Star Wars Universe?

So, there’s a lot of consternation and discussion in the Star Wars fandom over the new Star Wars Universe in general, with issues ranging from too much of a focus on diversity and whether or not the people running it know or like Star Wars in the first place and so are making a point of redoing it to something that it really shouldn’t be. Nathan Hevenstone has written a post defending Star Wars Universes and defending the new movies. Speaking as someone who found TFA so bad that he hasn’t watched any of the following movies yet and has yet to watch TFA again despite watching all the prequels at least once a year, I want to weigh in on his thoughts.

He starts by trying to make sure that we see him as a Star Wars fan so that, presumably, we won’t just dismiss his comments:

I did not grow up with the original Star Wars trilogy. I grew up with the much-maligned Prequels. And you know something… I maligned them, too. Hell… I maligned them not very long ago, twice, on this very blog. But I went back and watched them recently and… you know what? They aren’t actually as bad as I remember them.

Yes, I’ve seen the original trilogy, of course, but I simply don’t have the connection to Luke Skywalker that so many have. However, I am a Star Wars fan. Not a big enough fan to have read and collected the lore or seen the maligned Christmas special and that stuff, but a big enough fan to have watched (and enjoyed) both the Clone Wars and Rebels animated TV shows, and a big enough fan to have been excited by Force Awakens, Rogue One, Last Jedi, and Solo.

But the thing is that having simply “seen” the OT is going to be an issue here, because the PT and ST are going to be defined by their relation to the OT. The PT was there to explain how we got to the events in the OT, and as such needed to set up the themes explored in the OT. The ST’s role — especially given the time jump it employed — is to show the consequences of the OT, and how things changed because of it, for good or for bad. It’s not a matter of having an emotional connection to Luke Skywalker that’s going to drive the complaints about The Last Jedi overturning everything good about the OT, but that it instead doesn’t respect the themes explored and introduced in the OT. And we can start with Luke Skywallker:

I know that Mark Hamill played Luke Skywalker, and that nobody knows the character of Luke Skywalker better than him. I think that if I ever want to know something about Luke, I would ask Mark Hamill first.

I also think he’s wrong about Luke’s story-arc in Last Jedi.

I absolutely loved what was done with him.


Because it made him interesting. People change when they get older. They don’t remain bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. They grow to see reality for what it is, and some become more cynical. Young Luke Skywalker went through the hero’s journey an optimistic, hopeful youngling, ready to take on the world. But as he grew older, he saw more and more what reality really was. He became disenchanted with the Jedi, desperate to change things. And then his older self saw evil in his nephew, and for a brief moment resolved to end it before realizing the mistake he made… a mistake which created that which he sought to avoid.

I find this fascinating. It added a new dimension to the character… a growth.

There are a number of problems with this, both logically and thematically when we consider that we have to carry on from the events of the OT. First, whatever the Jedi are in the post-OT galaxy, they are what Luke Skywalker made them to be. How can Luke become disillusioned with what he himself has built? What changes would he be striving for? This might be set-up in TLJ — remember, I haven’t seen it — but ultimately he’d be becoming disenchanted with his own Order, an Order that he could change himself at any time. That doesn’t really make sense.

The only way around this is to have him still maintain his hopeful view and reverence for the Jedi but then discover that they weren’t all that he thought they were. Except this clashes with the second problem: Jedi being cynical and purportedly seeing “reality” was there in the OT. That was what Obi-Wan and Yoda thought. That’s why they didn’t want to tell Luke that Vader was his father, because they thought that knowing that might weaken his resolve but that, at that point, there was no other way to deal with Vader than to kill him. Vader could not be turned. And it seemed to them that when Vader himself revealed that Vader was Luke’s father and Luke then insisted that he couldn’t kill him and that there was still good in him that what they had most feared was coming true:

Luke Skywalker: There is still good in him.

Obi-Wan: He’s more machine now than man. Twisted and evil.

Luke Skywalker: I can’t do it, Ben.

Obi-Wan: You cannot escape your destiny. You must face Darth Vader again.

Luke Skywalker: I can’t kill my own father.

Obi-Wan: Then the Emperor has already won. You were our only hope.

Even Vader doesn’t think that he can be turned back to the Light Side, and yet Luke believes that he can anyway. And, in the end … Luke was right and they were wrong. At arguably the most important moment in his life he gets a full-on actual confirmation that he was right about “reality” and the cynical, disillusioned Jedi were wrong. So, not only does he already have solid evidence that the Jedi are fallible and not perfect — although still a force for good in the galaxy — he also has solid proof that the cynical mindset is just plain wrong. So it’s not likely that it’s just going to be time that reverses his mindset. He’s going to need some kind of event to make that happen, something like Obi-Wan had that turned him, where he saw Anakin slaughtering younglings, attempting to kill his own wife, and screaming at him in impotent rage even as he lies dying. That’s going to take more than sensing some evil in Ben to make him decide, even momentarily, that killing him is the way to resolve this.

