- The Original Trilogy had all the elements that would come to be widely criticized in the Prequel Trilogy and the Sequel Trilogy. This includes wooden dialogue, Ship Sinking in The Empire Strikes Back, Dashed Plot Line, underdeveloped characters, out-of-nowhere Retcon (i.e. the big one), Wacky Wayside Tribe Kid Appeal Characters in Return of the Jedi, as well as shallow World Building. What made it work then, was that since it came first, the Willing Suspension of Disbelief wasn't stretched too far, and audiences accepted that Star Wars was intended as a Genre Throwback to serial films that were if anything far less immersive on this front. By the time the Prequel Trilogy and the Sequel Trilogy came, the Star Wars franchise became respectable and serious, and the expansion and rise of the internet, meant that the arguments people had once said about the Original Trilogy were forgotten, while the same criticisms given to the follow-ups now had a bigger audience to disseminate and spread.
- When criticizing the Prequel Trilogy, many fans are likely to moan about the theatrical films' focus on politics at the expense of action, often citing long scenes in the Galactic Senate chamber. It's easy to forget that A New Hope incorporated a fair bit of politics into its story: Princess Leia uses a diplomatic mission as a cover for transporting the Death Star plans, several characters discuss the Imperial Senate's growing support for the Rebellion, and there was barely concealed backbiting in the office politics aboard the Death Star between the Moffs, the other Imperials, and Vader. The Empire Strikes Back also has Lando Calrissian explaining Cloud City's neutral status and how his responsibilities as a leader conflict with his friendship with Han and his civic duty. Unlike the Prequel Trilogy, though, the politics in the Original Trilogy are a backdrop to the fight of good-versus-evil, at best being helpful in understanding the motivations of some secondary characters or plot devices, rather than central to the plot (it's telling that several of these scenes were deleted). It also didn't help that while the political elements in the original trilogy were fairly basic and understandable, Palpatine's byzantine schemes came across as either inscrutably complex or downright idiotic.
- The movies have suffered from inconsistent continuity from the very beginning, but it didn't start to get really noticeable until the franchise's later years. The first step was the iconic revelation about Darth Vader's identity in The Empire Strikes Back, which wasn't initially planned, and explicitly contradicted everything that we'd learned about Luke's father in the first movie—but that was easy to forgive, since it was a genuinely powerful twist that completely worked from a dramatic standpoint. It was a bit more glaring when Return of the Jedi similarly retconned Luke and Leia into being siblings, despite them kissing in two earlier scenes—but that was similarly forgivable, since it provided a cozy resolution for the main trio's love triangle. Then the prequel trilogy introduced multiple retcons to major plot points, none of which could really be called "improvements". Just to name a few: there was the revelation that Luke and Leia's mother died in childbirth, that Obi-Wan wasn't really Yoda's apprentice, that Owen Lars wasn't really Anakin's brother and they barely even knew each other, and that Boba Fett was actually a clone of a different Mandalorian bounty hunter. In some fans' opinions, the interquels Rogue One and Solo were even more guilty of this, since their stories were essentially built entirely around major changes to continuity (like establishing that the weakness in the Death Star was intentional, that Leia was personally present at the battle where the Death Star plans were stolen, that Han really did make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs...).
- George Lucas has always had a tendency to retcon elements in his own franchise via rereleases, and some fans have always found it annoying, but it didn't lead to too many distracting or controversial changes until the later installments. It started when he changed the title of Star Wars to Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope in 1981, and even removed home videos and workprints with the old title from circulation—but most fans shrugged this off, since he at least kept the movie's content unaltered. He attracted more complaints when he released the "Special Edition" versions of the original trilogy in theaters, featuring numerous unnecessary CGI alterations to major scenes. These changes were much more obtrusive, but they were (somewhat) outweighed by the many long-lost Deleted Scenes that were also reinserted, many of which (like Luke and Biggs' reunion, and Han's meeting with Jabba) provided more meaningful context for key scenes. In most fans' opinions, the altered rereleases didn't get really out of hand until he released another round of Special Editions that shoehorned multiple actors from the Prequel Trilogy into key scenes in the Original Trilogy; while this was ostensibly meant to enforce consistency between films, most viewers just found it distracting—and it didn't help that most long-time fans strongly preferred the originals over the prequels.
