With Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in theaters, the grand operatic sci-fi tale, spanning more than four decades and nine films, and charting the rise and fall (and rise and fall again) of a galactic republic, is complete. There may never again be anything as enduring or impactful on pop culture.
Which is why a reboot is inevitable.
Sacrilege, you say? In an era in which everything is getting either a hard or a soft reboot, from Total Recall to Spider-Man (twice), it's a wonder Star Wars has remained untouched. Let's face it. Knowing Disney -- currently on a run to reboot all its animated classics into live movies -- it's only a matter of time. So let's fast-forward through the hand-wringing and outcry over messing with cinematic history and admit to ourselves that a reboot may actually be an opportunity to make some fixes.
The Star Wars universe spans an amazing collection of shows, novels, video games and more, but the films aren't perfect. Evendespite the fact that, according to CNET reviewer Richard Trenholm, it's entertaining and contains plenty of fun nods to the earlier movies. Having seen it, I'd agree that it's a blast, if a bit safe and unsurprising. And while the nine movies fit together, there isn't the consciously planned feel of something like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most of the Star Wars films, especially the latest three, feel cobbled together one at a time, offering direction and tone that's whiplashed between one film and the next.
So why not start all over again, with boundary-pushing filmmakers and a Kevin Feige-like superproducer setting a grand plan for all nine films? Or why not tap Feige himself, since it's all in the same Walt Disney family?
No, seriously, take a breath. It's not as radical as you think.
Mixed bag of films
Before I go down the rabbit hole of criticism, let me be upfront. I. Love. Star Wars. And have since watching Empire Strikes Back at 3 (which was a little traumatizing, when you don't understand the concept of cliff-hangers). I've watched pretty much every related cartoon and read most of the older novels, and like everyone else, I adore Baby Yoda. Even my 3-year-old loves watching X-wings flying into battle. (Side note: I realize, just like me, he may be too young to watch X-wings blow tie fighters out of space. Oh well.)
Star Wars: A New Hope is a damn near perfect film, and The Empire Strikes Back improves on it by upping the drama, tension and stakes, capped off by Vader's reveal and the cliffhanger with Han. I loved Return of the Jedi as a kid, and while it lacks the punch of the previous two films, it sticks the landing on an impressive trilogy.
Lucas famously made changes to each film up until the last minute, and the Darth Vader twist wasn't in the original draft of Empire. Likewise, the Leia sister twist in Return of the Jedi didn't come until later in the filmmaking process.
So if we're remaking the movies, let's leave out the bit where Leia kisses her brother.
Then there are the prequels. For an older generation of fans, the prequel trilogy is a rough experience. The Phantom Menace gave us a child Anakin Skywalker, who somehow destroys a capital ship on his own, and introduced the concept of Midichlorians and Jar Jar Binks. Attack of the Clones featured lines like "I don't like sand."
I get that the prequels are younger fans' Star Wars. And Lucas should be applauded for expanding the universe, doing things like introducing badass Darth Maul and the backstory for Boba Fett and adding more insight into the Jedi Order at its peak. He also brought in a new legion of starships, vehicles and characters, rather than rehashing the old X-wing.
While those movies benefited from Lucas' cohesive story, the execution was lacking. So yes, having the right visionary and the right director is key. Ultimately, Lucas was more interested in special effects and green screen trickery than actual plot, dialogue or acting, which hurt the quality of the films.
Then we come to the Disney-produced trilogy. Disney could've taken a fresh approach or told a new story with The Force Awakens, but it opted to play it safe by retreading old Star Wars ground. Instead of Rebels and the Empire, we get the Resistance and the First Order. It feels like a greatest hits of older moments, slickly dressed up with sharp directing and cutting-edge visual effects.
It's because of this reluctance to break free that CNET editor David Priest argues that the new films are worse than the prequels.
The highly divisive The Last Jedi followed, and while I didn't hate it, it feels wholly detached from the previous film. I loved the theme that anyone can use the force, and that you didn't need to come from a special family like the Skywalkers to make a difference, but it felt like an underdeveloped idea. And then The Rise of Skywalker completely reversed it.
Trenholm says The Rise of Skywalker checks off all the boxes for a Star Wars fan, even if it's predictable and lacking heart.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, the new films also lack a cohesive arc. The producers didn't know how the next film would fare even as the previous one hit theaters, as evidenced by how wildly the tone swings from The Last Jedi to The Rise of Skywalker. The Last Jedi took some big swings, but it painted some of the plot points into a corner, leading J.J. Abrams to offer a course correction to better align with Force Awakens.
Don't start from scratch
I'm not suggesting the filmmakers completely throw out everything that made Star Wars great. And there's a lot.
The rebooted first trilogy could reexamine the creation of cinema's most iconic villain, Darth Vader, and the temptation of Anakin Skywalker. Wouldn't it be cool if the series started with Anakin as a troubled but well-intentioned teenager and followed his tragic fall to the Dark Side? We could even keep the romantic element but remove the clunky and wooden acting.
I wouldn't change the original "middle" trilogy. Filmmakers could once again build to Anakin's redemption while playing up the rise of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo and the Rebel Alliance.
I'd love Wookies fighting in that final battle on the moon of Endor, but I get that kids love Ewoks. When I was younger, I loved them too.
The final trilogy could look at how the next generation preserves the Republic that Luke, Leia and Han fought so hard to build, taking a cue from the novels that make up the noncanon Legends storylines. That at least offers a fresh spin on the tale beyond rehashing the conflict between the First Order and the Resistance.
Redoing these films with a firm, overarching story in place offers an opportunity to smooth out the inconsistencies in the series, from minor continuity errors to the technology seen in the Star Wars prequels, which looks so much more advanced than the later films. (I get that it's supposed to reflect stagnation under Empire rule, but c'mon.)
A consistent story to work from is largely why series such as Harry Potter succeed so well, while newer franchise sibling Fantastic Beasts, which J.K. Rowling appears to be scripting one at a time, falls flat. It doesn't feel like there's a grand plan in place.
Plotting out the films ahead of time also allows you to better set up ideas and themes that pay off toward the end, rather than clumsily retconning or adding twists after the fact. You also avoid situations like Last Jedi director Rian Johnson throwing out or ignoring key characters like Supreme Leader Snoke in the name of subverting expectations, only to have Abrams reverse things again in The Rise of Skywalker. Or to suddenly reintroduce Emperor Palpatine in Rise of Skywalker with little foreshadowing.
If Disney doesn't reboot Star Wars, I'm content with the ambitious, groundbreaking, but sometimes flawed series we have.
But you know a reboot is coming. The temptation is just too great. Here's hoping there's a strong hand to guide its direction.
Originally published Dec. 20, 5 a.m. PT.