The Retcon of Skywalker

Friday 20th December 2019 00.01 Published by

So, let’s start with the relatively obvious news: there’s kinda no news; I haven’t managed to get around to redesigning the site yet, so this is still just basic hypertext banged out into Notepad++ at the speed of thinking which word to type next. I’ll get to it, at some point; for now, everything’s just pure content.

Then, let’s move on to the point of today’s What’s New….

Which implies somewhat that this is something of a negative review. I’m not sure I’d go that far. The tl;dr here is that I didn’t dislike The Rise of Skywalker in any important way. But we’ll get to that.

A long time ago, in a cinema far, far away…I saw what was at the time this independent film called StarWars. That is to say that, while it was released by Twentieth Century Fox, roughly equidistant between a couple other standalone films about aliens—one being among the worst films ever made, and the other being among the best—it was ultimately a relatively minor spaceopera thing made by the guy who’d made American Graffiti, which somewhat unofficially gave us Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley and Mork and Mindy—and ultimately gave us the concept of sharkjumping.

I saw StarWars on Wednesday 25th May 1977. The first time. Then I went back and saw it again. And a few more times. I had a friend at the time [as a completely irrelevant tangent, he died a year or two ago of causes probably unrelated to galactic civil war] who lived on the wrong side of the tracks, and therefore on the right side to have nightly boxseats for the drive in cinema; so, in the absence of sound [later, those places would get little FM Transmitters to connect a film’s soundtrack to your car stereo; at the time, they only had those rustly little squawkbox things on poles delineating muddy parking bays], we’d watch out his bedroom window and see the film again and again as the summer of 1977 droned along.

It’s 1977. And Lucas has made this film, just after the end of a war that America failed entirely to win for a decade. This has been mentioned elsewhere: a huge factor in the success of StarWars in memorial proximity to VietNam was likely that it was—while definitively a film about a war—a curiously optimistic fantasy thing with a soundtrack modelled after Gustav Holst’s Planets. Which, if that’s not a thing known well by The Kids Today, probably should be:

It’s been argued here and there that, if StarWars hadn’t been what it was, when it was—if it had been more like Jaws or Close Encounters or whatever cynical postwar sorta thing—it probably woulda flunked. Looking at the film critically, as something you didn’t grow up watching again and again because it existed, it was really something of a mess; it was largely incoherent, beyond the basic plotline of a goodguy hooking up with other goodguys to go up against a couple badguys who may have been working for a badguy referenced only as the emperor of the galaxy whose regional governors now had direct control over, like, starsystems no longer governed by some imperial senate that…there was a big sasquatch thing and a couple robots, and dogfights in space and exciting music. It was really something of a mess that only worked because it happened to work. It was throwing a basketball out of a moving car that happened to bounce off a wall before arcing up and going perfectly through the net a block away, because sometimes that’s what happens.

And that was kinda the end of the story. For a minute. Maybe not entirely; maybe someone got the bright idea to throw together an absurd clump of Carol Burnett sketches around a cartoon made entirely of nightmares to air on CBS toward the end of 1978; maybe Lucas considered filming Splinter of the Mind’s Eye as a halfassed sequel, if he could cobble together a couple million bucks over the next few years. But, for the consumerbase, StarWars appeared to be a single, standalone story augmented by a dozen actionfigures and some TShirts; you could get a StarWarsy baseballcard in bags of WonderBread.

I’ve still got this one in a box somewhere

I could also mention that StarWars got retconned as A New Hope—it got a new titlecrawl thing mentioning that it was actually Episode IV, further confusing people who’d been hearing for the preceding year that Lucas was off somewhere working on StarWarsII.

Again: it was something of a matter of timing. VietNam was over, and everyone was very tired. And the last time anyone hadn’t been very tired had been a couple decades earlier, roughly during Korea, when all entertainment in the world was radio dramas like The Shadow and serialised liveaction cartoons like Flash Gordon. That’s what Lucas had been spoofing with his standalone flick about a war in the stars. Now, in 1980, with hostages stuck in Iran for 444 days and a feckless peanut farmer’s presidency being threatened by the former governor of California and a newly independent candidate named Anderson, we’ve got a sequel not only to the thing we all saw three years ago, but to a trilogy implied to have existed when we weren’t looking.

Empire, to reiterate, was superior to StarWars. Initially just because it was new, and because Art Carney wasn’t in it. But, objectively, it was simply bigger and better and faster and more intense and whatever. It wasn’t perfect; I could rant volumes against this stupid film—from the brainless dialogue [A deathmark’s not an easy thing to live with] to the subplot requiring the Millennium Falcon to fly lightyears from Hoth to Bespin at subluminal speeds:

This makes no sense.

