Like many people my age, much of my childhood was spent watching and rewatching the original Star Wars trilogy. The movies were great, and unlike other epic space fantasies to that point. Then the prequels happened, and then a couple years later Disney bought the Star Wars franchise, which has left us with a series of dismal movies. I don’t know anyone who loves the new trilogy. At best, people who love Star Wars will say they like a particular scene in one of the new movies or they’ll say stuff like “it wasn’t terrible.” Hardly a raving endorsement.
So what went wrong? How did the new movies miss the mark of the classics? And why did I try so hard, when writing my Space Lore books, to tap into what the original Star Wars trilogy did rather than tap into Star Wars in general? There are many reasons, but here are three.
1) Serious World-building –
The original Star Wars trilogy crew had engineers designing ships. The entire look and feel of the universe was built around what was plausible. That’s displayed in the shape of ships, the grime and wear on each vessel, etc. A lot of the ships don’t even look “neat,” they just look realistic. The best example of this is the X-wing expanding into its famous X formation when it comes out of lightspeed.
In the Disney trilogy, though, the new ships are designed to look “cool.” Functionality takes a back seat to appearance. The result often doesn’t even make sense and ruins scenes. The best example of this are the Bombers that travel at a snail’s pace even though weight wouldn’t slow them down in space. And for some reason, these ships bomb downward even though there’s no gravity to make the bombs fall. The entire idea is silly and reminds the viewer that what’s happening isn’t realistic.
That’s why, in my Space lore series, utility wins out over the “wow” factor. Because in creating realistic worlds and situations, the science fiction element is more believable and the reader is kept enthralled.
2) Serious Characters –
In Empire, Boba Fett stands in a pose of respect when talking to Vader. You see that scene and you think, “That’s exactly how a bounty hunter would act in that situation!” The entire original trilogy is filled with moments like that, where characters act in a serious way that’s true to the basic types of relationships they have with one another. As a result, the character types (i.e., bounty hunter, galactic overlord, reluctant hero, etc.) all seem more realistic in their roles and each is taken more seriously.
In the Disney trilogy, Snoke’s guards have none of the same dignity. Instead, they break into a silly kata and battle stance when Kylo and Rey enter to confront Snoke. It looks neat but you’re very first thought is “why are they doing that?” and that’s because the scene is designed to look cool rather than be realistic. As a result, you’re reminded you’re watching an action movie rather than a dramatic battle.
That’s why, in my Space Lore series, characters act the way they would if they were here on earth. I’ve never seen war footage with soldiers doing a silly dance before they fight. War is raw and gritty. That’s what the original SW trilogy captured, and that’s what I tried to convey in Space Lore.
3) Remain True to the Built Universe –
The original SW trilogy not only created a serious environment and characters, it remained true to them. Han’s, Luke’s and the rest of the characters’ actions remain true to who they are in the universe they have been plugged into. Luke changes but only as a result of his character evolving and maturing. Han does the same. That’s what believable characters are supposed to do.
In the Disney trilogy, characters often betray themselves and the audience. In The Last Jedi, Luke acts in ways he never would have in the original trilogy and the reason for this is never convincing. The same thing happens with abilities. The Force is used in ways that weren’t previously possible and that aren’t true to Star Wars. Even things like light speed are used in ways that are false to the universe George Lucas created. Things can evolve—that’s supposed the happen—but things shouldn’t change for no reason and without explanation or break the dynamics of the created universe. When this happens, viewers are left not understanding why scenes played out the way they did, and they are jolted out of a sense of familiarity with the universe that was built. As a result, they feel like the changes to the established universe are, at best, silly, and, at worst, a betrayal to loyal fans.
That’s why, in my Space Lore series, I made a point to remain true to the characters and the universe I created. If I was ever unsure which direction a scene would take, I let the characters and the world around them decide how the story should unfold. Doing anything else, like randomly changing a character’s abilities or a ship’s capabilities, would ruin the story for readers.
Conclusion – Like SW, Space Lore is epic science fiction set amongst the stars. The original SW trilogy is deservingly the benchmark by which all other epic space fantasies should be measured. But even though the Disney trilogy has Luke and Leia and some of the same ships and characters as the original trilogy, I would argue that my Space Lore books are more like the original SW trilogy than the new Disney movies. Through serious world-building, serious characters, and a consistent universe, the original SW trilogy and my Space Lore books both achieved something that the new Disney movies completely missed.
If you read my Space Lore books, let me know if you agree. And if you ever see the Space Lore books on the big screen, know that they’ll be closer to the classic tales you fell in love with when you were a kid than the movies you’ve most recently seen in theaters.