So, could we… not get more Star Wars?
I’ve been seeing it for years. People are constantly bemoaning that our most beloved celebrities are dropping off like flies in an Ortho factory, and though they ask why, we all know the answer: All of our most beloved celebrities are kind of, you know, old.
How did it end up like this?
I’m not proposing any kind of answer, I just find it a little strange is all. Isn’t the internet the place where we obsess over the fact that mainstream moviegoers can’t let go of the past? That our society is being so held back that massive blocks of people (which would never include you!) blithely sit through unnecessary sequels and remakes and rip-offs year after year? But let someone who was in a popular movie thirty years ago die, and suddenly everything in the past was just so much better!
Now, I love movies, and in fact I’ve grown to love them even more as I’ve gotten older, but it seems to me that there’s a case of willing doublethink going on here. Unnecessary sequels and remakes and rip-offs have existed almost as long as the film industry itself; if you don’t believe me, go look up how many times the name Dracula appears on Bela Lugosi’s IMDb page. There’s nothing wrong with the Hollywood of today that isn’t somehow rooted in the very beginning of the industry (in one way or the other), but to admit as much is to betray whatever unspoken hipster code of serious movie fandom people pretend to follow, until something you yourself are excited for is announced.
I’ve written about Star Wars before, and while I didn’t get much into detail about it, it should be pretty obvious that I loved the prequels. Revenge of the Sith is still my favorite of the series, with Phantom Menace a pretty close second. Though I wasn’t as caught up in the hype for The Force Awakens as everyone else, and made it a point to mock said hype as much as possible, it sits comfortably at number three on my list, just ahead of Return of the Jedi.
The Force Awakens is a solid B+ movie that had few ambitions, but certainly lived up to them. What I could have done without, however, was the absolute schadenfreude people took in Force Awakens out-grossing Avatar. I get that if you love something, you want it to do well, but the way people were rooting for Force Awakens to make more money, you’d have thought that James Cameron shot the president or something. It’s not even like Avatar is some long-standing champion of an era people wanted to forget about, like, say, if The Birth of a Nation (1915) was the all-time #1. It came out in 2009. There are Harry Potter movies more recent than that!
Who knows? But if I might don my junior detective hat for a moment, there’s one strikingly obvious fact that gels with the selective behavior I mentioned earlier:
Avatar is new, and Star Wars is old.
Sure, Avatar is only “new” if you’ve never seen Dances with Wolves, and The Force Awakens is nominally a new chapter in the saga, but the point is that Star Wars has a pedigree and Avatar doesn’t.
I’m not one to judge people for falling under the sway of merchandising-based nostalgia (I had He-Man and the Masters of the Universe bed sheets as a kid, so I get it). However, I can’t help but feel that this renewed obsession with trying to make Star Wars the epicenter of popular culture again is in some way unhealthy.
The movies came out, they made a big splash and influenced everything that came after them, and then they ceded the stage to something else. Star Wars never went anywhere, but it used to have the good taste to let someone else make a few bucks here and there. Now, not only are we looking at a new wave of merchandise and ancillary tie-ins, but starting with the latest prequel out later this year, Star Wars movies are, to my understanding, going to be an annual event!
I remember the first time I heard that. I almost wanted to vomit. Why? Because guess what else is an annual thing? Call of Duty. And Call of Duty is kind of shit.
There have been seven official Star Wars movies, a couple of TV projects, what must be hundreds of expanded universe books and comics, too many video games to count, and enough action figures to fill the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And that’s still not enough?
I won’t go into how, now that Disney’s running the show, the films are already becoming assembly line fanservice constructed almost entirely out of dog-whistle moments from the earlier films, since A New Hope was similarly made of Flash Gordon riffs, but if anyone’s still thinking the series has any tricks left up its sleeve, I’d hate to be the one to tell you…
If people want more Star Wars and have the money to pay for it, the market will bear more Star Wars. It isn’t going anywhere. But is this healthy? For all the hype that movies with new ideas get (Pacific Rim comes to mind), why is that we in the geek community would rather pony up for more of the same old same-old? In essence, to act exactly like the mainstream moviegoing audience so many claim to be rebelling against?
For a multitude of reasons, the very concept of nostalgia is in a weird place right now. Even the presidential race is literally a battle between the ’80s and ’90s. But we’re approaching an important juncture. The forces of capitalism are causing the usual Island of Misfit Toys of movies that Americans just can’t appreciate to become huge hits overseas. America will eventually no longer be the epicenter of world popular culture, and while maybe that’s for the best (I know I love Bollywood films!), it doesn’t have to be this way just yet. We could give something else a chance to capture our flinty hearts, the way the prequels brought a new generation of fans into the fold by being newer and clearly better than what came before them!
There are so many new and interesting sci-fi films coming from amazing directors with new ideas and stories, and so many potential future classics! (If Jupiter Ascending isn’t held in the same regard as Blade Runner in thirty years, I’ll eat my beard!) Wouldn’t you rather support them now?
Sure, I know I’m just as guilty as everyone else in this regard. Looking up from my computer screen, I can see an entire shelving unit devoted to old movies, TV shows, and books about old-school wrestlers. Hell, the most recent thing I bought was the complete series of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, but it sits quite comfortably next to my brand-spanking new copy of The Bronze.
There’s always going to be more Star Wars for you; Disney will see to that. But, you know, maybe we don’t have to gorge ourselves? We could step away from the buffet for once, and see what the restaurant across the street has to offer?
A man can dream…