By Matt De Reno
I saw Infinity Wars: Endgame yesterday with my kids and it was a great cinematic experience. It was so good, dare I say, it is better—way better—than Star Wars.
For me to state anything is better than Star Wars, is otherworldly.
I grew up an avid die-hard Star Wars fan. I watched the first Star Wars at the movies in 1977 as a little kid. It is still the best film experience I can remember. It changed me as a kid. It opened my imagination to the power of storytelling on the silver screen. It introduced me into “a wider universe” as the venerable Obi Wan would famously tell Luke. Star Wars will always have that special place in my kid’s heart.
However, that was a long, long time ago and Star Wars has since lost its way.
It’s become like its latest version of Luke Skywalker: old, musty and cranky. Who would have predicted that Luke Skywalker would become the old geezer that kept your Nerf football if it landed on his property? That’s how things turned out for Luke in the new Star Wars universe.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is—by all comparison to the Star Wars saga—exciting and fun. The MCU unfolded smoothly since the Iron Man (2008). It is hallmarked by a willingness to reinvent characters and take chances. Star Wars, since the original trilogy, has been intermittent and choppy.
Over the years, George Lucas reluctantly told the story he wanted to tell in the Clone Wars but despite being interesting from a story standpoint, it is still three movies of backstory. The Clone War films were further hampered by awful casting, poor dialogue and a misplaced bet on Jar Jar Binks.
One of the aspects of the Avenger films that beats Star Wars is that it feels like more is at stake. Star Wars can seem bogged down in personal politics and family rivalries. It seems everybody is either a son or daughter of a Jedi—the Solos, the Skywalkers. I was not a fan of Kylo being the child of Han Solo and Princess Leia. Rumors run rampant now that Rey might be Kylo’s sister. May the Force not be with that plot development. Plus, what is it with all the Star Wars characters that when portrayed as young people they simply are not likeable. Luke whined about doing his chores. Anakin as a young Jedi was simply obnoxious.
The three hour Avengers: Endgame movie lived up to all the previous 21 films and tied everything together nicely, sometimes in unexpected ways. Main characters died and we cared. Having fun with time travel is something long overdue in Star Wars.
In particular, Avengers: Endgame was exciting, exhilarating and represented the best blending of state-of-the-art FX with storytelling since, ah, the first Stars Wars movie. FX aside (until my series is optioned for film), these are all things I want to emulate in the Midas Protocol Trilogy.
Am I inspired by Avengers: Endgame to develop the second and third installments of the Midas Protocol? Of course I am inspired.
Avengers: Endgame has humor, bravery, loyalty, brotherhood and sisterhood, sacrifice and a willingness to succeed at all cost. I used to get that out of the Star Wars films, but after seeing Avengers, I have to tip my metallic helmet to Marvel Studios. Their recent Avenger movies are superior to the recent Star Wars films in nearly every way possible.
Not only is Thanos the best villain since Darth Vader in the 70s and 80s, he is a master villain that requires every Avenger to team up together to defeat. And like all great villains, there is something likable about him when he is on the screen. Great Thanos memes abound. Not so for whiny Kylo Ren. Like Vader, Thanos really wanted to improve the Universe in some profoundly wrong way. We can identify with such human flaws.
In the Midas Protocol, I have Mortimer Vanterpool. What can I learn from Thanos and Vader that will make my main bad guy one for the ages?
I am working on that.
However, I do know that there are things from the latest Star Wars films that I don’t want to mimic in the Midas Protocol.
Kylo Ren is simply not a great Villain and is super annoying and immature. In fact, he sucks a big fat lightsaber. The whole Force thing seems kind of like yesterday’s tech too—a retread of my Star Wars from the 70s and 80s. Force mind connect? Okay. Nothing terribly mind-bending.
Having Luke turn into a broken old man and training Rey to be himself. Okay. I get it. But, who really cares at this point? This played fresher when the grizzled old man was Obi Wan Kenobi.
That leads me to my next Star Wars problem.
The characters in the new Star Wars films are simply rehashes of the older the characters. Kylo Ren as Darth Vader. Rey as Luke Skywalker. BB8—give me a break. Poe Dameron as the young Han solo personality. The same Chewbacca. Does that character ever go through any sort of personal evolution?
Why not just reboot the franchise with new actors and be honest about it?
Jeez, I hate to admit it. There is now a part of me that appreciates the George Lucas Clone Wars films, compared to the recent incarnations by J.J. Abrams (Force Awakens), Ram Bergman (Last Jedi) and in December J.J. Abrams again (The Rise of Skywalker).
Of course those early infamous prequel movies had laughably terrible acting, but at least the stories were not a rehash of the original Star Wars trilogy. The Clone Wars provided a backstory to the big story, but today Star Wars seems to want to just rehash the same story over and again.
The big problem with Star Wars there is no endgame.
Star Wars desperately needs an Avengers: Endgame type of endgame. Watching the promo for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, my daughter commented, “Will Star Wars ever end?”
I wonder if it ever will.
Every Star Wars film ending is the same. The rebels defeat the bad guys but are somehow always worse off for it in the next movie. After they blew up the Death Star in New Hope, the Empire started on a bigger one. After The Force Awakens and Starkiller base is destroyed we find in the last Jedi that the rebels are on the run once again.
As a fanboy, the Star Wars endgame for me was Avengers: Endgame. It has me convinced it has surpassed the Star Wars saga for the modern times.
With that sentiment in mind, I sat in the Cinemark XD Theater Saturday ready to see how 21 entertaining Marvel Studios films would conclude.
As Avengers: Endgame was about to spin up the trailer for Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker played. Yawn. It was the first time I was simply not gungho for a Star Wars film coming in December.
Why should I be? What will change in The Rise of Skywalker? The price of popcorn might be higher by then? One can only assume the rebels will be once again at their wits end.
Where is the innovation? Where is the unexpected adventure and fun you get with a Marvel Comic Universe that is not afraid to take chances with its characters, not just create younger versions of older ones?
Fat Thor? Loved him. Blended Banner and Hulk? Awesome. Captain America throwing Thor’s hammer? Nice visuals. Spider Man with metallic legs? Different. Hopping around time until the right team wins? Brilliant.
Kylo Ren? Please. Not interested.
Can we just have Marvel Studios make the next Star Wars films?
I am not sure what or how my writing of the Midas Protocol will evolve, but I do plan to take a page out of Endgame when it is time to figure just what the heck is the endgame in the Midas Protocol (Yes, I am still working on that for book three).
As for Star Wars inspiration? It was there a long, long time ago in a child far away in 1977. Then Snap.
It all turned to dust.