The “Sin” of Star Wars Expectations

I recently came across a quote from Frank Oz – the man who brought Yoda to life – where he gave his very direct opinion regarding Star Wars fans who disliked The Last Jedi. Speaking at a SXSW event, Oz states that,

“I love the movie [The Last Jedi]…All the people who don’t like this ‘Jedi’ thing is just horse crap. It’s about expectations. The movie didn’t fill their expectations. But as filmmakers, we’re not here to fulfill people’s expectations.”

How could I, or anyone else, NOT consider what Frank Oz has to say on this point? He is a gifted filmmaker with a perspective and understanding of storytelling which I can only dream of reaching. For a number of days I allowed Oz’s point to marinate in my mind, bouncing around my brain as I reflected on my own expectations for Star Wars, not to mention the expectations of the entire community of Star Wars fans. Of course, I am in no position to speak for the entire Star Wars “fandom.” It is so massive, so diverse, and so damn opinionated that it would be folly to even try to provide any “grand unified theory” to sum-up Star Wars fans. In fact, the ONLY thing that can be said is that Star Wars fans are “unified” around Star Wars, but what Star Wars means for each fan is subjective. It is personal. And because of this, I think Frank Oz is absolutely correct: some fans certainly disliked The Last Jedi because the film did not meet the very personal and deeply held expectations they may have had going into Episode VIII.

The thing is, while I agree with Oz, I only do so up to a point. Beyond that, I fundamentally disagree with him. Why? Well, just as I cannot provide a “grand unified theory” of Star Wars fans, Frank Oz is in no position to provide a definitive answer for why people did not like The Last Jedi. It is a generalization to do so, a fallacy stating that a part (those fans who did not have expectations met by The Last Jedi) actually represents the whole (every fan who did not like The Last Jedi). Logic just doesn’t work that way, and it is important to recognize that a great deal of nuance exists within the Star Wars community precisely because individuals have those deeply personal ties to the decades spanning franchise. And this applies to fans who truly loved The Last Jedi and those who absolutely despise the film, as well as all those who fall somewhere in the middle (which is where I happen to land). My point is: some Star Wars fans didn’t like The Last Jedi because it didn’t meet their expectations, plain and simple, while other fans had a more nuanced reaction and didn’t like it for a trove of entirely different reasons. 

But beyond this  pretty obvious fact, that some fans didn’t like it because of high expectations, the more I thought about what Frank Oz said, the more I was bothered by the implication: that Star Wars fans should have no expectations for the stories which they love. Realistically, how can one NOT have expectations when they go into a Star Wars film (or any film for that matter)? How does one fully set-aside their expectations and experience a story entirely devoid of expectation? Frankly, I do not believe it possible, unless perhaps one ejects every single Star Wars thought from the mind. But going into a Star Wars movie with a “tabula rasa”, a blank slate, is just not possible, at least for me. Maybe someone out there can show me how to do it, how to just sit down with popcorn, Junior Mints and an oversized cup of Diet Coke and watch Star Wars for what it is – just another movie. Me, I cannot set aside my thoughts, and feelings, and ideas about Star Wars because the franchise has seeped into my bones. I live Star Wars, I breathe Star Wars, it infects me like a damn virus. For me, Star Wars is NOT “just another movie,” it is a way of life. And as a result, I am guilty of the sin of expectation, I demand greatness from Star Wars and yes, sometimes, I even expect it to acquiesce to my expectations.

There were a lot of things about The Last Jedi I didn’t like, and some things I absolutely did like, and I lay a number of these out in my post Reflections on The Last Jedi.” But I also know, and can easily admit, that I had expectations for The Last Jedi which were not met. I am not ashamed to say it and why should I hide it? For example, I wrote a post titled The (Mis)Use of Captain Phasma where I blasted writer/director Rian Johnson for not utilizing the First Order villain more effectively in the movie. I absolutely expected her to be a greater factor, especially after a novel and a comic series preceding the release of The Last Jedi built her up as a total badass. How could I not expect more?

