Random Ephemera

5 Times "Star Wars" Fans Got Shafted

Star Wars: The Force Awakens seems to be getting mostly rave reviews from most fans and critics alike, which is great news for fans of the long-running film franchise. To diehard fans, the Star Wars movies have become a major part of their lives, and the universe those films take place in can be an obsession with some of them. Even for those of us who are casual fans and don't own a replica lightsaber or film-accurate stormtrooper costume, the Star Wars films tend to have resonance in our lives. George Lucas's blending of timeless human myths, Kurosawa samurai movies and Flash Gordon serials made such an enormous cultural splash that almost no one was completely untouched. Ask most people when they saw their first Star Wars movie and they'll be able to answer, usually with details (in my case, a movie theater outside of Sugar Land in 1977. I was eight.).

But despite the affection so many people have for the Star Wars movies, there have been plenty of moments over the decades where fans got shafted in one way or another. Nothing is perfect, and here are a few of the moments over the years where things connected with Star Wars let us down.

5. The 1977 Early Bird Certificate Package

The Star Wars franchise has had enormous lines of toys almost from the very beginning, but when the first film was released in 1977, no one was really prepared for its unprecedented runaway success, not even Kenner. That company owned the license to release toys from the movie, but back in the late 1970s, toy tie-ins with films weren't what they are today. In fact, the Star Wars franchise is largely responsible for creating the whole concept of an enormous line of toys being released along with any film that might appeal to kids. But back in 1977, that wasn't the case, and only a small amount of Star Wars merchandise was available to fans who were clamorous to buy anything they could associate with the movie.

As Kenner scrambled to meet consumer demand, a major problem loomed up ahead, since almost every kid who'd seen the movie wanted Star Wars stuff for Christmas, and not having toys to meet that demand would be a major missed opportunity. The company came up with a novel "solution" to the dilemma — it decided to sell an almost empty box as a sort of placeholder for action figures that would be released several months later. The "Star Wars Early Bird Certificate Package" included a painted backdrop portraying 12 characters from the film, which would serve as a diorama for the action figures when they became available. It also came with stickers, a fan club membership and a redemption certificate for early delivery of four action figures when they were available over the following months.

So Christmas Day in '77 was probably a letdown for a lot of Star Wars-obsessed little kids, when they opened their gifts to discover a box with some stickers and an I.O.U. for the cool action figures they really wanted.

4. Jar Jar and Ewoks

To a lot of longtime Star Wars fans, Jar Jar Binks was like a clammy slap in the face of pure fail, but it's easy to take cheap shots at a character once described by The Wall Street Journal as "A Rastafarian Stepin Fetchit." He seems almost universally hated, and is considered one of the most despised characters in film history, but the sad truth is that the Star Wars movies have had a long history of using silly characters that almost no adult could like, and Jar Jar Binks was just the worst manifestation of that. I still remember the disappointment when I went to the theater as a 14-year-old kid to see Return of the Jedi and realized with horror that the rumored Wookie planet that fans had been discussing was actually full of cutesy Ewoks. That might've worked if I'd been ten, but it just seemed corny and infantile to the adolescent I'd grown to be. Star Wars always had multigenerational appeal, but the movies increasingly seemed to be pandering to children, and the balance wasn't a good one. Some fans might think that it was a cynical way to market toys to kids, but whatever the reasoning behind introducing more of those sorts of characters, a planet of teddy bears and Jar Jar Binks wasn't what a lot of fans liked about Star Wars.

3. The 1978 Holiday Special

With the enormous success of Star Wars, green-lighting a television holiday special for the year following its release must have been an easy decision. After all, what could go wrong?

Plenty, sadly enough. It was a complete train wreck, an unfortunate blending of Star Wars with the worst schlock that '70s variety show television had to offer. Sure, it had appearances by the film's charismatic lead characters, but they were forced to be in hammy scenes with people like Art Carney, Harvey Korman and Bea Arthur. The results were about as bad as one would expect from such a terrible mix, and the stupid skits and music segments made for two of the most awful hours of Star Wars-related content that one is likely to find (yes, worse than the prequels). The special met with a poor reception, and has gone on to become legendary for its level of nearly unwatchable crappiness. Carrie Fisher sings a bad song, Harrison Ford looks like he'd really rather not be on the set, Harvey Korman appears to think he's in a Carol Burnett skit, and somehow Jefferson Starship is introduced into the Star Wars universe. The only good thing about the show was a ten-minute cartoon segment introducing Boba Fett, and when a ten-minute cartoon is the best part of a two-hour show, that's very bad news.

Reportedly, even George "Jar Jar Binks is a great character" Lucas hated the Holiday Special, and it's never seen an official release since its original airing. Thank you for that, Mr. Lucas.

2. Boba Fett's Lame Death

Boba Fett was a hit with fans from the moment he was introduced in the Holiday Special cartoon in 1978. Something about the cool-looking bounty hunter captured people's imaginations, and though he doesn't have a ton of screen time, the character is one of the more memorable ones in the Star Wars universe. However, the intergalactic badass also has one of the most embarrassing death scenes in the entire franchise. After hanging around Jabba the Hutt's place, he travels with the corpulent gangster's crew to attend the execution of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, who are to be fed to a desert monster called a Sarlacc. Of course, a battle ensues instead, and rather than displaying any of the fighting skills that he's supposed to be legendary for, Fett looks clumsy and awkward through the scene. Then he's quickly dispatched when Solo accidentally bumps the helmeted bounty hunter's jet pack, launching Boba Fett straight into the Sarlacc's mouth, screaming like a wuss the whole way.

1. The Han Shot First Revisions

The controversy surrounding whether or not Han Solo cold-bloodedly murdered Greedo in the first Star Wars (Yes, first. Not "Part 4") movie isn't likely to go away anytime soon, since George Lucas seemed intent on revising the famous scene to make Han Solo look like he's acting in self-defense. Han shot the green bounty hunter first in every version of the film available until 1998, when he sloppily revised the scene to make it look like Greedo fired the first shot at Han Solo.

Lucas didn't care what fans thought about the change then, and he probably doesn't care now, but it's a stupid decision from a storytelling standpoint, since having Han fire first made him a morally ambivalent character who transforms into a more heroic person over the course of the three original films. Making him a better guy from the get-go robs the character's journey of its potency. It's probably a good thing Disney bought Star Wars, or else fans could probably expect further revisions down the road, possibly featuring Jar Jar Binks.

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Chris Lane is a contributing writer who enjoys covering art, music, pop culture, and social issues.