This past weekend was May the Fourth, a celebration of geek culture in general and Star Wars in particular. Most observances were small and subtle, little more than the sharing of memes on Facebook and the like. Others were a bit more involved (if you don’t get it, don’t worry; you have to be a regular follower of the whole site for it to be funny).
I used to like Star Wars – love it, even. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, lightsabers, the Force. It was really rad. Even though I identify with Star Trek more than Star Wars, I always enjoyed the Holy Trilogy. But something has happened to my enjoyment of this franchise, something that has marred and marked this icon of geekery.
The franchise itself.
It seems unfair to dump all my dislike on Episode One and the Prequel Trilogy as a whole, but that’s really where it started. Episode One was so subpar, so mediocre, it hampered my enjoyment of the franchise as a whole. And subsequent releases only further distanced me from the series. Once the entire Prequel Trilogy had been released, I found myself disillusioned with Anakin Skywalker and the efforts of Obi-wan Kenobi. Darth Vader no longer seemed like an elite and revered warrior; he seemed like an easily manipulated goon. He stopped being the Big Bad and became Oddjob or Jaws from James Bond. The reverence and awe I once had for Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith, was completely undermined by what I now knew about Anakin Skywalker.
Obi-Wan Kenobi was ruined in much the same way. Whereas I’d once thought him to be a noble icon of intelligence and mastery, I now had learned that he was kind of a moron. He was being actively sought the universe over and he hadn’t even changed his last name? And was living down the street from the family of the guy he was hiding from? So much respect was lost.
But the Prequel Trilogy only started it. In the wake of the Prequel Trilogy came the video games. Unlike pre-Prequel Trilogy games that expanded on the Original Trilogy (tales of the Rogue Squadron or referenced battles in the movies), these games sought to expand on the mythology. The result after seeing games like Knights of the Old Republic was to dismiss the entire universe as living in a stagnant death. The universe in KotOR was almost identical to the one in the Original Trilogy, yet it took place a thousand years prior. If technology was the same across a millennial gap, then how could one take seriously a political upheaval? That wouldn’t be news; that would be inevitable. Seeing the story of KotOR unfold, I suddenly WANTED the Empire to take control because then maybe they could get something done!
And then there was the animated series. While I loved Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars series set between Episodes II and III (which very nearly redeemed the Prequel Trilogy), the current running Star Wars: the Clone Wars series was okay, but was just like the movies it was based from: maybe worth a watch if nothing was on but nothing remarkable.
And it was on this most recent May the Fourth that it occurred to me that I really don’t like Star Wars anymore. Something I used to really love had been retroactively ruined for me by sequels, video games, and an expanded universe that seemed destined – or even designed at times – to ruin these three films. I couldn’t recall the last time I talked to anybody about Star Wars that didn’t center on Anakin Skywalker instead of Luke Skywalker. In some ways, it almost seems like the collective geek culture has just decided that the Original Trilogy never existed, perhaps because to do so would be to admit just how much the franchise has deteriorated.
There was a time when sci-fi was ruled by four stars: Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, and Battlestar Galactica. And looking at the four now, it would seem the light of Star Wars has burned out for at least this fan.