At the end of Return of the Jedi, the ewoks celebrate the fall of the Empire with a little ditty called “Yub Nub”. The opening lyrics to this song are roughly translated from Ewokese as:
“Freedom, we got freedom;
And now that we can be free,
Come on and celebrate.”
There’s nothing written on Earth or Endor that more appropriately captures the feelings of nerd fandom worldwide following David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ exit from Star Wars.
D.B Weiss (left), David Benioff (right).
For those not in the know, the pair of ‘Game of Thrones’ showrunners were given control of a Star Wars film trilogy of their own in February of 2018. EW reported that their series would be disconnected from the Skywalker nonology, which would allow them almost complete freedom since there would be no constraints from previous films. According to Collider, the duo struck a $250 million Netflix deal, which seemed to indicate the duo would be unable to write as much of their Star Wars content as they sought to put more effort into streaming projects (because what any trilogy needs is less focus from the questionably capable creators). Fans of ‘Game of Thrones’ and Star Wars alike prayed the deal would be altered further, and those prayers were answered late one evening in October of 2019. Via Hollywood Reporter:
“We love Star Wars. When George Lucas built it, he built us too,” Benioff and Weiss said in a statement. “Getting to talk about Star Wars with him and the current Star Wars team was the thrill of a lifetime, and we will always be indebted to the saga that changed everything. But there are only so many hours in the day, and we felt we could not do justice to both Star Wars and our Netflix projects. So we are regretfully stepping away.”
This comes directly off the heels of Dumb and Dumber’s appearance at the Austin Film Festival, which wasn’t ideal for the pair. Turns out they had as much experience with production as the rest of us at the time they acquired the rights from author George RR Martin, and described ‘Game of Thrones’ as an expensive film school (note to self: pitch random successful strangers using manic confidence at any opportunity). Here are some quotes from panel attendee @ForArya:
“Dan wanted to remove as many fantasy elements as possible bc ‘we didn’t just want to appeal to that type of fan.’ They wanted to expand the fan base to people beyond the fantasy fan base to ‘mothers, NFL players’…”
“Did you really sit down and try to boil the elements of the books down? Did you really try to understand it’s major elements?”
“No. We didn’t. The scope was too big. It was about the scenes we were trying to depict and the show was about power.”
These are just a couple of quips from one event, many more examples of their incompetence exist online. I can only imagine their terrible excuses and explanations for creative decisions they would make along the way. ‘Oh well, gotta sell those movie tickets to groups that don’t watch the genre while grossly misunderstanding major elements and themes!’ I can just hear them saying “Star Wars is about soldiers and lightsaber fights!” as they defend why using something like 300 as inspiration for their film was a good idea.
Honestly, a D&D produced trilogy might not be bad, as long as the people involved received the real creative control (the directors, actors, composers, designers on ‘Game of Thrones’ were top notch). It’s their insistence on keeping creative control, not planning stories out and failing to utilize a writing team that holds them back because their original ideas and plans are mostly lackluster, if not downright bad. Season 8 of ‘Game of Thrones’ was a rush to the end, and whether this was the result of fatigue, lack of source material, or some combination of factors (including lack of ability) is difficult to say.
It’s not sour grapes driving the criticism of the writing, either. ‘Game of Thrones’ was distinctly lacking; a romance between two characters is mostly developed off-screen, and characters have to remind us verbally that they are, indeed, in love. There’s never a sensible scene that satisfactorily shows them to be a true couple in any sense. Characters tell us about the conflict within another character, which is poorly demonstrated until later justifications for that dialogue. We learn that one character is smart because another tells us, rather than an instance that shows the audience their cranial aptitude. Scenes with characters talking around their conflict are cut frustratingly short like a soap opera, and no one is really ever communicating. Worst of all, character arcs disregard years of character and world-building so the ending could be unexpected and shocking. It’s not about the direction things went, it’s the seriously stunted journey there that ruined the show.
This kind of lazy storytelling has no place in cinema, even an event-driven franchise like Star Wars. We deserve better than artists that can’t find the effort to see their work through to a logical end, whose hubris will prevent them from leaning on others, and that care more about creating a spectacle for people to tweet about than telling a good story. D&D’s praise of Lucas conjures visions of the Prequels, when one man was allowed to control the direction of the franchise with little-to-no checks or balances. Surely no one wants Star Wars to have Marvel’s clinical and corporate feel, but it shouldn’t be a free-for-all that hacks can take advantage of either. Star Wars must be put in the hands of capable auteurs that answer to producers with a clear vision of what the franchise is to tell interesting stories in a gigantic universe. There are so many great filmmakers from diverse backgrounds that deserve a crack at a movie over these two.
Deadline called this a “setback”, but they couldn’t have used a less apt word. Benioff and Weiss’ exit from Star Wars (voluntary or otherwise) will not be mourned, and is a brilliant maneuver towards lessening vitriol levied at the franchise. Don’t feel bad for D&D; they’re off making money on Netflix, where the content can afford to be mediocre because consumers aren’t paying per view. It’s a win-win all around.