by Shelt Garner
You hear a lot of bullshit among the Joe Rogan types about how Kathleen Kennedy has “ruined” Star Wars for this or that reason. They think up a lot of thinly veiled misogynistic rhetoric that boils down to a MAGA circle jerk. And, yet, another franchise run by a woman that men love — James Bond — continues to do well on both a commercial and artistic level.
I would suggest that it’s not a matter of Ms. Kennedy being too woke for her own good. I would suggest that the difference between Ms. Kennedy of Disney and Barbara Broccoli of Eon is one of fandom. Given the steaming pile of dreck that Ms. Kennedy has managed to churn out from the Star Wars universe compared to what Ms. Broccoli has produced it definitely seems as though Ms. Broccoli is a Bond fan while Ms. Kennedy is not a Star Wars fan.
I have no idea if I’m right or not, but just as an audience member — an aspiring novelist obsessed with story — the most recent Star Wars movies suck so bad because they’re not seen as movies so much as vehicles to sell toys and a “message.” The Bond movies, meanwhile, are, on their merits, good movies. Ms. Broccoli “gets” Bond in a way that Ms. Kennedy does not “get” Star Wars.
Now, I’m pleased that Eon is working to update Bond by bringing in someone like Phoebe Waller-Bridge to spice up the script. That’s really cool and makes a lot of sense. But it’s still being done within the context of understanding what the audience goes to see a James Bond movie for — girls, guns and gadgets.
Meanwhile, Star Wars movies are all over the place. They totally misunderstand the origin of the passion associated with franchise. The whole thing is so top heavy with identity politics, “slaying the patriarchy” and, most of all making that sweet, sweet cash from selling toys that the thing that brings people to the movies — a swashbuckling space opera — is totally muddled into oblivian.
The sad thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. The Star Wars universe is massive. There are soooooooo many secondary characters that are beloved. There’s a whole canon to be referenced and riffted upon in a way that would bring tears of joy to millions of fans. But they have totally squandered all of that in an effort to get little kids woke and to get them to buy toys along the way.
Part of the problem Star Wars faces is it each movie is such a cultural event — and it’s so associated with little kids — that’s its difficult for them to pair back the edifice and get back to the fundamentals of good storytelling. Just by using the Star Wars brand, you can’t really have any type of sex and your violence has to be comic in nature.
In an ideal world, you would have an “adult” Star Wars franchise and a “kiddy” Star Wars franchise. For adults, you would have The Empire Strikes Back with sex and violence. For the kids, you have the more campy aspects of A New Hope. As it stands, you have a Star Wars movie with a 30 minute subplot designed specifically to get kids to buy toys. What’s more, you have a very contrived and painful to watch plot point that creates a massive hole in the entire Star Wars canon simply to bludgeon audiences with the idea of “trust women.”
This is not brain surgery. You could very well get an actual Star Wars fan like Kevin Smith to write and direct a really good Star Wars movie that would bring back the magic of A New Hope and The Empires Strikes Back. But I would suggest trying to be a least a little bit original by thinking up an entirely new clan to follow the exploits of. You have an entire galaxy to play with — why do we have to keep getting Skywalkers to blow up bigger and bigger Death Stars? It’s becoming quite ridiculous.
The James Bond franchise, meanwhile, has a winning formula and runs with it. What’s more, they’ve managed to turn the campy Roger Moore James Bond that I grew up with into a very serious, dark Daniel Craig James Bond that really takes the whole franchise to the next level.
It’s wild how out of all the franchises that exist in Hollywood today, Bond is the only one that hasn’t either run out of steam (MCU) or that hasn’t been strip mined into irrelevance (Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien, Terminator.)
But no one listens to me. And maybe they shouldn’t. But it’s a tragedy to me that Star Wars has all this unlocked value and its producers are such non-fans that they don’t understand what to do with it.