Luke and Ben

Many Star Wars fans, myself included, expected Luke to NOT try to kill his nephew given that he threw his lightsaber away at the end of Return of the Jedi. Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

So yeah, I had expectations for The Last Jedi. But you know what, I also had expectations for The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and Solo. I had expectations for The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. I had expectations for The Clone Wars, Star Wars: Rebels, and Star Wars: Resistance. And, going forward, I have expectations for Episode IX, The Mandalorian, Galaxy’s Edge, and every other Star Wars movie, novel, comic, video game, etc. But I am under no illusion that all of my expectations will be met. Are Star Wars filmmakers and storytellers supposed to meet every expectation of “the fans”? Certainly not. They can’t do it. At best, they can only hope to meet one very basic, very simple expectation: that the fan will be entertained. That is, after all, what the entire Star Wars franchise is, a massive form of entertainment. Right? We all expect to be entertained, to be transported to the galaxy far, far away so that through the experience we will find some form enjoyment.

And, as a fan, the best I can do is manage my expectations. I have to willing and able to acknowledge that everything will not line up with how I want it to unfold. But managing expectations does not mean jettisoning expectations. Rather, it means having an open-mind and giving things a chance, even when – no, especially when – things do not immediately line-up with those expectations. 

Frank Oz, the voice of Yoda, stated that “…All the people who don’t like this ‘Jedi’ thing is just horse crap. It’s about expectations. The movie didn’t fill their expectations. But as filmmakers, we’re not here to fulfill people’s expectations.” He is right, some fans didn’t like The Last Jedi because it just didn’t meet their expectations; others had more nuanced reasons for their dislike of the movie. And he is correct, filmmakers are not here to fulfill everyone’s expectations; and fans, myself included, do have to manage expectations. However, I am not going to give up my expectations for Star Wars. I am going to continue to demand greatness from it, and yes that means holding the filmmakers and storytellers to a high standard and having expectations for the franchise. And the reason I am going to do this is simple:

Because a long time ago I was mesmerized as I watched a small space ship being chased by a large space ship over a desert planet. From that moment forward, my expectations for Star Wars started to blossom and I can’t change that. So instead, I will live in the sin of Star Wars expectation and, if Frank Oz or anyone else wants to be annoyed with me, I will wear that annoyance as a badge of honor. 

7 comments

  1. I get what Frank Oz is trying to say but I’d argue it’s impossible to ever enter a movie without ANY expectations. Manage them, yes. But to be free from them? When I go to my local theatre it has movies playing on seventeen different screens. I pick the one I go see based on what I expect will be entertaining or the most thought-provoking or, in general, the best use of my time. That’s how I pick the novels or comics I read or the TV shows I watch too. Like you said, at the very least we have the expectation to be entertained and then our expectations grow from there. While a filmmaker or author isn’t writing for *me* specifically in any certain situation, there’s still that basic pact between creator and consumer – we expect this to be a worthwhile use of our time so we consume the product. And while that expectation may not be met, I don’t think it’s in any way, shape, or form unreasonable to hold.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We expect to be entertained, but with Star Wars I, at least, expect something more. It needs to resonate on a deeper level and, when a story does not do that, I call it out. I am not suggesting that a story that does not speak to me cannot speak to someone else. It would be ridiculous to argue that. Rather, it is the basic acknowledgment that we interact with stories within OUR individual framework.

      I would also note something interesting about Star Wars – fans are now in the position of actualizing their own expectations because fans are the ones who are telling Star Wars stories. Rian Johnson is a fan who got to tell a tale he wanted to tell, and insert his own expectations for the franchise into the galaxy far far away. If he always expected Luke to have some sort of downfall, well, he got to tell that. The only difference between me and Johnson is that he was hired and I have not YET been hired. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s an incredible observation about Johnson. You just kind of blew my mind with this – “fans are now in the position of actualizing their own expectations because fans are the ones who are telling Star Wars stories.” That’s exactly it! He grew up with these stories and has now used Disney’s budget (as opposed to his own action figures and imagination) to tell his own story.