At this point, we’re getting kinda conditioned to something. It’s pretty much a cinch that, probably in 1983, we’re gonna see what’ll be called Episode VI—which, as we get closer to the expected release date, starts being called Revenge of the Jedi. Which is a little awkward for those of us who are already annoyed that anyone flew basically from Earth to Alpha Centauri beneath lightspeed in less than several thousand years; just at the moment, a probe we sent out toward the edge of the System of Sol, shortly after StarWars first came out without an episode number, is hurtling at forty thousand miles an hour and has only just made it past Saturn—a place you could get at lightspeed in just over an hour.

The retconned story, once Return of the Jedi came out on Wednesday 25th May 1983, was that Revenge of the Jedi was the fake working title of the Blue Harvest real working title of Episode VI; but that was retconned by the guy who thought that making the Kessel Run in a dozen parsecs made the Millennium Falcon a fast ship.

Jedi—because that’s what we call it—came out in 1983; by now, seeing the thing on opening night had become known as just something I do. Though, this time, it was a little different.

Even so, it wasn’t bad. The ewoks, which I only had a name for because that book had mentioned what they were called, were somewhat annoying; more annoying were the people who weren’t annoyed by them; and more fun was arguing with those people, who had to encounter me before realising that they were squeeing about these unblinking sharkeyed anthropophagous forestmonsters whose victims were reduced to empty helmets on which to bang out the rhythm section of whatever yubyub song.

Over time, it got old; I started thinking that Empire was better overall. Because Randall was right: all Jedi had was a buncha muppets.


1986 came and went; we got an incompetent sequel to that better Alien film from Fox, with the guy who’d plagiarised The Terminator from Harlan Ellison thinking that the best way to do a needless sequel to a haunted house on a starship was to make Rambo in Space.

StarWars came and went. It was come and gone. It was just over. The actionfigures dried up following a last ditch effort to release them with FruityPebble coins, just to get anyone to care.

I think I’ve got this in a box near a WonderBread card somewhere.

In 1995, and still before the internet was really becoming a place to find spoilers, rumours began to circulate about StarWars stuff coming back to the cinema. Which turned out to be something of a lie; what it actually was turned out to be marginally remastered copies of the three films we all knew about, possibly in 2.35:1 in addition to 4:3 [televisions were silly back then], to be released on VHS at SunCoast or whatever.

The future is now.

There were billboards all over Denver—and probably other cities—advertising these videocassettes. And the presence of those, and the cassettes themselves, killed for the moment any rumours of new stuff hitting the cinemas. For about a year.

The internet existed, but not very well.

To save you some time [are we still doing that?], it turned out to be the Special Editions. Which were pretty much the three StarWars films, but redone with JurassicParkish stuff in them. Cramming Jabba back into the first film, since he’d been cut when there had been no way to fake a convincing alien back in 1977; dewbacks that could walk around; XWings that weren’t just wooden models holding perfectly still in space as their SFoils opened to attack position. Improvements…overall.

As a matter of habit, I saw each of the SpEds on opening night as they came out toward the beginning of 1997—which means that I mentioned doing that here on this site at the time. Because the internet existed now.

There were, at that point, those of us who already knew what a prequel was, because Lucas had already made one in 1984: where Raiders of the Lost Ark was set in 1936, Temple of Doom was set in 1935. Which, for anyone capable of handling big numbers like those, meant that Indy probably wasn’t gonna get eaten by whatever alligators someone thought lived in India.

In 1998, we got a trailer, online, in RealMedia or whatever—possibly QuickTime— for Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Which began the hatred I’ve had for that stupid title which recently turned twenty-one years old. Is phantom an adjective? Really?

The problems with Menace were…they’re known. One was that I was exhausted—awake for forty-odd hours by the time I came out of the cinema at two something in the morning. And I was surrounded by people, of course: I’d got myself a ticket, obviously; I’d also grabbed another twenty or whatever limit they were imposing, so people showing up twenty-four hours after I had could get in too. And the immediate conversation with those people regarded how uncertain they were that they’d actually liked it.

That’s not to say that Menace was a bad film, objectively, as a standalone and first entry into a saga; it’s to say that it’s not what people were expecting to see.

Because the first film was now the fourth, implying that there could be three films from before the dark times; before the empire, there had been speculation for years that we could potentially eventually get a trilogy about the old republic and the Clone Wars [whatever that even meant] and whatever. Not, I should make clear, about Darth Vader as a kid; no one cared about Darth Vader as a kid. Few people cared about Boba Fett as a kid, while I’m on the topic. If anyone cared about anything—and, in hindsight, those people were idiots—they cared about things like Solo reportedly having known Fett back around the time he was meeting Chewbacca, or the actual events of the Clone Wars, or whatever Kenobi had been talking about in the first film. People wanted to see the galaxy before the empire took it over, they thought. They stated. They demanded.

