We’ve known this was coming for almost two years.
The next film in the Star Wars saga. Entitled ‘The Force Awakens’, it arrives in cinemas worldwide December 18th.
Starring the old actors, and a handful of unknowns, the exact plot is a closely guarded secret, an impressive feat in 2015.
So far we’ve had teaser trailers, actual trailers, merchandise offers, movie reviews, cast interviews, etc, etc… all in the attempt to stoke the fires of desire and intrigue. In a movie that Fox knows full well is going to shatter box-office records, and blah blah blah.
Forgive my cynicism. But if there was ever a sure thing in the world of 2015 cinema it is this movie.
It will break even, that’s not the point. The point, sadly, is far more complicated than simple box-office takings.
I am cursed though. As an early millennial, I am the generation that grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy. The toys were in every living room, the movies were hot property at the local Blockbuster (to the extent that you had to reserve them!) and the dialogue was quoted at most family gatherings among your peers.
I had a knocked-off British chopper bike, and I enjoyed riding with my friends, reciting the dialogue of both space battles, the trench-run and the superstructure-chase.
[“You better let them loose!!! They’re right behind me!!!!!”]
Then we all grew up, teenage years and so on, and we all discovered the Star Wars novels. Following on from ‘Return of the Jedi’ and now criminally discontinued (more on that in a bit) they told stories of the Jedi Academy, Han and Leia getting married, their children, and Boba Fett’s story (he survives the Sarlacc Pit).
And that was really that.
Then our generation hears about the new films coming out.
To this day I cannot describe that excitement, which is a shame because it’s forever linked with a level of disappointment that I’d gladly forget.
And that excitement was compounded by the re-release of the original trilogy in the cinema, which was even more awesome because it would be the first time my generation had seen the movies on the big screen.
I missed ‘Star Wars’, but I saw ‘Empire’ and ‘Jedi’, and just seeing the movie on the big screen was more than enough. Yes, George Lucas had tinkered with the film a little bit, the fantastic “Yub-Nub” song was gone, in favour of a galaxy wide celebration (how do they all know so fast?) that the Empire is defeated.
But, all in all, good job.
Then the prequels came.
I don’t like them. But I’ve never been able to determine if my rationale for this is because I love the original films so much, or if they are genuinely poor films?
I mean, they have subplots, the whole idea that Anakin Skywalker brings balance to the Force is technically correct, if seen through the long, long lens of losing his friends, his wife, his children, his soul, murdering countless people and authorising the deaths of billions more, before saving his son from being electrocuted and tossing his boss down a chasm.
But it’s something an early millennial might not pick up on, because they see the prequels as a separate (extremely separate!!) trilogy.
Then there’s the humour.
My favourite bit in Star Wars is the running gag in ‘Empire’ when the Millennium Falcon refuses to work.
From the understated: (“I don’t know, check it at the other end” – Han Solo)
To the frantic: (“No! This one goes here, that one goes there, got it!” – Han Solo)
To the snarky: (“Would it help if I got out and pushed?” – Princess Leia)
To the false machismo: (“Oh yeah, watch this.” – Han Solo
*horrible grinding broken noise*
“Watch what????” – Princess Leia)
To the desperate: (“Electrical circuits are working, it’s not my fault!” – Han Solo)
In the end even Lando gets in on the act during the climax: (“But…they told me they fixed it…” – Lando Calrissian)
It was a slight gag that was beautiful in its understatement.
Somehow that morphed to the Ewok’s antics, and then into Jar-Jar Binks clowning around during a battle between droids and… other people, I admit I really turned off at that point.
And funny became silly. And people like me, who were grown-up but not ashamed to revisit something so precious to our childhood, lost a little of our innocence.
Were we mistaken to compare the prequels to the original trilogy?
It’s a genuine question. If you look on imdb.com the prequels, particularly episodes II and III scored 7.0+ on the like chart. And there’s clearly a tech-savvy generation who’s grown up with those movies that prefers them to the originals.
So what happens now?
I will go and see this new Star Wars film. But I’m going to be reserved about it. With its acquisition by the giant that is Disney, Star Wars now has 2 sequels in the pipeline, along with origin movies of Han Solo and Boba Fett, new books, comics, toys, etc, etc, etc….
This means that the range of novels that was created by some of the best science-fiction writers out there is being discontinued.
As in erased from history, as it is no longer considered universal canon.
I think this is a real shame, and I don’t know if it’s me, or the world as a whole. But the original movies were considered child-friendly but not specifically aimed at children, at least not until Hasbro got their toy-line fully operational, some time around ‘Empire’ in 1980.
Now with Disney being “the place where dreams come true” it’s kind of hard to separate the movie from the target audience. It seems adults are just along for the ride, either in a caretaker role, or as a fan of the original saga. Grown-ups who have no knowledge of the previous six films might feel left behind in the nostalgia trip.
Which, in essence, is what this movie is. And the prequels were shameless in their tugging on the heartstrings of the young at heart, lifting dialogue, set pieces, shots, and framing from the originals.
I hope the movie is passable. It won’t be as good as the original trilogy, and I hope to heaven it won’t be as bad as the prequel trilogy. It will be aiming for somewhere in between these points, which in the end, is what anyone familiar with Star Wars expected in the first place when they first heard these movies were to be made.