Losing The Plot

On Sunday, the Mrs. and I went to see Solo: A Star Wars Story, the newest film. While decent at times, and with a good cast, to me those making these films are losing the plot – literally. I must admit I’ve about had it now with Star Wars.

[Three of the four most recently produced “Star Wars” films on DVD. Photo by me, 2018.]

Yesterday, I’d written that on Saturday my wife observed that writers often don’t seem to be very happy people. I agreed about that on some levels. Having seen this latest Star Wars a bit more than 24 hours after that only reinforced that opinion.

Solo is rated “12A.” Here in Britain, that means under age 12 only with an adult present. Yet some scenes were to me way too intense for 12 year olds even sitting next to Mum or Dad; and there were clearly children under age 11 in the cinema. I kept thinking: “Yep, that’s another nightmare for the kids…”

Star Wars had started out as comic book outer space adventures that had lots of wry humor and didn’t seem to take itself always so seriously. What the hell happened? Every successive film now seems to move it increasing light years more away from 1977’s Mark Hamill, Sir Alec Guinness, and crowd… and not in a good way.

[The first three Star Wars films on DVD. Photo by me, 2018.]

Utterly unlike the original Star Wars of 1977 – notice above its lower “U” rating as compared to the newers’ “12” – which rarely stood still for wasted seconds, most scenes in Solo are at least a minute or so too long, and maybe longer. There’s also lots of standing around sharing big thoughts and/or elongated, dramatic pauses. Therefore it all ends up of excessive length for the depth of the basically thin story – much like similar recent Marvel or DC “superhero” films. Solo could easily have been at least “15 minutes” shorter and been a better film. Ironically television dramas are now generally tightly written and fast paced, whereas big budget theatrical “action” films like this are full of, well, wearying and unexciting filler.

Somebody turn on a damn light too; does every scene have to happen in the dark? But the “darkness” is obviously deliberate. In this film, which is inexplicably somehow directed by Ron Howard, yet again it takes them seemingly over half an hour of running around just to get off some muddy warring planets on which three-quarters of the time you can’t see ten feet in any direction, and on which you may die any second by being shot or blown up in combat (now we’re on the Stalingrad system?), or perhaps due just to being eaten. Everywhere there is little but disturbing goulishness. You are also faced with what is apparently the Empire’s ICE crossed with the TSA at some deranged version of New York’s JFK Airport passport control.

Are we having fun yet? FINALLY the writers manage to get Han Solo and Co. up into the stars. Ah, they’ve apparently remembered it’s Star Wars. Even then, forget about R2 or 3PO. Here, the lead droid, female, also evidently wants to foment a droid uprising against their “organic” oppressors – that when she isn’t talking about Lando Calrissian being “interested” in her (and that droids and humans can do “it”). Yes, really. And even the vacuum of space now has bizarre creatures with tentacles.

When did the Star Wars franchise decide to morph into a bad 1979 Mad Max rip off? I was waiting for Mel Gibson to turn up. As you may also know, I’m fed up with the shoving of (decidedly adult) “dystopianism” at kids and teenagers as somehow being artsy and thought-provoking; that is, as U.S. President Harry Truman would have said, “undiluted bulls-it.” But, you declare, what about the bar in the original Star Wars? The Sand People? The “thing” in the trash compactor? There was kinda “dystopia” then? Glad you brought that up. Yes, on the fringes of the film. But now the bar, the Sand People, the “thing” in the trash compactor, and 100 times worse, have been dropped front and center and constitute the overwhelming bulk of the films. The “bad” parts of town are now the entire town. The simple humanity of, say, Luke’s uncle and aunt going about their lives, is almost entirely absent from this galaxy.

I find these versions of Star Wars being directed at kids to be a nasty “bait and switch” considering the kids probably wander into these films after having discovered the series by watching the original films (perhaps over and over) in their bedrooms. As a writer, I take the issue of “age appropriate” quite seriously: I consider my own books, for example, really not to be for under-16s, and best-suited for adults. Parents need to know: in my opinion Solo should have been rated “15”. This so-called “rebooted” Star Wars isn’t the only culprit in this trend, of course. We’re raising yet another generation with this as childhood entertainment, and actually wonder why so many kids now grow up so cynical, mistrusting, pessimistic, and fearful about the world? Watch enough of this cr-p stuff and even an adult will eventually probably need a psychiatrist, too.

[NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the Moon, 1969. Public Domain.]

Want to fire up your space-interested kids’ imaginations? Take them to the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida. If that’s impossible, sit with them and watch better films about space, such as (a different?) Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, which is a US “PG” rating, NOT “PG-13.” Films like Solo may have Star Wars plastered all over them, but make no mistake: they are NOT for kids any longer.

In case you were wondering if I had a thought or two on this subject. Have a good day, wherever you are in the galaxy. πŸ™‚