How my love for “Star Wars” was killed and then revived

Levi Shields, Columnist

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with “Star Wars.” I have fond memories of pulling out the VHS box set for the original and prequel trilogies, standing on my parent’s bed, holding my invisible lightsaber, and pretending that I was Darth Maul fighting off the advances of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. However, a lot of time went by between the releases of “Revenge of the Sith,” the last prequel movie, and “The Force Awakens,” the first sequel movie, and my love for the franchise was not as strong as it was before.

When Disney acquired Lucasfilm, the creators of “Star Wars,” I was only 11 years old. Being a naive child, I was struck with nightmares of Mickey Mouse running alongside a happy-go-lucky Darth Vader. I feared that Disney would run one of my favorite childhood franchises into the ground. While the changes made by Disney were not as drastic as my child’s brain had imagined, Disney’s “Star Wars” films did end up disappointing me.

Despite my childhood fears, I was certainly excited when the first teaser for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” released in 2014. Eventually, the movie was released and I saw it in theaters. My initial reaction was one of excitement. “Star Wars” was back! I was overwhelmed. However, as the smoke cleared and I looked back, I began to notice how underwhelming the film was. The entire plot was essentially a rehashing of that of the original movie, but with some major flaws added on. 

My biggest issue with “The Force Awakens” would continue throughout the entire sequel trilogy. The protagonist, Rey (just Rey, not Skywalker, fight me), never seems to earn her accomplishments and fails as an effective protagonist when compared to Luke Skywalker, the protagonist of the original “Star Wars” trilogy. 

Luke Skywalker started off as a flawed but relatable character. He was a whiny teenager who would rather run about with his friends picking up power converters than help his impoverished aunt and uncle who acted as his guardians. Throughout the trilogy, he would train and grow to become a wise Jedi master and an expert duelist.

On the other hand, Rey is able to get the best of a Sith Lord, Kylo Ren, who has been trained by the likes of Luke Skywalker and another assumedly powerful Sith Lord, Supreme Leader Snoke. In her first movie, no less! This exact flaw is pointed out by the character Supreme Leader Snoke himself in the second film of the trilogy, “The Last Jedi.”

“You were unbalanced, bested by a girl who had never held a lightsaber, you failed,” Snoke said.

Each movie in the sequel trilogy that was released seemed to be disliked more by the “Star Wars” community as a whole. The franchise that I had once loved was now surrounded by a permeating air of disappointment and controversy. It was at this point that I stopped considering myself a “Star Wars” fan, and began considering myself someone who used to like “Star Wars.” 

Flash forward to January 2021. The final movie of the sequel trilogy, “The Rise of Skywalker,” had been released for over a year and I still hadn’t bothered to see it. The 2017 video game “Star Wars Battlefront II” was being given away for free for a limited time on the Epic Games Store. I saw no reason not to pick it up, it was free after all. I installed it and decided to give it a shot. 

As the game loaded, I was struck with nostalgia by John Williams’ iconic score. When the main menu loaded, I was greeted with the menacing visage of General Grievous. I admired the expert modeling work and attention to detail. I was hooked by the atmosphere already.

I started by playing through the single-player campaign, and throughout the course of it I was continually pulled in by the immersive graphics, audio design and setpieces. Over the course of a couple of weeks, “Battlefront II” single-handedly dragged me back into loving “Star Wars” with its constant immersive feeling and barrage of references to the franchise as a whole, both easily understood and more obscure.

From the perspective of a mere soldier in a universe as vast as “Star Wars,” I can even find appreciation in things that I actively disliked from the sequel trilogy. While I still think that her role in the movies is deeply flawed, I can’t help but be filled with confidence when I’m playing as some unnamed resistance fighter in a massive battlefield and I see Rey run onto my screen, yellow lightsaber in hand, charging down the First Order Stormtroopers in front of me.

After having played “Battlefront II,” I’ve now watched “The Rise of Skywalker,” began replaying “LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga,” a cherished video game from my childhood, played through and thoroughly enjoyed “Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order,” a video game I had not played before, and am now constantly catching myself thinking about and referencing “Star Wars,” much like when I was a kid.

Disney’s sequel trilogy murdered my love for “Star Wars,” and “Star Wars Battlefront II” played the role of Dr. Frankenstein. I give it full credit for refilling the “Star Wars” shaped hole in my heart.