The world is full of lies, and it’s hard to get through life without taking a few on board. Luckily, we’re here to sort the fact from the fiction, and find the plankton of truth in the ocean of bullshit. This week: Star Wars! Just how many goddamn films are there? Who is whose father? Warp speed, Mr. Sulu!*
Lie #1: George Lucas Good, Kathleen Kennedy Bad!
A lot of the online shittiness surrounding Star Wars over the last few years has been aimed at Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm, producer extraordinaire and the most powerful person in the Star Wars industry since Disney got involved. It’s been a tumultuous but overall extremely successful period for the franchise — five films, billions of dollars, immediately beloved new characters and the most adorable green infant imaginable, as well as some very high-profile power struggles behind the scenes involving directors being fired from big-ass projects.
Fans’ issues with the inconsistent and seemingly self-contradictory nature of Episodes VII-IX have ended up being placed at Kennedy’s feet, with the hands-off George Lucas now lionized. Some of it comes from the idea that she’s “not a real fan” (despite having worked with Lucas since Raiders Of The Lost Ark in 1981), and some comes from the idea that she’s pushing some sort of newfangled radical progressive agenda. It’s worth remembering that the franchise she’s accused of doing this to has (almost) always featured badass heroes of color, blaster-firing heroines and a pretty fucking unambiguous Nazis-are-assholes message.
Nonetheless, some fans — a minority, but a loud one — have decided that this is all unacceptable, and an insult to what Star Wars is/was/should be, and made Kennedy the villain of the whole thing. There’s dumb-ass petition after sexist hashtag after joyless Facebook group (none of which warrant being linked to) calling for her to be fired and everything she’s ever done to be undone. Why can’t she make proper Star Wars films like the ones from before she came along, they say, with all her crazy concepts like “being a woman” and “not being a man” and “a film watched for the first time as an adult not seeming as perfect as a film watched for the first time as a child”?
The thing is, it’s only fairly recently that the greater fan community have decided that, actually, the prequels were good. When they came out there was a huge backlash, with fans who were fine with Ewoks but disliked Jar Jar coining the entirely disgusting phrase that Lucas had “raped their childhoods.” There are feature-length documentaries about how much people hated Lucas. Vanity Fair describes him as “bruised and bitter” after the prequel backlash. Lucasfilm might not have ended up being sold to Disney if people hadn’t been such dicks, and then all the people complaining would have significantly less Star Wars.
Maybe fans should consider, like, not trying to destroy things they love?
Lie #2: There Was Always A Beautifully Thought-Out Nine-Film Plan
Part of what fueled the backlash after the sale of Lucasfilm was the idea that the final third of what was always George Lucas’ grand plan would be done without him, like control of the story had been wrestled from his bearded grasp. From the start, we knew we were in for a nine-volume saga, right?
Possibly not. Lucas has a habit of backdating his ideas, being so excited by whatever he’s into that he somehow thinks he’s always been into it. The first film came out as just a film, not “the fourth part in what will become a decade-straddling nonology.” By late 1978, though, filming the sequel, Lucas was at least throwing the idea of part four of nine around, although at one point, the saga wasn’t going to be Star Wars — ‘Star Wars’ was going to be one chapter in the saga The Adventures of Luke Skywalker.
That was the subtitle on the novelization of the first film by Alan Dean Foster, who was also commissioned to write a sequel that could potentially be adapted into a second film. Certain limits were placed upon the book, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye — it had to be written with being filmed on a fairly low budget in mind, and Harrison Ford hadn’t signed a multi-film contract, so Han Solo is entirely absent. An awesome all-Lucas plan may have come later, but it wasn’t there then.
But the film did well and a sequel did happen. During filming, Lucas told Starlog magazine, “We were going to call it Star Wars Episode II: The Empire Strikes Back, but we ran into some problems. You see, although this story is a direct sequel to the first movie, we have three more stories that we eventually want to film that actually occur before the point where the first Star Wars begins. So we’ve been toying with the idea of ignoring the numbers completely. Instead, we’ll give each movie episode a unique title. I mean, if we had to give each film its true number in the series, this movie would be called Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. The first film would be called Episode IV! Can you imagine how complicated it would get?”