- A seemingly minor gripe that many viewers have with The Force Awakens is that Leia inexplicably hugs Rey after Han's death instead of hugging Chewbacca, even though Chewie presumably needs a hug a lot more badly than she does. That complaint is eerily similar to another common complaint about A New Hope, where Chewbacca inexplicably doesn't get a medal at the ceremony on Yavin, despite doing just as much to save the day as Luke and Han. note It seems that the writers have always had a bit of a problem remembering to treat Chewie with the same respect as the human characters, but it was easier to forgive when it came up in a less dramatic moment.note
- The single most common criticism of The Force Awakens is that it recycles way too many ideas and plot points from the Original Trilogy, to the point that it sometimes feels like a remake of A New Hope with the characters' names changed. To wit: a young desert dweller from a backwater planet gets pulled into a war between the evil Empire and the noble Rebels after a chance encounter with a diminutive robot carrying secret information that could save the Rebellion, then goes on a quest across the galaxy to Bring News Back with the help of a dashing space pilot and a grizzled Mentor Archetype, climaxing with a scene where the mentor is killed, the Rebels destroy an armored battle station that destroys planets, and the heroes rescue the female lead from captivity in the Empire's fortress.
One can nearly say the same about Return of the Jedi, where the writers decided to end the trilogy by having the Rebels blow up a second Death Star instead of coming up with a new action sequence — not to mention that the first act had the heroes returning to Tatooine for a rescue mission that easily could have taken place on a new planet. The Call Backs there worked with the mythical Hero's Journey concept (where a return to home is a classic theme), and the actual story (Luke attempting to redeem his father) was entirely new, and the Death Star climax was rehashed precisely so that it didn't overshadow the super-dramatic confrontation in the throne room, which would have been harder to cross-cut with an action set-up that wasn't instantly familiar. People were less patient when The Force Awakens seemed to follow the Original Trilogy beat-for-beat, particularly since the writers had nearly thirty years to think of something different, didn't have the production hassles that Lucas had to deal with when he decided to condense everything for the finale of Return of the Jedi, and enforced a rather extreme Happy Ending Override that many felt basically undermined the struggles and Character Development of the Original Trilogy's heroes (let alone those of the Prequel Trilogy) to be All for Nothing, just for the sake of going through the same motions. (Though this last sentiment gained more traction after The Last Jedi continued the trend, as many other fans adopted a wait-and-see attitude at the time.)
- The Original Trilogy made Time Skip between installments that subtly reset characters between each film. Of note: The Empire Strikes Back generally works well as a sequel to A New Hope, but where A New Hope introduced Han Solo and Luke Skywalker as a freelance smuggler and a rookie pilot, Empire opens with both of them as high-ranking officers in the Rebel Alliance. Return of the Jedi is similar: it opens with Luke as a fully trained Jedi Knight, with very little explanation of how he finished his training after the events of Empire. The Time Skip in the Prequel Trilogy however were more jarring. Notably, an entire decade occurs between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, where Anakin Skywalker transforms from precocious child to angsty teenager. Clones begins with a Separatist movement threatening to tear apart the Galaxy, and with Anakin claiming to have been madly in love with Padmé for 10 years, even though neither of those things were even remotely hinted at in Menace.note .
- A common complaint about Anakin's characterization in the Prequel Trilogy was that he did too many horrible things to deserve being Easily Forgiven. To an extent, this was already true in the Original Trilogy; Vader was complicit in the destruction of an entire planet, and had no problems with wanton torture and murder, including Luke's best friend Biggs Darklighter, and his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi. However, Vader was a Fallen Hero and it was stated often that he had been a decent person at one point, and from the sorrow in his voice when he considers redemption in Return of the Jedi, we could only assume that the man inside the mask was worth saving. However, the Prequel Trilogy showed Anakin to be seriously flawed from the get-go, and largely bungled his fall - he essentially decides to wipe out an entire religious order, create a dictatorship, and kill all his friends because he had bad dreams about a woman whom he's Strangled by the Red String with. Far from showing the person worth saving in Vader, it cast doubt on the idea of there being one in Anakin. Further blunting the blow of Vader's own actions was that he managed to wrap his evil deeds in the absurd theatricality and impersonal scale of a supervillain, making them easier to accept. Anakin, on the other hand, murdered children and then strangled his wife to death when she asked him about it, throwing him well past the Moral Event Horizon for many people.
