I’m tempted to start this by saying “I like Star Wars as much as the next guy”, but clearly that cliché isn’t true, as it is the reason I’m writing this today. Today is May 4th. Somewhere along the way it was decided that since “May the fourth” sounds like “May the force”, that this makes this day “Star Wars Day”.
Look, I really like Star Wars. One of my happiest memories was the night my big brother took me from theater to theater to watch the Star Wars re-releases on the big screen. Like most other kids I wanted my own lightsaber, loved X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon, and had a huge crush on Princess Leia.
I was even the kid that went and saw The Phantom Menace five times in theaters when it was first released. In my defense I was in fifth grade, so Jar Jar Binks was a lot funnier at that point. And like most people my age, I don’t remember the last time I watched any of the prequels all the way through, and generally I think the two best things about the prequels were Ewan McGregor and John Williams’ music.
Now we’re in a weird meta “Golden Age” of Star Wars. Since Disney bought LucasFilm and the rights to make Star Wars movies, we’ve been promised a new Star Wars movie every year, until the end of time. I am less than enthused about this.
I know, I know, complaining about Star Wars on the internet makes me about as unique as people who say “hot outside, huh?” in the middle of summer. To be clear, I enjoyed The Force Awakens, I thought it was very well done. It wasn’t the most original movie and Star Wars (and Disney in general) continues to get away with things no other franchise could (Han: Where did you get that lightsaber? Maz Kanata: ‘That’s a story for another time’ Audience: ‘oh she just has a lightsaber that was last seen falling into oblivion? alright, I’m on boardYAY STAR WARS!!’)
All that said, Star Wars mania has gone too far for my taste. There now exists a yearly “Star Wars Celebration”, where Star Wars and Disney officials gather to bask in their glory. Pure excitement for all things Star Wars have reached a level where there is next to no critical analysis of new Star Wars material.
**UPDATE: An old friend of mine informs me that the Star Wars Celebration has been going on since the late 90s and is not a product of Disney’s new ownership of Star Wars**
New poster? OMG STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND LOOK AT THIS POSTER!! Title for the next movie? OMG WHAT DOES IT MEAN THIS IS AMAZING!
And the trailers. The trailers the trailers the trailers. The trailers are indicative to me of what these new Star Wars movies under Disney are doing. Showing you Star Warsy things with Star Warsy sounds and music. They are very clearly staying away from trying anything new and instead are relying wholly on nostalgia for the original trilogy.
Rogue One was the most beautiful looking Star Wars fan film ever made. It had things that looked very Star Wars. It also had no characters and no interesting plot. Yet we were all treated to everyone and their cousin telling you how this was the best Star Wars movie since Empire Strikes Back. Give me a break.
To me, Star Wars is the archetype for a common problem in popular culture, and that is especially prevalent in science fiction franchises. The original Star Wars was not living up to anything or cashing in on nostalgia. That Star Wars was something new, doing its own thing. The characters and images that became iconic did so because they were naturally occurring and people gravitated towards them.
Think of it this way, George Lucas was (rightfully) praised for his groundbreaking work with special effects. However, Lucas himself famously (or infamously) stated that “..special effects are just a tool, a means to tell a story. A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing”. But what happened after Star Wars was incredible profits from toys, and near universal praise for his special effect work.
What did we get after that? More things to make into toys, and more special effects, culminating in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. In those movies we had special effects with no story.
In comes Disney, armed with the hindsight of bad public reaction to the CGI heavy prequels, Disney chose to take us “back to the originals”. My hope is that going forward the movies move away from re-hashing the original trilogy, and allow the new young leads to grow into fully formed characters with their own stories. I think all of us are expecting a “re-imagining” of The Empire Strikes Back.
And my point is basically this, that even if The Last Jedi is just a copy/paste of Empire, it will make a billion dollars, and it will be hailed as the greatest thing ever. Because that’s where we are with Star Wars. I think subconsciously everyone wants to be part of history in the way we now look back on footage of the release of the original Star Wars. Everyone wants to be able to claim that they were part of that first magical wave.
That’s fine I suppose, I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to be near history. It just amazes me that in an age where thousands have made names for themselves by dissecting popular movies, we give Star Wars (and really anything with Disney attached to it…looking at you Marvel Cinematic Universe…) a total free pass.