HA HA HA, YEAH! WE CAN, IT IS DUMB.
As for actual plot points, no, it wasn’t really that planned. Like, if it was planned, there might not have been a bit where the twin siblings Luke and Leia make out with each other. “The three central characters are related,” which seems like it would be a fairly major part of the plan if the whole thing had been worked out, just sort of came together over time — Luke’s non-Leia sister was supposedly meant to show up in Episode VIII, but it all got sped up when it looked like three films were all that were happening. Lucas has claimed that the saga’s most famous twist was staring people in the face all along, that Darth Vader means “Dark Father” and was there from the get-go, which it doesn’t and wasn’t.
Lie #3: Darth Vader Says “Luke, I Am Your Father”
The line is actually “No, I am your father,” from the second, slash, fifth film, The Empire Strikes Back. It’s one of the most frequently misquoted lines in cinema, for the simple reason that replacing the word “No” with “Luke” just makes it better. It works on its own then, rather than being an answer. In isolation, “No, I am your father” could be the answer to loads of stuff: “Are you my mommy?” “Excuse me ma’am, do you think I have good eyesight?” “Will you help me shave my bottom?” “I just blew your best friend, are you cool with that?” — all sorts.
Lie #4: There Are [Insert Number Here] Star Wars Films
There are a lot of numbers you could suggest for how many Star Wars films there are, and somehow no correct answer. Three is the lowest acceptable one, really, like if you’re trying to make a dickish point about something, while the highest is — well, who knows? There are nine films in the Skywalker Saga, and two anthology films (Rogue One and Solo), but then… what?
Do you count the Ewok TV movies? What about the Clone Wars film, made by chopping together the TV series? What about the ones in development — will Rian Johnson’s trilogy happen? What’s going to pan out with Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ supposed trilogy, with them sauntering off to Netflix but being assured the Star Wars door is always open? How about the Knights of the Old Republic trilogy announced last year? And why must goddamned everything be a trilogy?
Plus at various times there have been Boba Fett, Jabba The Hutt, Young Jyn Erso, Young Obi-Wan and Mos Eisley Spaceport movies announced, postponed, put on hold, officially cancelled or just sort of never mentioned again. And then, what about the LEGO Star Wars shorts? FUCK!
Lie #5: You Have To Choose: Star Wars or Star Trek?
Why? The two are constantly pitted against one another despite only really having superficial elements in common — the word “Star,” being set in space and containing quite a lot of two-legged aliens around about the same height as normal people. Star Wars is magic and faith and swordplay, while Star Trek is science and exploration and surprisingly small laser guns. Star Trek is set in the future, while Star Wars famously takes place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. They’re both a bit cowboy-y, but one in a sort of “wagon train exploring interesting environments” way and one in a “the dude wearing black is a baddie” way.
Several people have worked on both — J.J. Abrams has directed two films in each series; sound designer Ben Burtt has worked on both; and Simon Pegg is both Trek’s Scotty and Wars’ Unkar Plutt, while umpteen smaller names (and often, under loads of makeup, smaller people) have cropped up in both, especially once voiceover roles are included.
Ultimately, we wouldn’t have one without the other. Lucas has spoken about the original Star Trek series’ influence on Star Wars as well as how it “softened up the entertainment arena” in terms of accepting big-ass space nonsense (some paraphrasing). He attended Trek conventions, met creator Gene Roddenberry and was once serenaded on stage by William Shatner singing “My Way.” Shatner himself has credited the enormous success of the first Star Wars with reviving interest in Star Trek, leading to the movie series, although the official history differs slightly. A piece on the official Star Trek site sums it up well with, “any falsely ginned up rivalry between the two franchises ignores the long history of symbiosis that exists between them.”
The unnecessary pitting of one thing millions of people love against another thing millions of people love only takes place due to speculative fiction being viewed as a “lesser” genre, as though the presence of a few prosthetics somehow negates any emotional resonance or profundities presented within it.
Plus, as everyone knows, compared to the Back to the Future trilogy they’re both total fucking shit!
* Fuck you!