Well, we all know how the Skywalker Saga is going to end now, don’t we?
I’m busy as hell today and as we all know the bomb drops tonight. I’ll be seeing The Rise of Skywalker ASAP and possibly getting my fully impartial and scathing review posted either Friday or Saturday. I’m not sure how long the article is going to take to write because it sounds like there is going to be a lot of bad to unpack.
One of the easiest tells for a truly great story is this, “even knowing how the story ends would you still want to listen to it again?”
There are no surprise endings to any of Shakespeare’s plays. We know how it ends for the evil King Richard and the myopic Prince Hamlet. No mystery remains in Kane’s last word of, “Rosebud.” Rick will always send Ilsa away at the Casablanca airport. We know that ET will get home and that Indy will basically have done nothing to advance his own movie because the Nazis were always gonna melt the moment they opened the Ark.
But we still watch these shows again and again. They are classics for a reason and that reason simply is, they are great stories.
Then there are the could have been great stories.
There was a lot of Game of Thrones fans out there that would rewatch earlier seasons of the show while waiting for the new shows to come out.
Then came 2019’s season.
I asked a few fans of GOT, “even knowing how it ends would you still watch this again?” The answer was always, “no.” A, “no,” with qualifications here and there, they loved this scene or that episode but would when pressed for an answer on the big question they would finally admit that they just can’t because the end of the story ruined it for them.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. Aliens is a great movie but it’s nearly unwatchable because you know that brave Hicks, sweet little Newt, and the noble android are all going to be dead before the opening credits are done in that festering shit heap Alien 3. Terminator 3 completely nullified the ending of Terminator 2.
I’m sure you can come up with your own examples without trying.*
Yes, a bad sequel can easily ruin a good story that came before it. It’s in the name, after all, sequel means that which came next in sequence. It’s the next part of the story as a whole.
This is what a lot of us mean when we say that the new Star Wars movies have ruined the whole thing for us.
The first movies were pretty close to magical. I’ll never be twelve again and I’ll never be able to feel a little boy’s excitement over the coolest and greatest thing he’s ever seen in his young life again. But for two generations they fired the imagination. There was something timeless that touched you about Luke’s gazing longing at the double sunset of Tatooine and silently asking the cosmos, isn’t there more than this out there? Han was clearly living a hand to mouth existence, his home was a broken down tramp freighter that was barely held together by string and baling wire. There was no room in that guy’s world for idealism… And yet he found it. Leia had been a freedom fighter all her life and at the end of Return of the Jedi, she could now live her own life.
The last two movies completely reversed these endings. Leia continued to fight for freedom everywhere at the expense of her family life and lost the fight. Han was a complete failure of a man in every way possible. He slipped back down the ladder he’d climbed up rung by rung. Walked out on his family, went back to being a petty criminal, and finally was murdered by his only child. The worst carnage was done to Luke. The most optimistic and idealistic man in the Star Wars universe was completely butchered out. A broken, sniveling old man who nearly murdered his nephew because he kind of thought he might be a little be evil or something.
When people say, the first trilogy is still just fine, they are wrong. You can’t really choose one portion of a mural and ignore the rest.
*Just as a point of order. Not all bad sequels ruin the original because some sequels aren’t sequels at all, they are just bad remakes of the first movie. Exorcist II and Ghostbusters II being prime examples of this.