Yeah this isn’t exactly going to be all that original. However I thought I might just get it out of the way.
As far as I am concerned Star Wars has always catered to two completely separate but equal audiences. First and foremost it’s a kids movie. Sure it happens to be beloved by kids of all ages, including those of us well past the traditional age of adulthood, but the point is the films have always been targeted to children. I don’t mean to make it sound like they are made for kids, but they are certainly made to appeal to kids. I always find it amusing to hear grown adults in their 30’s and older try to argue it was never a kids movie, while neglecting the very fact they discovered it while they themselves were kids. Okay, I don’t want to beat a dead horse so let’s move on.
I was born in 1982. For me I grew up in the period between the Star Wars Trilogy and the Prequels. As such I was the exact right age to enjoy The Phantom Menace while also recognizing it was certainly a flawed movie. I guess this is part of why the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi never bothered me. If you want to get down to it, my actual first exposure to Star Wars was not even the movies but the Ewoks cartoon series, so you could say I was already appreciative of the fur balls. I also loved shows like Punky Brewster and Alf so sue me. I just never knew there was a faction of the Star Wars fandom that even hated the Ewoks. I guess growing up I didn’t even know there was a Star Wars fandom. Where I lived Star Wars was old news. All the kids my age were into Ninja Turtles and G.I. Joe. To them Star Wars was dad’s movie, it was old. I kind of related to this myself since it was my dad that introduced me to the films. I just chalked it up to how kids dislike things that came out before they were born.
I am not going to defend the Porgs nor am I going to claim they are ruining Star Wars. I can honestly say I rolled my eyes at the scenes featuring them but that’s the extent of it, Disney made sure they were there for the kids but didn’t let them get in the way of the adults enjoying their movie too.
This takes me to the second part of the equation. Star Wars is equally not a kids movie. As a space opera, as Fox used to promote it as, the film has universal appeal. I always considered it more of an epic mythology set in a science fiction based universe. I kind of describe the saga as space fantasy more than sci-fi. I can make the case that the movies are also made to appeal to adults while being accessible to children. I think most die hard fans will probably fall somewhere in line with that point of view. That is except the OUT only nut jobs who scream Han Shot First at their LaserDisc players. Don’t dismiss me just yet, I have Star Wars on LaserDisc myself.
This takes me back to the Ewoks. The complaint I have started hearing in recent years, made famous on How I Met Your Mother, is how the Ewoks divided the Star Wars fandom. I seem to recall a moment in Clerks where one of the characters dismisses Jedi as a movie with a bunch of muppets. I wasn’t sure if he was dismissive of just the Ewoks or the entire films focus on aliens. I didn’t care but it got me to thinking, where there adults that went into Jedi feeling disappointed because it had teddy bears fighting Stormtroopers? I once dated a girl who said Return of the Jedi was the only Star Wars movie she liked. Or as she called it, the one with the fuzzy bears. We didn’t last long.
Looking back I still think Jedi has some great action, plenty of fantastic special effects and a dark enough mood leading up to the grand finale. For me the Endor stuff was fun, I enjoyed it. I am now able to admit some of that was because I was the right age when I saw Jedi, while some of it is giving the movie a pass for nostalgia reasons. Growing up I never owned Star Wars on tape. I never got to see it in theaters. My only exposure was renting it on VHS those rare times it was ever actually in stock or the recordings we had of the films from taping them ourselves off the TV. Unfortunately this meant I had to watch them with commercials on low quality VHS tapes with dropped audio and since the tape ran out Jedi ended with Vader turning Luke’s saber on before taking him to see the Emperor. So for several years growing up that was how Return of the Jedi ended for me.
Fast forward to The Phantom Menace. I was 16 when it debuted. I went to the theater three times to watch it. I made the mistake of reading the book ahead of the film’s release just because I couldn’t wait to enjoy the story Lucas had concocted. This was easy for me as a fan of the books I was already a huge fan of the Expanded Universe stuff. I also subscribed to the Star Wars Insider Magazine, was a member of the Star Wars fan club, and even got the Star Wars.com news letter in my email each month. I was also a political science nerd in high school. I studied politics. I watched C-Span, and yes I was even student council president of my high school. For me the political stuff in The Phantom Menace wasn’t boring at all, it was fascinating to learn the structure of the economy of the Old Republic and to see it dissolve into the Galactic Empire. Up to that point all I had to go on was that brief mention at the front of the book of the original Star Wars From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker. I still hated Jar Jar Binks.
I never understood the hate the prequels got but I did fully understand the feelings of anger Jar Jar stirred up in Star Wars fans. I was one of those who hated him so much that I vowed if he was in Attack of the Clones half as much as The Phantom Menace I was going o boycott Episode 3. Fortunately Jar Jar wasn’t the problem with Episode 2. Unfortunately I would have preferred if he was. Unlike Artoo Detoo or the Ewoks before, Jar Jar was slapstick comedy almost on the level of the 3 Stooges. It felt out of place in a Star Wars film. Right at home in a video game, maybe but not a film. But remember, the Star Wars Holiday Special? The series was kind of tainted right from the start.
Okay so what about Porgs? Or is it the Porgs? I don’t know I guess I don’t care. Unlike the Ewoks which fans hate for being a contrived plot device or Jar Jar which fans hate for being slapstick the Porgs actually served no purpose other than to ensure Disney could sell stuffed animals to kids. They were underutilized to the point where fans of them weren’t given enough to go on but not over used to the point of becoming a real distraction. Seeing that trailer with the Porg and then the ice foxes made me lose a lot of the hype going into The Last Jedi. Seeing how they were actually handled made me really question why they were even included in the first place?
I don’t dislike Return of the Jedi for having Ewoks. Jar Jar has since grown on me with each repeat viewing of The Phantom Menace. I mean it was the first Star Wars movie I got to see in theaters and I was all in during the pre-release hype so the movie holds a special place in my heart. I get how fans were disappointed but I still love the movie. Porg, had absolutely no impact on my enjoyment of The Last Jedi. He, she, it, they were just sort of there and then they weren’t. At the end of the day Star Wars is supposed to appeal to kids of all ages, including adults who refuse to grow up, so good on Disney for finding a balance that allowed them to put a cute little stuffed animal into the film without making it too important to the plot to ruin it.