George Lucas, the venerated and sometimes ridiculed creator of Star Wars, finally snapped in 2017. Taking to the stage at the yearly Star Wars Celebration event, this time in Orlando, at the Florida Orange County Convention Centre, the director – normally softly spoken, placid, chill – admonished the crowd during an opening panel moderated by Warwick Davis, who himself is forever part of Star Wars lore for his portrayal of the Ewok, Wicket Warwick.
“Star Wars was always meant to be enjoyed by 12-year-olds,” said Lucas, pointedly. “Friendships, honestly, trust, doing the right thing, living on the right side and avoiding the dark side. Those are the things it was meant to do.”
If you’re not especially versed in the vast universe created during Star Wars 45-years in existence, it’s worth noting that Wicket Warwick is essentially a teddy bear, who alongside a load of other teddy bears, lives on the planet Endor, in space.
Lucas continued with an anecdote about his time shooting the Star Wars prequels in Spain, two decades ago. “There were all these tiny kids,” he recalled. “They were all reaching their hands out and they had no idea what was happening, but all they wanted to do was touch my hand…” He continued. “That’s all I’ve ever wanted – and it reminds me why I continue to do it.”
It was hard not to think of this chastisement in the fallout of last week’s finale of The Book of Boba Fett. Titled In the Name of Honor, it featured a surprisingly hyperactive rancor and a strong Western gunslinger influence (hardly surprising given the episode was directed by the Texas-born Robert Rodriquez). Yet much like the episodes that had preceded it for seven weeks, the hour-long special was widely savaged in the digital bear pit that is Twitter. “What a load of shit,” raged one user. “Disney have ruined Star Wars,” spat another. A quick look at the avatar of said users revealed a truth: none of them were children.
The scene that came in for the most criticism was admittedly very silly. If you blinked, you may well have missed it. During the stand-off in the dusty Tatooine settlement of Mos Espa, as Boba, The Mandalorian, Black Krrsantan and co. stood up to the nefarious and butt-faced Pyke Syndicate, the space mod Skad slides under the hairy arm of the Wookie and performs a 360-degree twirl before firing his blaster at a Pyke. “Was that spin really necessary?” tweeted Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon. Let’s remember that this is a man who once programmed the Mortal Kombat character Kabal to execute his enemies by pumping their heads up like a balloon, letting them ascend to the sky, before they burst and rain blood, guts and bone down upon him.
Wisely, George Lucas isn’t on Twitter, but it’s worth wondering what he might have thought about the furore that raged in the wake of Skad’s wholly unnecessary spin. This is pure speculation, of course, but maybe it went something like this: “Gee, you would have thought that adults would be satisfied with their access to sex, drugs, alcohol, budget holidays, cars that drive really fast, staying up all night and KFC… but no, they have to tear into the silly space opera I wrote for children almost five decades ago. Dickheads.”
Star Wars has a long legacy of silly spinning. Revisit Darth Maul’s face-off with Qui-Gon Jinn in 1999’s The Phantom Menace and you might question if the vast number of backflips the tomato faced Sith Lord performs during said battle adds anything to the fight beyond making him a little bit dizzy. This kind of daftness isn’t consigned to the newer films either. As Obi-Wan faces up to Vader in the very first film, you have to ask, “did all that lightsaber spinning give you repetitive strain injury?”
Something changed in the Star Wars fandom with the aforementioned The Phantom Menace. The first new Star Wars film since 1983’s Return of the Jedi is so tedious, so disappointing to those who’d waited so long for it, that no recent day reappraisal has ever come. It’s just a very bad, extremely boring film. And yet the film’s most unwanted legacy is that the fanbase stopped viewing Star Wars as a film for children. Every new release that has followed has to run the gauntlet of an ageing audience, desperate to feel like they did when they were children once more.
It’s time to remember and accept that Star Wars is often very silly, even if we don’t agree with George and concede that it’s solely for children. The genius of Star Wars and its universal themes is that it really is for everyone. If you’re at the older end of the fanbase, it simply needs to make us forget the adult world for a bit and feel like a child. For that to happen, we need to drop the cynicism – and maybe even embrace the odd spin here and there.