For a good fifteen years there, to varying degrees of interest, people wanted to see the prequels and the events leading to the galactic civil war. Knowing only that the imperial senate had just been dissovled, and that maneating TeddyRuxpins would eventually VietCong the stormtroopers into their furry little stomachs, people had a perpetual interest in seeing the missing films in the saga and understanding what had happened across a thousand generations of jedi, or whatever.

There’s very little really wrong with The Phantom Menace. And less, if you haven’t already been awake since Monday when you see the opening crawl half an hour into Wednesday. If there had never been StarWars before, and it had come out in 1999 like it did, I think it woulda been okay. But, after a couple decades of people getting their own ideas about what Lucas should make for them, it fell short of their expectations. A bit.

Plus three years. Opening night. Thursday 16th May 2002, weirdly enough. Attack of the Clones.

The film itself…I wanna be as charitable as I can.

Clones isn’t all bad. It’s just…I watched it again, two days ago, when I watched all of the films, leading up to Episode IX. And…Clones never needed to happen. Within the structure of the whole saga, Clones was redundant against the opening few lines of Episode III. The Sith with the Golden Gun is a guy who exists; Yoda probably has a lightsabre, ridiculous though that sounds. But, for all that necessarily happened in Clones to get the runtime up to a hundred and forty-two minutes…the film doesn’t exist for any defensible reason. Teen Vader is older now; he digs on this chick in her twenties; Boba Fett’s trying to happen; begun this Clone War will have had sometime after this thing ends, because it doesn’t really appear anywhere in the film itself. Attack of the Clones is if The Empire Strikes Back had been two and a half hours of setting up a base on Hoth until, in the final ten seconds, General Rieekan had said: ‘Approach the At-Ats do.’

I wanted to like Clones. I wanted at minimum to see it as a slowish point in the larger story. But it’s just really kinda miserable. Christopher Lee was, in life, just awesome; I always like seeing him in anything the hell else. Clones is just…useless. Vader slowly turning evil is great on paper; Clones is just…sleepy. Learning that the stormtroopers were originally clones, and designed by Palpatine to attack the battledroids as a sorta Afghanistan File to pressure the senate into appointing him as chancellor is good to know; Clones is just…it’s an advert that didn’t talk me into watching the cartoon.

Plus three more years. Opening night: 19th May 2005. A Thursday again. Even though 25th May 2005 was a Wednesday. I don’t know what people are doing anymore.

Which is kinda George’s fault for caring what Melvin thinks. Something, something, path to the dimside; forever shall it dominate your ability to remember what you’re doing.

And then time passes for a while, because time does that.

Which is both something of a quote, and also an extreme absurdity.

Disney have the means to make StarWars good. Presumably, they have the ambition. The interest. The intention.

Opening night: 18th December 2015. Friday, because whatever. Not for me: I saw it the night before. I do that sometimes. The Force Awakens.

Left to his own devices.

Force isn’t a bad film. Because StarWars wasn’t a bad film. It’s a safe film. It takes almost no risks. It makes the first film again, with better effects, and simpler plotlines, and dumber dialogue. It turns Solo into Kenobi, and Skywalker into Organa. Kinda. It brings in a couple of kids, with their modern lingo, and sets them in the same set of circumstances that we’ve seen before. And it works for about half an hour, until someone disneys all over the damned thing. I think what lost me was the bit on the Falcon when two overexcited imbeciles are outgasping each other on how totally they can’t believe they just did that. Please continue to reminisce for the audience about something we all saw occur back last time we took a breath.

Maybe it was Poe overexplaining his every thought on how Finn’s name should be Finn because actionfigures; maybe it was Finn rescuing Poe because it was the right thing to do. Maybe the whole thing is all disneyed over.

And some of the developments were just a given. Solo didn’t die because it did much of anything for the story; he died because that was the only way Ford would go near the thing. Which is moderately ironic, once we get into spoilers in a bit….

There’s a lot we could wish had been better in Force. But it’s time to move on….

That was the working title of the film that attempted to make it not okay to call Return of the Jedi by the name Jedi anymore. Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Porg. That one.

In part, I liked it because, while I was watching it, I knew that Melvin the Hall Monitor was gonna hate it. The little geek was gonna have an aneurysm over all the subversion of expectation, and whatever.

I could…here’s a quick shortlist:

I could go on. But, now, I don’t wanna.

The Pinkhair Manoeuvre really was neat to see. For those of us who hadn’t seen it in three other films, despite no one in the film being impressed by it.

