I admit, I considered shelving this post for two reasons: 1) I feared it would seem trivial, talking about Star Wars while America loses its collective mind, and 2) while I adore Star Wars, its fandom isn’t known for…ahem…tolerance…and I know what I say here may ruffle a few feathers regardless of how kindly and respectfully I try to express myself.
But then I figured, “Well hey, my readers might appreciate a celebration of epic stories right now–and if I can’t express myself freely on my own blog, I might as well call it quits.” So here goes. I do promise lots of fun, positivity, and fangirling–and I also hope this post sparks plenty of cheerful and respectful conversation in the comments section!
So here’s the thing: I got the Star Wars Prequels plus Solo and Rogue One for Christmas, which means I’ve seen the ENTIRE (to date) Star Wars Cinematic Saga! It feels great to be completely “in the know” now. And yes, I realize I could claim an even deeper sense of context if I invested time and emotional energy into every season of The Clone Wars and Rebels, but hey, give me a little grace! I can now wax eloquent on Anakin and Padmé, fangirl shamelessly over Obi-Wan Kenobi, agonize over Qi’ra, and salute (for the first time since I saw it in theaters in 2016) the dauntless Rogue One team.
Needless to say, I had so much fun–not least because I live-texted Emily (author of The Altogether Unexpected) through each movie. She did not judge me in the slightest for my gleeful and/or panicked all-caps texts, especially during The Revenge of the Sith (That movie was amazing, WOW). But the other reason I had such a grand time is a simple one: while Star Wars isn’t my “first love” when it comes to science fiction (that honor goes to the original Star Trek), it has become one of my Ultimate Comfort Stories. It’s a grand, sweeping Fairytale in Space where light and goodness always overcome darkness. The heroes may claim the victory only through sacrifice or after devastating tragedy, but they do win. In this broken and chaotic world, we all need stories like that.
I saw this triumph of light over darkness play out in the Prequel Trilogy as well as the two “mini-prequels.” The Prequels unfold like a Shakespearean tragedy: this is the story of Anakin Skywalker, and even though we first meet him as an adorable little boy, we know his story will end in heartbreak. While I thoroughly enjoyed the Prequels, I spent all three movies dreading the iconic but horrific moment when he is finally transformed into
the coolest bad guy in fictional history Darth Vader.
And yet the Prequels don’t end on a hopeless note, do they? The final shots are of Bail Organa (#myman) and his wife cradling a tiny baby girl…and of Obi-Wan Kenobi settling an equally tiny baby boy into the arms of young Beru Lars. We all know who these babies are and who they’ll grow up to be, and it’s enough to make your breath catch just a bit.
(By the way, I’m saving deeper, more detailed thoughts on the Prequels for an upcoming collaboration post with Emily, so stay tuned for that 😉 )
I got similarly hopeful themes from Solo and Rogue One. I think Rogue One is the most well-written, well-crafted of the whole Saga. Without relying on any “legacy characters” (like the Prequels and Sequels), it presents the audience with a tightly-knit story about a ragtag team determined to pinpoint the Empire’s greatest weakness. These unlikely heroes are unique and complex, wrestling with their own (very relatable) cynicism about the galaxy’s future…yet in the end, they “plant seeds in a garden they’ll never get to see.”
As for Solo…I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard for a Star Wars film or been so delighted by every little twist and turn. Were there a few bizarre what-the-heck moments? Sure. Still quirking an eyebrow at L3 and Lando over here, haha. But young Han is so lovable; his introduction to Chewie is so hilarious, and his quest for freedom and a ship of his own is so…well…so very Han Solo. And when my poor baby Qi’ra looks him in the eye and tells him, “You are one of the good guys,” I actually gasped in delight. Han doesn’t believe Qi’ra, of course, but we do. We know exactly who this cocky scoundrel will become.
So yes, I had a jolly good time with all these movies; believe it or not, I even enjoyed The Phantom Menace. But now I hear the question coming, and I figure I’d better head it off at the pass before it pops up in the comments section: “Now that you’ve seen them all, Maribeth, WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE?”
This is where I get nervous, because I know my answer is an unpopular one right now. Yet this is a fictional story, for cryin’ out loud, not Holy Writ, and nobody should have to apologize for their opinions about it. If your opinion differs from mine, THAT IS OKAY! I genuinely respect you and I will never shame you over your opinions or try to argue you out of them.
All I ask is that you do the same for me. It’s not a tall order.
(*takes a deep breath*) Okay, so here goes. I take some time getting to the point, so buckle in.
Every Star Wars trilogy is flawed. From the moment George Lucas decided, “Oh wait, maybe I won’t have a love triangle here–so GUESS WHAT, FOLKS, Luke and Leia are twins and Darth Vader is their dad,” we’ve been twisting ourselves into knots trying to manage plot holes, info dumps, excessive and/or inadequate world-building, bad acting, two-dimensional characters, inconsistent plots, and dubious continuity. Each trilogy features all or some of these problems. To deny it is folly.
But at the same time, we forgive Star Wars its many sins because its stories and characters are also incredibly poignant. How many kids over the past 40 years have grown up pretending to be Luke, Leia, Han, Anakin, Padme, Obi-Wan, Rey, Finn, and Poe? How many times have we looked at the political situations in these stories and found them relevant to our own times? How many other stories have been inspired by these three trilogies? Star Wars resonates with us because deep down it’s an old-fashioned fairytale, with flawed-but-lovable characters and transcendent themes.
Different stories, however, resonate with different individuals. This is normal. Star Trek: The Next Generation did not resonate with me like it did with a good friend of mine…but Star Trek: The Original Series sure did. Have I enjoyed the episodes and movies of The Next Generation I’ve seen? Sure! But I don’t love them like I love the stories of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy…and that’s okay.
So when I say that the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy remains my personal favorite, I’m not throwing mud at the Originals or the Prequels, their characters, or their fans. I’m not even saying I think the Sequels are perfect. Lord knows I don’t think that!
But what I am saying is that the story of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Ben resonated (and continue to resonate) with me. Rey stands strong and proud alongside Peggy Carter and Sister Julienne as one of my most beloved fictional heroines. Finn’s good, wholesome soul still warms my heart. I love watching Poe grow in humility and leadership. And as for Ben, I can’t think of another fictional redemption arc that unfolds in such a profoundly theological way.
The Originals, Prequels, and mini-prequels are fun and deeply important to the rest of the Saga, but they haven’t touched my soul, inspired my creativity, or made me smile, squeal, and sigh like the Sequels do. I refuse to apologize for that. But the fact that I love the Sequels best does not in any way invalidate what I said at the start of this post: I just love this good old-fashioned Fairytale in Space where light and goodness always overcome the darkness. And I look forward to enjoying it, dissecting it, and fangirling over it with my friends for many years to come 😉