Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of lie. Up until The Force Awakens came out last year, I had never seen a Star Wars film. And today, I still haven’t finished either of the original trilogy or the prequels. And do you know why? Because they were honestly a bit shit.
Last December, I was apprehensively taken to the cinema to see The Force Awakens – the latest instalment in the beloved Star Wars film franchise, one of the most hotly anticipated films of the millennium, and the third highest grossing film in the world – ever. And, to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. Having only some vague knowledge of the story of the previous films – I knew Darth Vader was Luke’s dad, Luke and Leia were brother and sister, and that Jar Jar Binks was terrible – I was pleased to find out that TFA worked well as a stand-alone film. I quickly became invested in the characters and their backstories, revelled over the visual effects, and left the cinema eager to learn more about the Star Wars universe.
After browsing Wookieepedia, watching many fan theory videos, and, to my shame, pouring over a few fan-fictions, I became excited to dive into the original trilogy and the prequels. After being advised to watch the six films in the ‘Machete Order’ – starting with Episode 4 and 5, then watching the prequels, Episodes 1-3, before finishing on the last of the original trilogy, Episode 6 – I settled down one evening, and stuck on the first of the films. It took a fair bit of rewinding to rewatch important bits that my attention had lapsed during, and much more pausing to google what exactly was happening, as I found myself becoming increasingly confused as to what was going on (though this was probably more a reflection of my mental capabilities rather than the film’s merit). But I made it to the end, proud of myself for finally getting round to watching it.
However, as I progressed through the films, my patience for them wore thin as I found myself bored, confused, and very disenchanted by the franchise. After the brilliance of The Force Awakens, I couldn’t help but be incredible disappointed by the original films. Why was everyone so outraged that I hadn’t seen these films, when they were so terribly mediocre? I made it half way through Episode 2, the fourth film in the Machete Order, before giving up entirely and sticking on Lindsay Lohan’s Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen instead. Hey, at least I tried.
When this comes up in conversation, I am met with arguably more outrage than I was when I had to say that I had never seen any Star Wars films at all. People seem almost personally offended, quickly coming to the conclusion that I am merely a woman of simple tastes, someone who clearly just doesn’t appreciate the cinematic brilliance of Star Wars. And whilst they might have a point in saying that I’m not exactly a film buff – I do genuinely enjoy early 2000s Lindsay Lohan films – I would argue that Star Wars is universally loved for reasons beyond its quality as a film franchise.
For the vast majority of those who have watched the films, they were introduced to them at a young age. With the first film being released in 1977, before any of us millennials were born (and probably around about the time our parents were children or teenagers), memories of watching the films for the first time will be heavily laced with nostalgia. On top of this, the world of cinema has made leaps and bounds since the 70s and 80s. At the time, the Star Wars films were ground-breaking – and whilst some aspects of it may have aged well, it is not immune to the effects of the passing of time. Similarly, given the length of time they’ve been around, the massive plot twists that are now considered some of the greatest in the history of cinema, have become common knowledge, taking the shine off of some of the film’s crown jewels. To those of us who didn’t grow up with the films or watch them during the period of their initial release, it’s become difficult to place them on the pedestal that the rest of the world seems insistent that they belong on top of. And since my first taste of Star Wars came in the form of The Force Awakens, the original films and the prequels have sadly failed to have the ‘wow’ factor that I had hoped for or been promised.
Like anything that is met with incredible acclaim and worldwide hype, it is often the expectations that come alongside this that cause its downfall. Combine this with the franchise being untouchable due to its protective shield of nostalgia, and the unexpected love I found for The Force Awakens, the original films were doomed for me before I had even begun. To anyone else who finds themselves in the position I was, thinking that they should bite the bullet and jump in to the world of Star Wars, then proceed with caution. You may love them! Or you may enjoy a few of them, but find others totally insufferable (at least I can agree with most people in saying that the prequels are beyond terrible). Or you might, like me, come away feeling entirely let down by the whole thing. And if you do, that’s okay – because you can come and find me, and we can just binge watch Lindsay Lohan films instead.
[Hannah Burke –@hannahcburke_]