There is no doubt that the Star Wars brand, and the billions of crazed fans that follow it, has changed in the last 30 years. What was once a franchise that screamed diversity and love to all walks of life has now but withered into a sad, miserable and harsh community. Everyone loves star wars and those who don't often respect what George Lucas did for Hollywood in 1977. However, merchandise sales and box office revenue are just the tip of the iceberg when a average movie goer thinks of Star Wars. Back in 2012, Disney acquired the rights to the Star Wars brand for a mere 4 billion dollars. A drop in the bucket for the studio compared to their recent endeavors. With the rights acquired Disney began planning for a new trilogy and the addition of spin off films for the next 20 years. Naturally, the fandom along with the rest of Hollywood looked forward to this "Sequel" trilogy and hungered for the return of Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbecca. See up until the early '90s the only Star Wars film that was considered "Meh" was Return of the Jedi. The list of reasons for why many considered Return of the Jedi bad are as listed.
With the original trilogy locked in history and the massive cash cow that was toys, clothes, lunch boxes, etc Lucas along with his studio closed a chapter in Hollywood. For eight years, the fandom slowly quieted down. Books, novels, and comics were the only source of new story for the fans and it was during this time that Lucas slowly stepped away from producing and writing. This is the only part in Star Wars history where bitter arguments and the complete disarray of fans laid in slumber. Of course, as time went on and the money started to dry from merchandise the studio executives started to poke at Lucas for a new Star Wars film. It so happens that Lucas himself was ready to dive back into the Galaxy far, far away. This was the beginning of the End for Star Wars.
See the problem was never telling a new story in the world of Star Wars. It was telling a story that related, inspired, and mostly importantly one that endured. Adults and kids alike found something special about "A New Hope" in 1977. Perhaps it was Luke's struggle to find his place in the galaxy or Leia's test of being a leader or hell even Han's journey to be rich. Whatever it may have been Star Wars always found a way to connect to someone. Strip away the silly creatures, the huge ships, or even the cute teddy bears and you find yourself with a genuine exploration of the hero's arc. The world of Star Wars is almost mythological in scale and yet easily understood to a child. Few films have captured the imagination of every person and fewer have done it the way Star Wars has.
The Prequels did something different to say the least. No one can understand what George Lucas planned to achieve with a prequel trilogy. All they knew is it would see the journey of Luke's father, Anakin Skywalker. His time from being a Jedi to becoming the menacing Darth Vadar. How that story would be told and presented was completely up in the air. Now everyone can agree that the Prequels got off on the wrong foot narratively. The only characters that were remotely familiar to the audience were Obi-Wan, Yoda, C-3PO and R2-D2. Everyone else were brand new characters even Anakin who was mentioned a couple of times in the original trilogy. Without going specifically into every flaw that "Phantom Menace" achieved lets take a look at the most critiqued portion of the film.
The third act of "Phantom Menace" is cited for being too much in a short amount of time. You have the droid army fighting against the Gungan Army on Naboo, the Naboo fighters fighting the droid space station, and finally Obi-Wan along with Qui-Gon Jin fighting Darth Maul. Three important arcs happening all at once. Most blockbuster films with have one important arc reach its conclusion by the the third act. Rarely do we see two arcs back to back in the last act of a film. The only film that comes to mind with more than one arc present in the last act is 2018's Avengers Infinity War. Regardless, the film has too much to wrap up before the credits role. A complete 180 from the narrative present in "A New Hope".
Fast forward to "Attack of the Clones" and again we find another plot riddled with multiple story arcs and character journeys. Sure audiences got more War with their Star Wars, but the overall story of Anakin and Padme falling in love is borderline creepy and flat. The only thing that keeps Attack of the Clones important is Obi-Wan's discovery of the clone army and the prelude to The Clone Wars. It kind of hard to enjoy Attack of the Clones with the number of political scenes found throughout the film's 142 minute runtime.