        I get the expecting more than just entertainment from Star Wars too. I think that – the fact that there was so much more mythology, theology, ethics, etc. in Star Wars – is why I continued to grow with and love it as an adult. This is why I fell so deeply into the world; I found so much to explore. When I came back to reading comics, I stayed because there was more than just an entertaining story to it, more depth and purpose and meaning. That’s why I’m so passionate about the MCU too. This “more than just entertaining” is what I’ve found in ‘Doctor Who’ as well. Finding and exploring the “more than just entertaining” parts of Star Wars is why I continued to be so passionate about it. Things like He-Man or G.I. Joe or Transformers or other things like that that I loved as a kid, I will still watch and really enjoy on Netflix but I don’t care the way I do about Marvel or Star Wars or Doctor Who because there aren’t as many layers to it, not as much “more than entertainment” for me now. So yes, when I don’t find that in a way that speaks to me in a Star Wars story, I struggle with it. It changes how I approach and see it.

        Also, incidentally, I’m ALL FOR Lucasfilm hiring you to tell “official” Star Wars stories. Let the “official” Era of the Talkerverse begin!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “Incredible observations” are sorta my thing. Not that anyone but you notice them buuuuut that is fine. Regardless, it would be pretty awesome to have the budget – and the official license – to tell the Star Wars stories I want to be told. How great would it be to have the key to the (magic) kingdom, to actualize the expectations we have for the galaxy far, far away? It will never happen, and quite frankly that is okay. I used to have this thought that it would be pretty cool to work for Lucasfilm, to put my stamp on Star Wars and be able to say “do you see that, that was my idea.” But the more I have thought about it, the less I care about that. And the reason: because I don’t need the validation of others to know that the thoughts/feelings I have about Star Wars are good. All I need to do is accept what I think of as Star Wars. I am fine with conversing with others, disagreeing (or agreeing), but ultimately my path, my journey, is entirely mine. And, outside of sharing part of that journey on this site, I don’t care to make it all about “me” so as to get attention (you won’t find me telling people their ‘Snoke Theory Sucks’ for a cheap laugh). If this site gets me some attention, fantastic! Great. That is fun. But I am more interested in sharing my thoughts than demanding others acquiesce to them…even though I am right and no one else is!!!! (ha, I kid, had to throw a little homage to Dr. Cox in there).

        Like

  2. How can one not have expectations? Not only do we have expectations on movies, we do on life- our schooling, our relationships, on parenthood- for it is human nature. You are absolutely right about managing expectations, for we need to realize our thoughts and feelings are unique to us, and everyone goes into a particular situation (or Star Wars movie as an example lol) with an idea of what they hope happens. It’s how we express those expectations afterwards that matters, and hopefully with a level of respect to others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said Nancy. I agree, it is necessary to remain respectful, and this is even more so the case in our social media age. It is tiring to see so many people – on all sides of various debates – level vitriol. But this is made all the more pathetic when two SW fans cannot seem to speak kindly over their differences in opinion. It is upsetting, to say the least.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi IT,

    It’s crazy how united Star Wars fans could be divided. I agree that stories do change, but the general idea of Star Wars stays the same. I guess I enjoyed Jedi because it had unexpected things, twists and turns that kept you guessing. Yes, this might not be what we were looking for as a whole, but it was the direction they took.

    On a side note, there is something to be said about smaller fan-fiction interpretations on the story. By allowing people to paint in Star Wars colors you can get fan opinion, expectations and ideas. I want to pass on to Micheal Miller and idea to have his collaborative bloggers to create some fan-fiction and see where it goes. You and I do that already. Just an idea.

    Thanks,

    Gary

    On Tue, Mar 26, 2019 at 7:25 AM The Imperial Talker wrote:

    > Imperial Talker posted: “I recently came across a quote from Frank Oz – > the man who brought Yoda to life – where he gave his very direct opinion > regarding Star Wars fans who disliked The Last Jedi. Speaking at a SXSW > event, Oz states that, “I love the movie [The Last Jedi]…All” >

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s