- One of the most criticized parts of The Last Jedi is the Canto Bight sequence, an extended plot detour where Finn and Rose get into wacky misadventures in an alien casino while looking for a hacker; many viewers found the scene overly long and indulgent, and saw it as an unnecessary distraction from the battle against the First Order. As a few critics have pointed out, though, nearly every previous Star Wars movie has had at least one similar sequence, where the plot screeches to a halt while the heroes get into a scuffle that serves as a temporary distraction from important plot points. The original Star Wars had the trash compactor sequence (which distracts from Leia's rescue), The Empire Strikes Back had the "space worm" sequence (which distracts from the escape from the Empire), Return of the Jedi had the heroes getting captured by Ewoks (which distracts from the mission on Endor), and The Phantom Menace had the pod race (which distracts from the journey to Coruscant). But not only is the Canto Bight sequence much longer and more elaborate than those previous sequences, it ultimately feels like a pointless "Shaggy Dog" Story—since Finn and Rose don't even accomplish their mission, and they're forced to settle for recruiting DJ, who betrays them. Not to mention that unlike every other side plot that the heroes gets into the Canto Bite sequence seems to end with a rather glaring Author Tract that many audience members thought was out of place in a Star Wars movie.
- Another one of the most common criticisms of The Last Jedi is that it turns out that we probably won't have Snoke's origins revealed after all, since Kylo Ren kills him and takes over as Supreme Leader. The original trilogy didn't establish Palpatine either in terms of backstory, origins, and motives, or even his name; he was just the Big Bad and that was it. It wasn't until the Prequel Trilogy came out that he got fleshed out, and even those films never went further beyond him being a Senator, later Chancellor, and secret Sith Lord. Palpatine was a pretty self-explanatory villain however, since it was part of the trilogy's backstory that the Jedi had been hunted to extinction by the Sith and the Empire — so it made sense that the Emperor was a Sith Lord. Snoke's very existence, on the other hand, practically demands an explanation, since he somehow corrupted Ben Solo under the noses of Luke, Leia and Han. Snoke ultimately being revealed as a patsy to Kylo, not only diminishes the gravity of his evil triumph, but diminishes the achievement of the heroes as well. Also, the total void of info about him begs the question of where such a powerful Dark side user as he was when Palpatine and later Anakin/Vader were around, especially since he doesn't look particularly young. If he was around when Anakin "ended the line of the Sith" by killing Palpatine and dying in the process, thus "bringing balance to the Force" as canon understood it before the Sequels, Anakin's sacrifice and role as the "Chosen One" feels rather hollow.
- Captain Phasma was popular in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, and so many fans were angered by her possible anticlimactic death during the climax of The Last Jedi. In this, she's merely following in the footsteps of Boba Fett, a hugely popular character who likewise appeared in two films only to be anticlimatically knocked into a sarlacc's maw by a blind man with a stick. But it was a bit more understandable with Boba Fett, since he was ultimately not that important to the overarching conflict, being just one of the many bounty hunters whom Darth Vader hired to apprehend our heroes, and just so happening to be the one who actually got them. Phasma, on the other hand, was a hugely important part of The Force Awakens, being Finn's commanding officer in the First Order before his defection. It doesn't exactly help that Fett was played by mostly obscure British character actor Jeremy Bulloch, for whom Boba Fett was his best-known role, not to mention his lines were dubbed over and he got the part because he was the half-brother of producer Robert Watts and was cast because they needed someone to fit the suit. By contrast, Phasma was played by Gwendoline Christie, who already had a huge fan following in 2015 thanks to her role as Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones; with such a popular actor playing her, it was natural to expect Phasma to have a bigger role. Also, while it could easily be dismissed as naivete in a pre-Internet era that Lucas simply didn't realize Boba had a growing cult fanbase, it's a lot harder to justify in 2017, when a single Google search could unveil hundreds of people and articles grumbling about Phasma getting punked out.
