Star Wars and the End of the Happy Ending


Zeroing in on the imminent release of Star Wars Episode VII, I examine how and why it is that long-running series can only rarely be left alone. 

NB: Potential spoilers for past films and series there be, yes, hmm.

Sometimes it’s very difficult to leave something you’ve written alone, as I have written about previously. JK Rowling is a case in point. Not content with her Pottermore website for diehard Harry Potter obsessives, she has written the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (for which the first trailer was released today), continuing the legacy of a series she cannot really relinquish.

But that’s the problem – when something long-running has come to be so loved by the populace, it can be hard to say that it’s all done and dusted. However, some things end perfectly and so one must say, for the sake of the integrity of the whole, that it is best to leave things as they are.

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was one such example. The much-loved British TV sitcom Only Fools and Horses was another. These had arguably perfect endings, where everything was tied up nicely, neatly and happily. But when something has been done so well, people want more, understandably. So after the trio of Del Boy, Rodney and Uncle Albert walked off into the sunset in 1996, the BBC brought Fools and Horses back for some Christmas specials from 2001-2003 and – inevitably perhaps – it wasn’t as good, actively undoing the happy ending of the previous series whilst boasting only a few funny moments.

Star Wars, as most people know unless they’ve been living under an asteroid for the last thirty years, had an original happy ending (a spoiler, that is). But a mixture of time, pressure and its being sold to Disney has brought it back. And although part of me thinks the original ending is sacrosanct (living happily ever after, book closed), I am happy that there is now a new spin on it, and that this generation is getting the chance to experience JJ Abrams’ take on the series.

However, there is an irony in that happy endings, peace and stability never seem to be enough for an audience. We want peace in life, but a film would be nothing without a bit of jeopardy. Therefore peace has been thrown aside, only for danger and changes of circumstance to reintroduce their ugly heads and give writers an excuse for some more films, which viewers and fans will hardly complain about. Harrison Ford, of course, has previous experience of this with the fourth Indiana Jones film, which some viewers would rather forget.

So I am happy (to an extent) that the new film is coming out, as it appears that it has been approached in the right manner, and with enough creative vision that it is not merely an excuse for CGI, lightsabers and fight scenes. It has also generated such excitement amongst people, which must be a good thing. And with positive reaction (thankfully spoiler-free, but still read at your peril) starting to come in following the film’s world premiere on Monday night, I must admit to getting caught up in Star Wars Fever. The UK premiere is on Wednesday night, with the film’s UK-wide release being Thursday 17th December.

I am looking forward to The Force Awakens, although with some trepidation. The characters in the new films will have their adventures, and eventually be given their own, presumably happy, ending – but only until the cycle starts again and almost devalues what has gone before. Definite conclusions in fiction (particularly in series) seem to be a transitory thing. We all love a story, but our love of them is also the problem – there’s only so much time that can go by in our universe before we want another one.

Arguably a much more courageous decision, artistically and generally, would have been to end proceedings with Return of the Jedi, but here we are again, indulging the human desire to immerse ourselves in a rollicking good story. Yes, that may be a bit of a get-out clause, but is it such a bad thing, in the end?

The only problem is that even after we have given this next bunch of heroes their own endings, another writer or director will come along with their own vision for a particular series, and one day, in a galaxy much like this one, it will all start again.

Alex Nicholson

Is there any film series/ TV series which you think was unnecessarily resurrected/ returned and wasn’t successful? Feel free to leave a comment in the section below.


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