Star Wars: The Force Unleashed ruined the Star Wars Franchise
The Star Wars: The Force Unleashed series is an undeniably popular piece of Star Wars media, attracting no small number of fans during its Playstation 2 – 3 & Xbox 360 era releases. It is also a source of great contention within the Star Wars community, with nostalgic fans often disputing the game’s troublesome protagonist, Starkiller. At the risk of angering TFU fans everywhere, I’m here to make the case that not only was Starkiller a terrible protagonist, but that The Force Unleashed ruined the Star Wars franchise as a whole.
Galen Marek, better known as Starkiller, was Darth Vader’s personal assassin and apprentice. After discovering the young force-sensitive boy on Kashyyk, Vader killed Galen’s Jedi parents and raised him as an apprentice in secret. I remember as a younger man being really moved and captivated by the opening scene of TFU, and thinking Starkiller was the coolest thing to happen to Star Wars in forever. This is sort of where a lot of his problem tendencies come from.
Without a single doubt, Starkiller is a power fantasy character. He’s a cool, young, attractive man with an edgy streak, written with enough of a blank slate personality that players can insert themselves onto him. If you’re a fan of Starkiller, you’re going to hate everything I have to say in this article, because your memory of the character is essentially going to be of yourself.
To really make Starkiller a true power fantasy character, the creators of TFU made him a truly, unapologetically powerful character. Simple and creative uses of the force were scrapped to instead give Galen Marek the ability to melt entire battalions of Stormtroopers with a shout and guide a Star Destroyer with his hands. Suddenly, every supposed Jedi master or powerful Sith before Starkiller has to be able to do the same or better, effectively power-scaling the force to ridiculous proportions.
This. This is how TFU ruined Star Wars as a franchise. The precedent set by Starkiller’s abilities with the force in The Force Unleashed took the Jedi and Sith from samurai allegories and turned them into superheroes. The power scale was irreversibly tipped. Suddenly, it didn’t make sense how a bunch of clones managed to wipe the Jedi off the face of the galaxy. All thanks to Galen Marek.
Fans of The Force Unleashed will defend Starkiller’s ability with the force and chastise the power of Sidious and Rey in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker with the same breath, not realizing that Starkiller is responsible for the power upscaling in the first place.
Galen Marek’s story intersects with the established Star Wars canon in ways that are confusing and give the character undue importance. He’s even responsible for starting the rebellion in his story, which seems to want to write him as the protagonist of the Empire saga. Thankfully, Starkiller was retconned from Star Wars canon completely, because there is one final sin I cannot forgive the character for.
In the Force Unleashed games, Starkiller defeats Darth Vader.
The cardinal rule of Star Wars is supposed to be that Vader is undefeatable. A relentless, terrifying weapon of the Sith and the most powerful force user to ever exist. Vader was written into the original trilogy to fulfil the rule of a monster movie antagonist. The unstoppable force that our protagonists must work around. His only true defeat came at the hands of his own sympathy for Luke in Return of the Jedi.
Vader being Star Wars’ Micheal Myers is a cardinal rule of the series that you’re not supposed to break. Unfortunately, cool guy Starkiller just wouldn’t be as awesome if he lost a duel to old man Darth.
As I mentioned above, defenders of Starkiller often draw comparisons to Rey from the sequel trilogy. But Erik, I hear you typing in the comments already, Rey is an emotionless blank slate who just gets to be strong for no reason. She’s a Mary Sue and sooo much worse than Starkiller.
The thing is, I completely agree. Rey is, arguably, a bland character who is given unjustifiable strength and importance in the Star Wars universe for seemingly no other reason than being the chosen protagonist. Her story is convoluted, she often wins without suffering or really trying, and fans on the whole are not fond of the character. I personally take a neutral take on Rey, because I haven’t seen the films in years, but I remember feeling about the same way as most other fans do.
Do you know who else is a bland character who is given unjustifiable strength and importance just for being the main character? Starkiller. The writers of Starkiller are guilty of the same crimes Rey’s writers are, only the character has baked in nostalgia from 10-13 year olds who thought he was the coolest thing ever growing up.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is guilty of hiking up the power scale with a Mary Sue, overpowered character, raising Jedi and Sith from lone knights fighting an ideological war to Dragon Ball Z proportioned superhumans who never would have found themselves where they are in the story. Unfortunately, the beloved Starkiller will always have a veil of nostalgia protecting him from criticism in the fandom space. Without nostalgia goggles, I find it hard to believe so many people would defend the character of Galen Marek (or his clone) the way they do.