It would make far more sense, if you want to make Luke disillusioned, to instead of having him be tempted to kill Ben and having that trigger the issues to instead have him refuse to do so even when everyone else says that Ben cannot be saved. Luke, then, follows what he learned in the OT and refuses to kill him when he has the chance … and when he attempts to turn Ben he fails and Ben then goes on to commit horrific evils. This could shatter Luke’s confidence and upset his entire worldview, and thus lead to what Hevenstone likes about this move, but in a way that makes sense and is consistent with the themes of the OT. Heck, it can even have Luke’s return be driven by his realizing that he needs to try again, that his worldview was right and that just because he failed doesn’t mean that he was wrong. If you still want him to die, have him die to clear the way for Rey to try to finish what he started, so that it isn’t pointless.

Another way to go, if you want disillusioned Luke, is to follow on from the idea I floated in my discussion of how I would have done TFA and have Luke have a crisis of confidence in his training, or of Jedi training in general. Have him concerned that just training Force Users to use their powers is inherently corrupting, and that all training does, then, is produce stronger and stronger Sith. This concern was explored in some of the EU material (I, Jedi specifically), mostly from the angle of Luke questioning his own abilities, and not about Jedi training in general. But that concern far better explains Luke not wanting to train Rey in the first place; he feels that he cannot train her appropriately and so he might just be creating another Sith. Rey then has a path to showing him that that isn’t true, which can then, again, rebuild his worldview and explain why he then feels able to return.

Hevenstone here seems to be most excited that TLJ did something different or unexpected, but there are a lot of ways to do unexpected things that still build off of and respect the themes of the OT and the PT. What was done to Luke doesn’t seem to respect those. At all. And that’s why people hate them.

Last Jedi was entirely about failure. Literally everyone failed… even Kylo Ren. That was the whole damn point. This means that Luke Skywalker failed, as well. And that’s not a bad thing. It worked for the story. And it made Luke Skywalker human.

Everyone failed in The Empire Strikes Back, too. And yet that movie is extremely popular and well-liked and makes more sense. You can do a movie where everyone fails without turning your back on everything that came before it. In fact, the failures work better when they follow from the things you’ve already established, as opposed to happening in spite of that.

I didn’t want Luke Skywalker to suddenly appear in Force Awakens in Star Killer Base and superhero-save the poor, damseled Rey from big, bad Kylo Ren, because that would be boring. It would be useless, and would make Luke Skywalker a flat, boring, useless character who never actually grew up and went through things since Return of the Jedi. It would be horribly unrealistic for this older Luke Skywalker to be exactly the same as RotJ Luke Skywalker.

Nobody expected Luke to appear as the superhero that solved everything. That being said, being the main character of the OT and arguably the most powerful Jedi, we definitely expected him to be as “badass” if not more so than an untrained Rey. But even simply putting him into an Obi-Wan or Yoda role works, too. And, again, no one expected Luke to be exactly the same as he was on RotJ. But Luke in TLJ is nothing like RotJ Luke, at least at first. And if you’re going to do such a dramatic shift, you need to show us how that happened. You need to show the events and their impact on the character, and can’t just have the character show up and suddenly be radically different with no explanation beyond “He got older”. Like it or not, we had a starting point with Luke. If you want to break away from that starting point, you have to show us exactly how that character got to where they ended up. Hevenstone, I think, misses this because he is treating the ST more like a set of standalone movies than as movies that continue from the OT and so have to continue their themes.

This doesn’t mean that they can’t be subverted, however. It just means that if you do that you have to show your work.

I’m also glad that Rey was nobody. I love that she’s not related to Luke or Han or Palpatine or Kenobi or any other “important person”. I love that the Force doesn’t give a crap what your name is… it has different criteria for choosing you. Anyone can be Force-sensitive, and that’s awesome. I also love that Snoke was just a plot device… a reason to bring Rey and Kylo together.

The problem is that this only provides more evidence that Rian Johnson’s main focus was on simply destroying what had come before and replacing it with something he liked better rather than building on what had come before and what people had liked, because here he not only isn’t consistent with the OT/PT, but he’s even inconsistent with TFA.

