaps the timeline on that warning has expired but for anyone who hasn’t seen these films, missing out on the twists in this movie is an experience I do not want to burden anyone with.
The Empire Strikes Back has turned 40 today. It’s probably the most highly regarded Star Wars film of all time and it’s absolutely my favorite film. If you were a kid back when this premiered and got to see it in the theaters like I did, before there was Return of the Jedi, or any of the prequels, sequels and spinoffs, this movie likely takes up real estate in your imagination.
After I saw the film, my friends and I were absolutely blown away. Darth Vader is Luke’s father?! Wait, is Lando a good guy or a bad guy? I mean he seemed friends with Han but then let the stormtroopers take him and then tried to help but still, what if he is in league with the Empire? Did you see those bounty hunters? Man, I want to see a whole movie about those guys! And the one with the jet pack who captured Han Solo, what’s his story? Will Luke be able to save Han? Is Luke in love with Leia? Leia is definitely in love with Han and vice versa though! And of course, my favorite question of all time when it comes to Star Wars, who is Yoda? Where did he come from and what is his story?
I used to want answers to all of those things so badly it drove me wild. I spent hours playing with my friends, pretending to be these characters. As I grew older, I would have hotly contested debates about the franchise and most often about this movie. We all loved this one the most, even after Return of the Jedi answered a lot of the questions we had. The fact remained though, that we never got all the answers. We still wanted to know more about Darth Vader’s origins and where Leia had been before she met Luke and company. We were given novels, comics, and other speculation as to those answers for years. And again, when the prequel films came out, we got some answers but not all.
The truth is, I don’t want all the answers provided in Star Wars. I know that now we have a fierce drive and desire to see every plot hole filled, all characters have an arc, and a satisfying conclusion to a saga once it is time to be wrapped up. This is why I can totally understand how much people love the MCU. That franchise is exceptionally good at tying up almost everything in a neat package with a neat little bow on top. Of course there are some things in those movies that are still open ended but many times these things are explained away in an interview or with a tweet or a timeline flow chart. Once the answer is officially given, it’s cannon and we don’t have to wonder so much anymore.
Yet in Star Wars, what is left unanswered fuels the imagination of tons of creators. Not only are there gaps in plots, there are gaping holes. Those holes can be filled with more stories but those tend to bring up even more questions. I love that. It makes the universe of Star Wars feel so much more alive. Here on earth, in our current time, our lives have plot holes. We don’t have a character arc. Sure we can learn and grow as people but for the most part we are, “just a simple man (or woman or person or pick your pronoun), trying to make my way in the universe.” That means that we don’t get all of our questions answered. And you know what? That, to me, is what makes Star Wars seem real and full. It’s a fully realized universe because it is so lived in that you can’t find all of the answers.
When Rise of Skywalker came out, I was in line to see it on opening day. Most of my friends were too. I know, that there is a lot of criticism of this film and I completely understand that. We don’t know a lot of the answers to the questions this movie brings up. And while I am hesitant to give any spoilers of this movie because it is more recent, I do see how at least one major plot point doesn’t make a ton of sense. You know what though? I don’t care. I still loved it. Why? Because it left me with questions that I want answers to, just like The Empire Strikes Back did.
Now, that’s not to say that I think all Star Wars films are perfect. Far from it. From the early movies which hardly featured a single female character (Leia excepted of course) and virtually no people of color, to the still currently lacking LGBTQ representation, there are quite valid criticisms of these movies. What I don’t think they should be criticized for is for leaving your imagination open to wonder what more there is to the story.
There are character arcs in the sequel films that were changed mid stream. There are characters who unjustly got far less screen time than they deserved. And there are huge unexplained plot holes. I understand how someone can find all of that frustrating. But, with Empire at least, those things fueled my imagination and the imagination of countless people world wide. I suspect Rise of Skywalker will actually do the same.
While that one is not my favorite Star Wars film, it has a place in my heart, just as anything Star Wars does. That’s why I can’t bring myself to ever review a Star Wars movie. I know that I genuinely cannot be objective about it. I’ve loved it for too long and that’s never going to stop. I personally think we could use more films like Empire, that force our imaginations to ask questions. Be honest with yourself for a minute, is it really that bad to come out of a film wondering about something that happened in it? Is it so awful to wish that there was more of an answer? I don’t think so. And the reason I don’t think that is because those questions propel the story forward like the Falcon entering hyperspace.
Don’t you want more out of film? Don’t you want to be asking questions because of a movie you saw? With Empire Strikes Back, my deep love of film was truly born. And not because of the fact that every twist, turn and event was spoon fed to me with nothing left to know. No, it’s precisely because it made me ask questions that this is and always will be my favorite film.
I can’t wait to see what the next forty years of questions brings me from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
May the force be with you.