Finally, we get to the crown jewel of the Prequel trilogy, Revenge of the Sith. Gone are the days of politics and useless plot devices. Audiences dive into a movie brimming with action, believable love, and meme-able comedy. Revenge of the Sith is what many fans wanted for years. A proper look into the fall of Anakin and the rise of Darth Vadar. Now as always with these films Revenge is not without its flaws, but the number of things done right far out weigh the things done wrong. That includes the third act which had one solid character arc.
As time has passed many have come to respect what George Lucas envisioned for his universe. Both trilogies interconnect with each other respectively and do a lot to further hook audiences. Not to mention they created two separate types of fans in the same fandom. Those who like the prequels and those who like the originals. Moving ahead to Disney's crack at the Star Wars brand we find that the heavy criticism of the prequels resulted in a back fire for the sequels. From 2005 to 2014, Star Wars was still in recovery mode after many disregarded the prequels as being apart of Star Wars. Disney saw the opportunity to not only tell a story that would radiate with that child in all of us, but also a story that was familiar. If the prequels were the fuse the sequels would be the bomb.
The Force Awakens released on December 18th, 2015 to billions of eagerly awaiting fans both new and old. Some hoped that the film would play a subtle tone to the films before it while others just wanted a film that they believed could compete with the originals. Initially "The Force Awakens" was met with high praise. Many critics believed it was among the best of the Star Wars Saga like that of "Empire Strikes Back" and "A New Hope". Audiences quickly realized one major flaw that put them in a state of concern. The film is almost identical in plot to "A New Hope". Though the characters and their goals changed the challenges they faced didn't. StarKiller base, aka the new and improved Deathstar, was a mirror reflection of the plot device found in the original trilogy. A massive space station that needed to be destroyed to save the galaxy. The similarities don't stop there. The main character, Rey, is from a desert plan just like Luke and Anakin although its not the same planet. The mentor figure in this film, Han Solo, has a similar arc to Ben Kenobi in "A New Hope".
Disney saw the feedback received from the prequels so they decided to play it safe. A smart business move to reestablish trust in a beloved brand, but by no means a newer brand. Slowly and slowly the audience and fans went back to their old ways. Complaining online, virtual arguments, and even harassing the actors in the film. "The Last Jedi" would be the final film to break the back on the once beloved saga. The same procedure as before. Met with praise before finally being hated. Except this time no one was in a mood to listen to one another. Fans and audiences split in half like a Kit-Kat bar. Fueled by hatred and regret fans could only see the terrible in "Last Jedi". The film can go either way for many fans and movie goers. On one hand, "Last Jedi" had a more original story that focused on the resistance fleeing across the galaxy. Character wise the film had a different approach to certain heroes and villains, like Kylo Ren and Luke, by showing their motives and history. Allowing the mythology in Star Wars to be more grounded. It even blended themes of growing from the past and reshaping a person's place in the world. On the other hand the film made terrible jokes, stupid decisions, and left some characters undeveloped. Regardless, "The Last Jedi" is a piece of cinema ripe for discussion. Just be careful with who you talk to about it.
Finally, there's "The Rise of Skywalker". A film that many will remember as a fleeting memory. "The Last Jedi" confirmed the worst of what Disney feared. By making a story too different you alienate more box office goers which results in losing profit. So in an attempt to save the franchise and get people in theaters the executives believed it was safer to make a simpler story. One that involved saving that galaxy from destructive planet destroying weapons and defeating a familiar villain. Rise of Skywalker does little to challenge its viewers and instead relies on over-the-top action and pretty visuals. The bottom line is this. Star Wars needs to retire. Its not like Marvel were there are millions of comics to pick from. Star Wars is both vast in its story telling but at the same time strict in what it can tell.
Regardless of where some people stand Star Wars is not a universe that can be sustained year after year. The more films that have come out the more people have complained and started to hate them. The best thing that Disney could do now is retire the Star Wars brand and maybe, in the next 10 years, bring it back. There's no need to milk the cow when the cow has been dead. Films like Star Wars deserve better and those who created and supported it should respect that. Perhaps its time that balance was brought to the world of Star Wars even if it means ending it.