The main personal mystery for Rey in TFA is her family. Who were they? Why did they abandon her? This drives her original montage and is reflected in her recurring dream and is pretty much why her getting Luke’s lightsaber is interesting. So TFA sets this up as a Chekhov’s Gun: due to the time and focus spent on it, when we finally get the answer it’s going to be something interesting. Except that the reveal is that it is, in fact, entirely uninteresting. This would be an interesting twist if the reason fans thought that she was part of one of the main families was just fan speculation, but it isn’t. Fans thought that her background would be important because TFA spent a lot of time hinting that it was. So the movie turning around and saying “Fooled you!” is not going to go over well. Sure, you got us, after spending lots of time deliberately misleading us and lying to us. Well done. So now I’m not going to trust anything you try to set up for later movies ever again. Good job.

The same thing applies to Snoke. The movie itself tries to make him mysterious and hint that he’s important. He’s likely how the First Order came to be in the first place — from TFA — and is the key in charge. He’s also from an alien race that we haven’t seen and is visually impressive. For him to be reduced to a mere plot device completely ignores the set-up in TFA, and makes all of that retroactively pointless. Again, TLJ isn’t even consistent with TFA, let alone the OT/PT.

And I’m super glad Rey and Kylo did not “get together.” Kylo is evil. I want Rey to kill him, not shag him.

While I don’t like the idea of Rey and Kylo getting romantically involved, this statement again just reflects a complete lack of understanding of the themes of the OT/PT, or at least a desire to undo all of them and make Star Wars over into something else that he might like better.

The overarching theme of the PT/OT is that no one is just evil, and no one can’t be redeemed. Luke’s entire arc shows him going against the beliefs of everyone around him that Vader was just evil and had to be killed to, instead, redeem him at the end. This is the climax of the PT/OT. This is what they all built towards. This, ultimately, is the underlying message of the movies. And not only do we see this through the main story, but also through the minor character arcs. Han Solo starts out as a mercenary-type only interested in his own benefit. Leia herself comments on that more than once, that Han is just that way and can’t be changed. Luke, at least, still somewhat believes in him and is disappointed in him when he thinks Han will just run off. And, in part because of that disappointment, Han does return to help the Rebels out, and eventually volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to help destroy the Death Star, and even risks the thing he loves most to help with that. Han moves from an irredeemable and incorrigible self-interested smuggler to someone “respectable”, fighting for a cause, which is one of the reasons that reverting him in TFA rubbed so many people the wrong way. Even Lando can be said to get a mini-arc with that, starting out as self-interested “I have my own problems!” to, again, risking his life for a cause greater than himself and his own. The overarching theme of the PT/OT is redemption, and so if you insist that Kylo can’t be redeemed something has gone seriously wrong.

This doesn’t mean that Kylo has to be redeemed at the end. From my setup of TFA, you can have Kylo fail to overcome the Light Side and thus be returned to the Light. Or you can have him succeed and Rey be forced to kill him. Or you can have him succeed and escape to reform the Sith, and end up with a KotOR-type situation of a battle between the Jedi/Republic led by Rey and the Sith/Empire led by Kylo. But the key is that you have to respect the message that we’ve all already seen that complete, irredeemable evil is, at least, very hard to come by in the Star Wars universe. Kylo being that sort of evil by default doesn’t respect that, especially since in TFA he was already established as not being irredeemably evil.

And I don’t care if Rey is a “Mary Sue”. I don’t care that she got so good with the Force so quickly. That doesn’t bother me at all because I straight up love her character. I think she’s a bad ass that I’d love to hang out with and even learn from. And all of that is in part because I think Daisy Ridley is an amazing actress.

That you like the actress does not mean that the character is good, or fits in with the trilogy. You might be impressed with her “bad ass” abilities, but the movie does nothing to establish why she should have them, and her doing that implies that she doesn’t need training despite the fact that an important plot point in TLJ is her trying to convince Luke to train her. That you can look past that for reasons external to the work itself is fine, but pretty much indicates that the character itself was at least done poorly. It is entirely likely that they could have given us a better and more consistent character that you still would have liked.

Now, admittedly, I didn’t like Rose Tico when I first saw Last Jedi. But you know what? After seeing all the hate she’s gotten, she’s now one of my favorite Star Wars character, literally just to spite all of you assholes who harassed Kelly Marie Tran off Instagram because you couldn’t handle Rose’s existence. I mean okay… after thinking about it more, I think I genuinely do actually like the character of Rose Tico. I hope they flesh her out more, because right now there isn’t much to her, but there is potential, and I hope they run with that potential. And it helps that Kelly is a really good actress, as well.

