Our theme for the month of March is “Ask the post calvin.” We’re taking on questions submitted by readers and offering our best advice.
Dear the post calvin,
I’m having trouble coping with my feelings about Star Wars. Can I be excited for Episode IX, while preparing a mental list of everything wrong with it at the same time? I mean old Han Solo was fun and that throne room fight scene was some spicy nerd ecstasy, but what’s with hermit Luke moping around for 30 years, and why did Han and Leia break up? And how come I feel a sudden attachment to the prequel trilogy? And if there’s another planet destroying death ray that the bad guys somehow secretly made in the next movie I’m going to flip my shizzle! I feel so torn up inside. Should I abandon the new Disney trilogy entirely or bask in the glory of new Star Wars movies with mind numbingly beautiful special effects??
Dear Wondering Wookie,
When my brother and I were younger, we’d turn off the lights in the living room, line up our stuffed animals on the couch, and show a compilation of The Greatest Lightsaber Battles in our makeshift theater. First we’d load up A New Hope, skip to the confrontation between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader, and mostly make fun of how slow and stilted the lightsaber fighting was. We’d proceed through the original trilogy, and by the time we go to the showdown between Luke and Vader in Return of the Jedi, we’d be nodding in mild approval.
Then we’d get to the good stuff. We pop in The Phantom Menace, and there was Darth Maul in all his double-bladed epicness, battling two Jedi at one time at near the speed of light. And it kept getting better. Attack of the Clones gave us Dooku’s ferocious classiness (the Second Form of lightsaber combat [“Makashi”], if you must know) against Yoda’s fierce acrobatics (the Fourth Form [“Ataru”]). And then: Return of the Sith. Two simultaneous duels of unmatched awesomeness. Yoda and Sidious darting around the Senate chamber; Obi-Wan and Anakin zipping around Mustafar, explosions and Sith lightning and Force pushes everywhere.
Of course, as I got older, I learned that it was anathema to like the prequels better than the original trilogy. I learned to appreciate the latter’s wit and roll my eyes at the former’s…um…lack of wit. I learned to laugh at Han Solo and to laugh at Anakin Skywalker…for very different reasons. But I still enjoyed watching the prequels; I just had to suspend certain kinds of judgment.
When The Force Awakens and later Rogue One came out, I loved them. I had no patience for podcasts and YouTube reviews and blog posts that complained about their derivative-ness or pacing issues or whatever. It was a return to the Star Wars universe, and while some of those critiques were fair, in my view they were totally outweighed by the wonder of new Star Wars content: new music, new planets, new starfighters, etc. You just have to suspend certain kinds of judgment.
When The Last Jedi came out in 2017, I tried my best to react the same way. My instinct was that this movie had to be amazing, and the fans and critics saying it wasn’t were just missing the point. But the more I watched it and thought about it, the closer I drifted to where you are, dear Wondering Wookie. The whole mutiny plot with Poe and Holdo makes no sense. Holdo’s sacrificial jump to hyperspace is stunning, but it nullifies most of the space-fight strategy of the previous movies. So many doors that The Force Awakens left open for interesting stories—Rey and Finn’s relationship, Rey’s parents, the beginning of a new Jedi tradition—that The Last Jedi slammed shut in the name of, well, I’m not sure what. It’s kind of a mess. But those thoughts tend to happen after I watch the movie. While I’m watching it, I’m mostly absorbed in the world. And maybe that’s what Star Wars movies are now—a portal to a world we love. Maybe that’s what they always have been.
So here’s my answer to your question. To keep enjoying Star Wars, at least if the most recent movies are an indication of the franchise’s future, we need to be a little more like excited twelve-year-olds showing lightsaber battles to their stuffed animals and a little less like monocled movie critics. If we’re lucky, every once in a while we’ll get a movie that’s both visually stunning and brilliantly written. More often, we’ll get problematic films full of continuity issues or weird dialogue that are still a lot of fun—and that still make twelve-year-olds pretend to be Jedi and wield PVC-pipe lightsabers. So let’s practice enjoying both.
After all, if Jar Jar didn’t kill Star Wars, nothing can.
Josh Parks graduated from Calvin in 2018 with a BA in English literature and violin performance, and he completed an MA program in medieval studies at Western Michigan University in 2020. He is currently a student at Princeton Theological Seminary, which means his plans to be in school forever are working out well. When not writing, he can be found playing violin, drinking coffee, making excruciating puns, and trying to learn Old French.