- The Last Jedi has received criticism for what many feel as prioritizing subverting expectations over telling a coherent story, leading to many of the more divisive plot and character elements, such as Luke turning his back on the Jedi order after his triumph at the end of Return of the Jedi, Rey's parents being revealed after all the build up to be nobodies, Snoke's unceremonious death, Leia managing to survive being blown out into space, the entire situation between Poe and Admiral Holdo, and so on.
One can also very nearly say the same thing about The Empire Strikes Back, which is well known for all the major plot twists and subversion of expectations too, with elements like the Rebels losing the Battle of Hoth albeit succeeding in their evacuation, Han and Leia being the couple despite the perceived Ship Tease between Luke and Leia in A New Hope (similar to Rey/Finn and Poe/Finn shippers). The Luke, I Am Your Father Wham Line was likewise criticized at the time for coming out of nowhere and having no build-up. However, Empire's twists, while controversial when it was first released, still kept the story focused, being more of a thriller and narrowing its focus after the first film's epic sprawl. Likewise, where The Last Jedi was filled with gratuitous Character Death of heroes and villains (Holdo, Snoke, Phasma, Luke), nobody dies in Empire with its famous darkness coming more from the psychological struggle and character dilemma than plot. With The Last Jedi, this approach began to feel less as twists and more of a case of They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot, as why bother to stay invested if it's not going to stick? Furthermore, Empire began after a Time Skip, so it made sense that characters would change and not adhere to one's own expectations, whereas The Last Jedi picks up right after the end of The Force Awakens, leaving several to feel cheated at seeing plot threads in that film get immediately dumped for the sake of shocking the audience.
- The Phantom Menace was rebuked for several unpopular alien characters — Jar Jar Binks, Watto, and the Nemoidians — who were seen as offensive caricatures of Jamaicans, Jewish People, and Far-East Asians, respectively. But this criticism also applies to virtually every species in the Original Trilogy; the practice of modeling fantasy species on Real Life stereotypes was part and parcel of the Speculative Fiction that inspired Lucas. The Tuskens, a savage tribe of desert-dwellers who attack and abduct human settlers, were evocative of Native Americans from classic westerns; the Jawas, a race of disreputable nomads who live in caravans and make their living by stealing and reselling machinery, are Space Romani and/or Bedouin. Jabba the Hutt, the decadent, obese, hookah-smoking ruler of a desert planet with a harem of half-naked slave girls, is a coded Orientalist portrayal of a Turkish Sultan. This is even true of many Rebel-aligned aliens, such as the Ewoks, who evoke the Noble Savage trope; even Yoda (easily the well-rounded of all the aliens), was intended to evoke wisdom from the east. Such coding didn't get wide scrutiny in the Original Trilogy, largely because it was eclipsed by the good-versus-evil plot, and the villains were "space fascists" portrayed by white actors. The Prequel Trilogy put greater focus on World Building, which made it more obvious. And when the aliens had expanded roles (while remaining coded with dated stereotypes), it made it obvious how underwritten they really were.
- Many of the complaints about Solo could be traced back to the first anthology film Rogue One.