So, here you admit that your like was driven by the overblown reaction to her, and now you want to say that the character is, on further reflection, actually good based on … what? You didn’t like her at first and became sympathetic due to the reaction, and now say that it’s a good character. How do you know that you aren’t just rationalizing the character because you now want her to be a good character? I’m certainly not willing to think that any of your assessments here, at least, are in any way credible given the starting point.

But Last Jedi continued the Skywalker saga in a way I loved, and a way I most certainly would have asked for had I known to.

And how do you know that the alternatives that continued the saga in a more consistent way wouldn’t have been what you would have asked for if you had known? This, again, smacks of rationalization, not analysis.

And speaking of asking for a movie…

That is an argument I see thrown against Solo: A Star Wars Story time and time again. “Who asked for this? Nobody! That’s who!”

What a seriously pathetic argument.

The only movies that nobody ever asked for are the movies that don’t exist because nobody’s thought of them to begin with. If a movie was even conceived, at least one person asked for it. And if a movie’s reached the point that it’s in theaters, then, clearly, a lot of people have asked for it. Every movie ever made, good or bad, released and unreleased, has been asked for by far more than one person.


Hello! Nice to meet you! My name is Nathan Hevenstone, and I asked for Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Did you? Did you really? Did you ask for it before it was made? Did you ask for it when TFA came out? Or are you now insisting that you asked for it just because you want to try to refute a pathetic argument with an even more pathetic one?

Look, most of the people saying that no one asked for Solo will base that one of a couple of ideas. First, the idea that they should spend more time and effort establishing the ST before trying to shoehorn in a full on universe, because the success or failure of the side movies will depend on how well-received the ST is. Second, that they should stop trying to mine the OT era for ideas and instead focus on building up their own universe. Prequels work best when there is an underlying mystery to resolve, where we really, really want to see how things got that way, and both Rogue One and Solo suffer from not having really interesting questions at their heart. Now, that doesn’t mean that they are bad ideas, but, yes, there is going to be an underlying reaction to them of wondering what in the world they’re supposed to tell us that’s interesting. On the other hand, movies set in-between RotJ and TFA would tell us things that we don’t already know and that could impact the ST — which is where the focus is and has to be right now — and our understanding of it.

I’m not at all opposed to a Star Wars Universe of movies, but to avoid burn-out the movies have to be picked for maximum appeal. I don’t think Hevenstone gets that:

And you know what? That’s what I want. I’m sick of the Skywalkers. Their story is over, and it should stay that way.

Except … it isn’t over. Luke was the Last Jedi and Leia was an important figure in the Rebellion. Unless you’re going to have them never have kids — despite inheritance playing a role in Jedi powers in the OT — they are going to be important and will have a key role and great influence in what comes next. The ST was going to have to address them, and it doing so by wiping them all out would be kinda depressing for a Star Wars movie. So, again, Hevenstone has to be ignoring what happened before to insist that it is over. Of course, it might be over now — with Luke and Leia both dead — but that’s one of the criticisms that people are making about TLJ.

I agree with him that there are other stories to explore — although setting things among the non-Jedi users in the context of a Jedi/Sith war while ignoring that is likely to be … problematic — and that some of them can be explored in movies. But the movie elements have to be driven by what is maximally appealing, and thus what most people want to see. A lot of the things he wants to see are not of this sort. For example, who the heck are “The Ones”? Why should anyone care about them? And the backstory of the Sith and Jedi might be too convoluted for a movie or even for movie trilogies. At any rate, the fans aren’t upset about there possibly being a Star Wars Universe. They’re upset about those things happening when the main movies aren’t very good and seem to be spitting on the franchise. They’re upset about people who don’t seem to care about the original franchise wandering in and insisting on what it should be now, both in terms of things like diversity and in content.

And while Hevenstone might insist that he’s a fan, someone who spells “Leia” as “Leah” — twice — is someone that we should at least be suspicious of [grin].

At the end of the day, Star Wars had a context. It had themes. It had things that people liked about it. The ST seems to, more and more, be either trying to ape those themes without understanding them or to in fact want to try to toss them all aside because they don’t like them. This will annoy the fans who liked what it had and now note that it’s not there anymore, and doesn’t look like it will ever be there again. People like Hevenstone may like the changes, but they always seem to like that it was changed more than the specific changes themselves, and that raises the question of whether they even liked the originals, or if all that’s happening here is that they really wanted something other than Star Wars and are trying to change Star Wars into what they wanted while trying to keep the name. And any Star Wars fan — even if they want that new thing — should not be happy with Star Wars getting converted to something that it wasn’t to satisfy those sorts of demands.

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