Star Wars Filmmaking Has Not Evolved In The Past Ten Years

There’s obviously spoilers here. Stop reading and go see the movie if you haven’t already!

I’ve been struggling over the past week to make some sense of all my thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In another article I mentioned giving the new film a grade of C+ or Satisfactory. I followed-up that grade with random diatribes on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, Slack and really just ranted anywhere that people would listen. I did not have a concise or consistent message until just now.

Both The Star Wars Universe and Star Wars Filmmaking have not evolved or expanded in the last ten years since the release of Episode 3.

Surely that can’t be true? The first trilogy concluded in 1983. The prequels concluded in 2005. There is a ten year gap between Episode 3 and Episode 7. Given the extra decade of real-world time you’d figure that the Universe that LucasFilm/Disney would be able to create would be even richer than anything that existed before. You’d figure that was plenty of time to flush out new characters, new stories and new adventures. Even the art of filmmaking and storytelling should have evolved in that time. Each year audiences get more sophisticated.

Why is it however that the story we got in Episode 7 isn’t really that different from Episode 4? Episode 4 was released thirty years ago! How is that even possible? I’ve gotten older. You’ve gotten older. Technology is completely different. We have instantaneous ways of communication. Why hasn’t Star Wars evolved or grown in that same time frame? Let’s first examine what we mean by evolve.

e·volve [ ēˈvälv/ ] :: transitive verb

  1. develop gradually, especially from a simple to a more complex form.
  2. to change or develop slowly often into a better or more advanced state

This is the single biggest complaint I have about Episode 7. It has not gotten more advanced or complex and I have. It is in the same state Episode 4 was thirty years ago. The characters, story, plot, everything except the special effects. This is probably a testament more to Hollywood than anything. They will not change a single damn thing or evolve until they are absolutely forced to. They are a business and what we are watching is not art. Think about it — how much has moviemaking really evolved in the last 100 years? We are still a bunch of people in a room watching a screen.

George Lucas was always a bit of a contrarian in Hollywood so I will actually argue that although the execution was poor in Episode 1–3 at least he took some big chances. We had many different characters, we explored the political situation in much more depth, we learned much more about the Older Republic and its Force Wielders and that not everything was all roses, our knowledge of the Universe grew and expanded.

That’s not happening anymore though and you know why? Hollywood is broken. Hollywood is like that friend that you had in High School that you see at the 20 year reunion that has not changed at all. Still a slacker just with a dead-end job that drinks and smokes weed all day. Content with just existing. Hollywood really needs to learn from the Video Game Industry.

There is a reason why Hollywood grossed about 40 billion in revenue in 2015 and the Video Game Industry grossed 92 billion. In the Early 2000s the Video Game Industry was actually much smaller than Hollywood but quickly caught up and surpassed them and now decimates them. It’s not even close anymore. Hollywood is getting destroyed by Video Games.

Unlike Hollywood the Video Game Industry has evolved and grown up along with all of us. Video Games were very simple with they first came out. Super Mario Brothers was pretty light on story (rescue the princess) but compare it to what you get with a game like Halo or Grand Theft Auto today. The technology continuously improves but so does the story telling and the whole art around producing these masterpieces. You have your copycats but the industry is constantly pushing itself forward.

This is why I’m so disappointed. I think audiences are much more sophisticated than they were years ago. The Internet has given everyone a voice. People are going to dissect and pick apart everything. Hollywood has got to rise to the challenge otherwise we’re going to continue to get bored. We’re going to depart these franchises in mass numbers that we grew up with and instead gravitate towards those that deliver what we want and don’t treat us like little children in the process.

The next person that tells me we need an entire movie to reset expectations and prove that we can make a good Star Wars film is going to get an open-handed slap in the mouth. Sorry Hollywood — throw it all on the table in the first Episode. Go For Broke. Assume your audience aren’t idiots and that you can reset the Universe in ten minutes not two hours. You don’t really have any other choice, we all expect much more of you.