The Story Geeks blogger Ashley Pauls responds with an additional perspective to the same topic discussed in this week’s podcast – which era of Star Wars is better. Want to share your own take? Join the conversation in The Story Geeks Facebook group!
Which Star Wars era is better — the Lucas era or the Disney era?
If you’d asked me this question a year ago, I would have said the Lucas era, all the way. It’s hard to beat the Original Trilogy, which has been a beloved classic for 40 years now. The Prequel Trilogy is definitely not as celebrated amongst the fanbase, but everybody loves the original adventures of Han, Luke, and Leia, right?
However, I have been really impressed with the storytelling Disney has given us as part of their era of Star Wars. And in some ways, the Disney era has come to feel like “my Star Wars,” if that makes sense. When Disney announced they had purchased the franchise in 2012, I was just starting to really get into geek culture and blogging about films. I’ve gotten to watch this new era develop firsthand, and that feels really special to me.
I suppose now is as good a time as any to also confess that “The Last Jedi” has actually surpassed “Empire Strikes Back” as my favorite Star Wars film. I am fully prepared to embrace the controversy for that (although please, be kind to me, Internet!). 😉 Interestingly, after a recent rewatch, “Return of the Jedi” has jumped into my No. 2 spot and pushed “Empire” down to No. 3, but that’s probably another topic for another time…
I will always love and respect the Original Trilogy, but here are three reasons why I’m picking the Disney era as my favorite era of Star Wars.
1. Diversity of storytelling
I actually mean this in two different senses: diversity in the types of stories being told, and diversity in the cast of characters.
So far, we’ve had four different Disney era Star Wars films. The two Sequel Trilogy films, “Rogue One,” and “Solo” feel very different from each other — and I think that’s great.
I love that “Rogue One” feels more like a gritty war movie that just happens to be set in the Star Wars universe. I love that “Solo” is a heist flick with a western vibe. I love that Disney allowed Rian Johnson to push the franchise in a risky new direction with “The Last Jedi.”
I’m glad that Disney and Lucasfilm are exploring different kinds of stories, and allowing individual filmmakers to show off their own unique styles. In the future, I’d love to see them keep taking chances and pulling inspiration from different genres.
Also, it’s great to see all the diverse actors Disney has brought into the Star Wars universe. Poe, Finn, Rose, Cassian, Baze, Chirrut, and others get to be heroes for a whole new generation of fans.
And as a female fan, it has been so exciting to see all the rich female characters added to the franchise. I always think back to the moment in “The Force Awakens,” where Rey and Kylo are facing off in the snowy forest, and Rey calls the legacy lightsaber to her hands. I actually teared up when I watched that part; I hadn’t realized just how much seeing a female main character tapping into the Force in a Star Wars film would mean to me, similar to the way I felt when watching “Wonder Woman” for the first time. I can’t wait to see more female Jedi, bounty hunters, pilots, etc. added to the galaxy far, far away.
2. Reflecting on the past and embracing the future
I love a lot of the books and storylines in the now non-canon Star Wars Expanded Universe/Legends. However, I feel that towards the end, the storylines with Han, Luke, and Leia were starting to get a little stale. Perhaps the novels were treading a little too carefully with the portrayal of these characters, although I totally understand the reasons why. It would be risky to kill them off or have them veer too close to the dark side.
Maybe you don’t agree with Han, Luke, and Leia’s character arcs in the Disney era. That’s totally fine, and there are some really great books in Legends where they made completely different choices and their lives went in a completely different direction.
Still, I appreciate that the Sequel Trilogy has stripped away some of the “legendary” status from these characters, and portrayed them as more human and flawed. Han and Leia’s marriage failed. Their son turned to the dark side. Luke made a terrible mistake and shut himself off from the galaxy.
However, these three are very much still heroes, and in the end they choose to do the right thing, sometimes at great cost. Their relatable struggles make their actions even more heroic.
I also love all the new characters we’ve been given. While “Solo” is probably my least favorite of the Disney era films, Qi’ra is one of my all-time favorite Star Wars characters now. I love John Boyega as Finn and can’t wait to see him fully become a hero in Episode IX. And I’m fascinated by everything happening with Rey and Kylo Ren’s character arcs right now.
The Disney era of films have had some really solid acting, and though I know it’s probably controversial to say it, the performances in the new films are even stronger than the Original Trilogy. (Please don’t hate me!)
Regardless of how Mark Hamill may or may not have felt about Luke’s arc in “The Last Jedi,” it’s hands-down his best performance as the character. And Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley’s excellent non-verbal acting skills (eyes, facial expressions, body language, etc.) take their characters to a new level.
Through the introduction of these new characters and the return of old ones, the Disney era has been able to explore some powerful themes like letting go of the past; learning from failure; and finding balance.
3. The cinematography and blend of special/practical effects
Having good special effects does not always equal a “good movie.” However, while relying too much on CGI can bring a film down, well-applied special effects can really enhance a film. The Disney era has done a good job blending practical effects with special effects, creating a universe that feels more lived in and real than the Prequels.
There is some really gorgeous cinematography in the Disney era of film-making, and I love how lighting and shot framing are used to tell the story and provide subtle cues as to how we’re supposed to interpret the events we’re seeing on screen. Some of my favorite examples are the fight in the snowy forest between Rey and Kylo that I referenced above; Snoke’s throne room; the beach battle on Scarif; the stark red and white landscape of Crait; and I could keep going on and on.
So I know I’ve praised the Disney era a lot here, but I do want to say again that I really do love the Original Trilogy, and it will always have a special place in my heart. Darth Vader is still my all-time favorite character, and his redemption is my all-time favorite Star Wars scene. Just because I love the Disney era even more now, doesn’t mean I love the Original Trilogy any less!
Another awesome thing I’ve noticed under the Disney era is that I’ve started hearing even more diverse opinions from people regarding what they love most about Star Wars. Although “Empire Strikes Back” is often regarded as the best Star Wars film by fans and critics, it’s okay if you have a different favorite. I’ve heard people say they love “Return of the Jedi,” or “The Force Awakens,” or “Solo” best. Or even some people who like the books more than the movies. No one of those is a right or wrong answer.
There’s plenty of room in this galaxy for all of us!
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