Hollywood is fresh out of ideas. At least, that’s the overwhelming sense I get whenever I scroll through the options playing at the movie theater these days. I saw the latest Star Wars film, The Rise of Skywalker, over the weekend, and I concur with much of what our Kyle Smith said in his review: “After eleven films, the only fuel left in the series’s tank is sheer nostalgia.”
It was a fun movie, mostly entertaining, and it was lightyears better than the previous film in the franchise, The Last Jedi (although that really isn’t saying much, as that was one of the worst movies I can recall seeing in my life). It was an enjoyable way to spend a few hours, but if you went to this movie expecting anything like the first six in the franchise — leaving aside some of the reasonable complaints about Episodes I, II, and III, although I think the griping is largely overblown — Disney’s new trilogy leaves much to be desired by comparison.
All three of the latest films suffered from several substantive flaws, including a heroine so perfect that she’s mostly pretty boring, underdeveloped main characters who do little more than tag along after her, and villains who aren’t very frightening and whose storylines rarely make much sense. The most crucial problem with the reboot was Disney’s decision to switch directors and then switch back, leaving viewers not only with an unfortunate second movie but also with a poorly plotted trilogy that barely hangs together.
What most stood out to me after seeing the newest movie, though, wasn’t that Disney’s effort failed to cohere. It was that the movies mostly failed to create anything new or to excite viewers with more than a rehash of what we’ve already seen years ago. The trilogy wasn’t awful overall, but it was mostly a reminder of exactly how imaginative George Lucas was to create the world of Star Wars in the first place — the later films could do little more than twist his concepts and reuse his plots.
But if Star Wars continues to be a testament to Lucas, it’s also an indication of Hollywood’s lack of imagination. It’s immensely difficult to find a movie playing that isn’t a sequel, a prequel, a sequel or prequel that isn’t part of a superhero franchise, a cartoon, a live-action version of a cartoon, a remake, or a movie version of a book that’s either worse than the book or based on a book that isn’t even worth reading. Watching old Christmas movies — classics like White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and Holiday Inn, or even a more recent classic like Home Alone — always makes me wonder what happened to Hollywood that films of that caliber are now so few and far between.