- Rogue One caught some mild flack for a few gratuitous references to Disney's animated Star Wars TV shows, which were completely lost on people who had only ever seen the live-action movies. Among other things, Chopper and the Ghost from Star Wars Rebels both made background cameos, the supplementary materials established that Cassian Andor was a former "Fulcrum" informant, and Saw Guerrera from Star Wars: The Clone Wars played a major supporting role. Overall, though, those references were just bonuses for savvy fans, and weren't too distracting or confusing for casual viewers who hadn't seen the shows; even Saw Gerrera's role (as Jyn Erso's mentor and surrogate father) was perfectly understandable to people who had never heard of the character. People weren't quite as forgiving when Solo took things a step further with The Reveal that Darth Maul was the leader of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate. Rather than just being a small bonus, that reveal was a hugely important plot point, and it was actively baffling to anybody who hadn't seen The Clone Warswhich revealed that Maul survived his apparent death back in The Phantom Menace and rose back to power as an independent villain. Maul was also an iconic character, who was the best liked new addition of the Prequel Trilogy, the star of one of the franchise's greatest lightsaber duels (if not the greatest), rather than a minor figure like Guerera.
- Rogue One received some criticism for being a prequel to the Original Trilogy with a predictable outcome — in this case how the Rebels successfully stole the Death Star plans that became the MacGuffin of A New Hope. However, the film still generated suspense despite the inevitable outcome by focusing entirely on new characters whose fates was ambiguous and uncertain, such as if they were related to characters in the sequel or so on. It was also a genuine mystery as to who stole the plans and how, meaning the whole topic was pretty rich ground for explorationnote . In contrast, audiences were less forgiving of Solo since it's an origin story about Han Solo, a well-established character. Given how even the most casual Star Wars fan knows that Han, Chewie, and Lando will survive into the Original Trilogy, audiences are less likely to be invested in the current story. Most notably, many fans consider Han's romance with Qi'ra to be superfluous, since everyone knows that he'll become an Official Couple with Leia. It didn't help matters that Solo focused more on explaining the backstory of fanservicey details like how Han got his last name and his dice, being trivial in nature, and lacking the novelty of Rogue One which told a Lower-Deck Episode about the Red Shirt of the Star Wars universe.
- You could also credit Rogue One with the start of giving backstories to self-explanatory things like giving origins to the Death Star's weak point or the Rogue Squadron callsign (and even a bit of Techno Babble to explain the superlaser). Audiences had accepted for decades that the Death Star was just a really big gun whose design flaw was easy to shrug off as the product of the same Awesome, but Impractical style that the Empire favors, and the Rogue Squadron callsign sounding cool was all the explanation it needed. That said, the origins of a vast superweapon or the Rebel Alliance's elite squadron had some meat on their bones; these things were major in-universe, after all, and therefore developed into story beats naturally enough. Solo, however, decided to focus more on giving origins to trivial background items like Han Solo's blaster, Chewbacca's bandoleer, Han's last name, and the little notch on the nose of the Millennium Falcon, none of which has any bearing on plot, themes, or character arcs. The backstory of these minor objects, if anything, turned out to be a rich well of Narm, because there really couldn't be, nor was there, a story to, say, Chewbacca's bandoleer besides "he put it on" - not only is it silly to draw attention to it, but if anything, it raises questions as to why Chewie apparently wore the same bandoleer for over 40 years.
- The franchise was known for having underdeveloped villains all through the original trilogy, but it wouldn't become a glaring handicap until the prequels came along. The Imperials were cartoonishly evil Space Fascists with little motivation beyond crushing our heroes, but that could be forgiven because it was actually fun to root against them: they were anchored by charismatic performances from screen legends like James Earl Jones and Peter Cushing, they invoked real-world dystopias enough that they actually seemed threatening, and they had enough Kick the Dog moments that it actually felt cathartic when the heroes won. But in the prequels? The Trade Federation just gets a throwaway line about protesting "taxation of trade routes" and a lot of Offscreen Villainy regarding the people of Naboo to establish them as the bad guys (forcing the Expanded Universe to show us some actual villainy from them), and the Separatists just get some vague mumblings about "intentions to leave the Republic" and being led by the Sith, without even mention of anything particularly evil about leaving the Republic. We're never even really given a concrete reason in the films for why the Separatists want to secede. Hell, the most memorably "evil" act in the whole trilogy is Order 66, which is done by the Republic. There's a reason why Rooting for the Empire is a time-honored tradition among Star Wars fans, but Rooting for the Separatists most definitely isn't.
Franchise Original Sin / Star Wars