The Disney Defense

by Danielle Bozzone

Photo Courtesy of CNN

Among a field of flops (Ben-Hur, Ghostbusters, etc.) the new series of Star Wars films continue to break box office records and amass critical acclaim. So, why do some of the series’ most die-hard fans hate the new movies? The Buzz’s own reviewer criticized The Force Awakens for being essentially a retelling of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, only with an added dash of Disney “magic,” and Rogue One for lacking all but vague allusions to the things that made Star Wars magical to begin with.

“When Rey battles Kylo Ren, one who is familiar with the Star Wars series would expect Kylo to crush her,” said Robert Delany Jr. (COM ’18) in his review. “Kylo Ren had trained with Luke for years, then under some mysterious Sith for years…Disney has made its legacy with pushing the, ‘you can do anything if you put your mind to it’ ethos onto the world, but they crossed a line when they brought this irrational philosophy into the film.”

Arguably however, if you want to consider Rey to be a Mary Sue then you have to say the same of both Anakin and Luke Skywalker. All three of them achieve, in the moment they need it most, an incredible feat. Beyond having the strength of the Force within them, none of them have any practical basis for achieving said feat. Anakin built a podracer and C-3PO when he was only nine. Luke destroyed the Death Star the first time he ever flew. Rey defeated a weakened Kylo Ren (who, while strong, is by no means the strongest Force user the dark side has seen).

“Any additional skills Rey has—mechanical work, hand-to-hand combat, climbing, etc.—are explained when we first meet her... If she hadn't picked up those skills, she'd probably be dead,” said Vox’s Caroline Framke, rejecting the Mary Sue hypothesis.

While I agree that Rey exhibits incredible Force ability, I do not think the “Disneyfication” of the Star Wars series is to blame. Instead, it is arguably a continuation of the Star Wars protagonists as textbook “Hero” archetypes.

Rogue One, which has proven to be far more divisive for critics than The Force Awakens, offers more opposition.

“To Disney, Star Wars can be whatever they want it to be, and they can make millions strafing between demographics as they add more and more to the series,” said Delany in his review.

Many critics have mirrored this sentiment with claims of profiteering and attempts to keep the series fresh in viewers’ minds between major franchise installments. However, when you look to other Disney-owned franchise, Marvel Comics, it is possible to turn that cynicism into hope.

Star Wars and Marvel are both rich with countless characters and stories that have never made it to the big screen, but definitely deserve a place there. Prior to Disney’s acquisition of Marvel in 2009, almost every Marvel movie featured one of their almost universally beloved characters like Spider-Man, the X-Men or The Hulk. However, now under Disney, lesser-known characters like Ant-Man, Dr. Strange, The Scarlet Witch and Rocket Raccoon have all received the silver screen treatment.

Similarly, it is only under Disney that Lucasfilm is branching out into live-action films outside of the core Star Wars saga. While Rogue One may not have tapped into the depths of the Star Wars mythos for its story, it certainly proved that a Star Wars movie doesn’t have to be about Jedi or the Skywalkers to be successful. The success of Rogue One only means that non-core stories, like those told in the comics, novels and videogames are in fact viable options for future films. After all, Marvel/Disney made three Iron Man movies before moving into riskier territory with Guardians of the Galaxy.

Rogue One also arguably shows that Disney is not actively trying to change the core of what Star Wars is to reach a new demographic. Lucasfilms already tried that and we know how well that turned out.

If nothing else, the new lineup of Star Wars movies is a departure from the horribly received Episodes I, II and III and the reappearance of characters, concepts and stories from the much beloved Episodes IV-VI.