Star Wars, the master-work of George Lucas, began with A New Hope (Episode IV) in 1977 and steadily amassed an unprecedented cult following. The original sci-fi adventure yielded two sequels, The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V) and Return of the Jedi (Episode VI), completing a trilogy of laser-filled excellence and producing a plethora of lore as interesting as the movies themselves. The series is home to countless iconic components, including the lightsaber (perhaps the most iconic weapon of all time), the Force, numerous quotable one-liners, and more.
Then, 16 years after Episode VI’s release, George Lucas revived the Star Wars universe with a second trilogy, a set of prequels released in 1999, 2002, and 2005. The prequels were critically demolished, being viewed as a disgrace and a cash-grab, and to many fans they became a negligible portion of the Star Wars filmography. For 7 years, Star Wars laid at rest.
Alas, in 2012, Disney bought Lucasfilms, and with it the Star Wars franchise, and promised a third trilogy. Due to the nature of the preceding trilogy, this decision was met with caution from fans and critics alike. However, after the critically successful release of Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens in 2015, the franchise has been renewed and kicking with a growing young fan base as passionate as the original.
With new trailers for Episode VIII: The Last Jedi recently premiering, Star Wars is preparing to rip open the box offices for another time in late 2017. The latest installments in the Star Wars franchise are definitely full of charming and exhilarating aspects, but they also have their fair share of downsides and dangers; a light and dark side which need to be recognized. If the light can outweigh the dark, then the new installments may ultimately hope to balance out the horrible disappointment of the prequels.
The potential for the new Star Wars Films is enormous. They have an already-existent (and still growing) fan base, an original and exciting universe, better editing software and technology, and an array of beloved source material to draw references and resources from. Notably, however, the new trilogy, being made in 2015-2019, has a significant advantage over any preceding Star Wars films when it comes to computer generated imagery (CGI). The CGI capabilities of high-budget films today is significantly greater than it was even just 12 years ago, when the last episode of the prequels was released. CGI is extremely important to the impact of some of Star Wars most memorable sequences, as they rely on blazing lightsabers, fantastic creatures, gravity-defying feats, and massive explosions. The more immersive all these experiences can feel, the more thrilling the movie can potentially be.
However, CGI is a dangerous tool to use carelessly. Many movies can be ruined by too much CGI, as the technique begins to lose its novelty when there’s a practical way to film something. For example, if a prop can be physically constructed and destroyed in real time under a reasonable budget, it will look significantly more realistic than even the best CGI would. This helps to prevent audiences from being drawn out of a movie by a loss of connection; noticing CGI can be distracting if it isn’t during an event that the audience hasn’t actually seen in real life before (e.g. dragons, spaceships, or mile wide explosions). An aspect of the new Star Wars films that has stuck out as significantly improved upon due to CGI are the dog fights between fighter ships. The X-Wings and TIE-Fighters look better than ever, and the aerial combat sequences are nearly impossible to remain seated for. This is the perfect use of modern CGI capabilities to make the movies more immersive and exciting, and it’s a potential afforded to the new trilogy that only improves upon the predecessors.
Another invaluable and understated method of immersion exists through the utilization of great sound effects. Star Wars Episode VII proved that the sound effects will only continue to improve from the preceding trilogies, and the trailer for Episode VIII gives audiences no reason to begin doubting this claim. The low hum of a lightsaber, the screaming of a passing TIE-fighter, and the rumbling of the Force in full effect are all iconic and expertly utilized methods of immersion that rush the hearts of Star Wars fans with nostalgic passion. The implementation and timing of the sound effects throughout The Force Awakens kept viewers engaged and enthralled, and The Last Jedi should hope to continue this trend in an effort to keep the latest trilogy on its path for greatness.
Greatness is found in many places throughout the Star Wars franchise, but the Star Wars scores by John Williams are one of its finest exemplifications. Every Star Wars movie to date has been host to John Williams’ orchestral brilliance, and his expected presence on every movie in the new trilogy bodes well for their musical reception. The Force Awakens, even with its entirely new cast, immediately felt like Star Wars in large part due to the familiar style of Williams’ score. With tracks such as The Imperial March, Duel of the Fates, the main title, and Battle of the Heroes coming off of the preceding movies, it’s hard to not be excited for what’s to come.
Overall, the Star Wars franchise seems to be heading in good directions. There are significant advantages bestowed to the new trilogy such as advanced editing techniques, an already-existing source material, and significantly improved CGI. There are iconic and invaluable aspects which are preserved in the new films such as the familiar sound effects and beloved musical direction, and there are new characters and a newly enthralled generation growing up with them.
The new movies are not without their faults however, as several valid criticisms of The Force Awakens have arisen and should be minded. These criticisms include a noticeable effort to merchandise the films, a dependence on preceding plot structures (Episode VII was almost identical structurally to Episode IV), and a dangerous possibility for CGI overuse and dependence. However, if episodes VIII and IX can garner the same fan enthusiasm and acceptance that episode VII managed to, then the Star Wars franchise just might manage to return itself to full glory.