There are things Melvin hates, of course: Skywalker tossing away his lightsabre…again…like he did in Jedi, or having hidden on a lost planet like Yoda and Kenobi already did, or bombs falling downward on a bomber with artificial gravity, above a starship imposing gravity, above a planet with lots of gravity—gravity exists in space, you stupid, stupid people…it’s kinda why we still have a moon.

SpaceBear was disruptive. To itself; to the story to date; to the story to come. And that’s about where we catch up to today.

It’s been forty-two and a half years since we began this story, seeing StarWars amidst the dying echoes of Watergate, at a time when the world needed optimistic fluff soundtracked by Holst to crawl its way back from VietNam. Since I watched a silent film through a window overlooking a drive in cinema in the summer of 1977. And it’s time for the saga to come to an end.

The Rise of Skywalker has a large number of things working against it. That’s a given.

Or they’re unconsciously mimicking the release of the Holiday Special in 1978. Dunno.

Third, Skywalker has to close out the Disney Trilogy, which still contains SpaceBear; this is a trilogy meant to be made whimsically by three different people with three different ideas, until the second one made what he made. So we’ve got that problem left to deal with.

Here’s what happened….

Then there’s the StarWars logo. Again. As ever. And: EPISODE IX; THE RISE OF SKYWALKER. THE DEAD SPEAK!

Possibly another.

The hell what?


Is this…did Romero do this? What in hell is The Dead Speak, exactly.

Don’t do that.

Don’t be weird.

Because, the crawl unread and out of the way [ have it, so I read through it later], we delve into Robert Englund as Emperor Palpatated, his dead eyes refracting the meagre lighting through their cataracts and…I may hafta go back and see what this film was rated. Because this is just…weird. And creepy. And weird.

What in hell is going on here….

So, that sets the whole tone. There’s no guessing what in the film was even real. The whole thing was Jennifer Ruben confusing Richard Lynch with Harris Yulin for two hours.

Okay. So…Skywalker may or may not have even happened. But, if it did, then we’re looking for…the…MacGuffin Pyramid, so we can find the…reason we need that, so we can go to Endor and get the…and there’s this sorta lovecraftian deadspace world which might be in a nebula with…and Palpatine might exist…and stardestroyers are all deathstars now…and….

Solo sorta came back. But didn’t. Which is weird. Because it’s a weird film. And because Ford hates StarWars unless Solo is dead. Which he is. So I guess that’s okay. And Ren goes through the whole exact same thing where he knows what needs to be done but he doesn’t know if he can do it and it’s that he needs to throw his lightclaymore into the ocean and okay fine so that’s a thing that happens and why the hell did Palpatine have dead eyes I can’t sleep ever again.

There’s a lesbian kiss in the background of a scene; you won’t probably notice it; I only noticed it because I was on alert while watching for the next onslaught of weirdness from nowhere.

Threepio gets his memory blanked so he can translate sith stuff and forget all the weirdness we already saw. So that’s sorta funny, how he thinks a CG muppet he just met is his oldest friend.

We can’t Pinkhair Manoeuvre things because it almost never works, so everyone knows it’s a thing but no one ever does it because SpaceBear is fixed now.

Okay. So: spoilers. Yeah. Let’s rewind a tad….

So…kinda…not really. Instead, and without more explanation than saying so, Palpatine, when he was alive with more reasonable eyes, had a kid; that kid married a kid [maybe?] and those two had a kid who, if Palpatine had known, woulda been a threat to—

Which…granting that everything’s weird now…makes an element of sense. I get that part. I get that, after a fashion, taking a few random lines as gospel, Palpatine probably killed Darth Plagueis the Backstory and absorbed him. No idea why Vader didn’t then absorb Palpatine. Not sure whether Kenobi nearly absorbed Maul. I don’t know how these things work; I just know that David Lynch is gonna scream for weeks after seeing what I just saw.

So…that’s what happened. And it was weird. The guy who made Lost became…weird.

I don’t expect that, in the long term, this is gonna be much of anyone’s favourite StarWars film. Because it’s weird; because it had to undo SpaceBear; because it’s the Disney Trilogy. I’d say it did its job, inasmuch as it was allowed, in ending the Disney Trilogy in the way it had to be ended. I don’t know if it really needed to happen after Jedi had already ended the first trilogy, or after Sith had caught us up for the history of the galaxy. And of course Rogue One was needless FanFic, so we’re not acknowledging that—let alone Solo.

Abrams is good at what he does. But he’s got a couple things working against him here. Four, if you also include Kathleen and Kennedy.

And, Abrams is a kid. He’s not: he’s older than I am. But, relative to StarWars, he’s a kid. He’s building off of something he saw when he was ten years old. And he might not fully understand what world he saw that in.

And now we know what they were doing too. And they weren’t really all that good at it.

Thumbs up. But not really grinning. And really just kinda weirded.

Have a webcomic…image related:

More later….

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