Saturday, December 19, 2015

"Go see a Star War."

I haven't seen The Force Awakens, but I have thoughts about it.

No, actually, they're not about the new movie, but about Star Wars as a whole and what, exactly, it's good for. One of the common criticisms of The Force Awakens is that it's basically a pastiche of A New Hope. (See this article for a detailed explanation; no explicit spoilers, but I wouldn't read it if you want to be totally surprised going in.) And I definitely get where that argument is coming from. But at the same time: what else is Star Wars going to do?

Everybody hates the prequels. I didn't love them myself, although with the exception of Attack of the Clones I didn't think they were especially bad as that sort of thing goes. Their biggest sin was not making people feel like twelve-year-olds again, a sin the plot of The Force Awakens is aggressively, not to say cynically, trying not to commit. But when I try to think about why I didn't particularly like the prequels, I realize that it's because they were trying so hard to feel like part of an epic, carefully-realized science fiction universe, with fake science and details of planetary government and masses of stormtroopers. And that's not really what the original films were about. They were a fairy tale in a futuristic universe. Their world-building existed on the level of magical vistas, grimy taverns, and giant monsters. They even took place when and where all fairy tales do, long ago and far away.

The problem is that the fairy tale structure doesn't really lend itself to extension. Once you hit "happily ever after," the fairy tale is over; when you've bowed, you leave the crowd. And George Lucas' explanation after the prequels for why he wasn't going to make a sequel trilogy still rings true: the first six episodes feel like a complete story, the rise and fall of the Empire, and the rise, fall, and redemption of Anakin Skywalker. Of course you can do other things with the surviving characters, but how do you maintain the feel of the original trilogy without doing what The Force Awakens does and remaking it with some elements reorganized? I'm sure there's a way, and there's hope that the remaining episodes of this trilogy will show it. But even apart from the financial benefits of playing it safe, there are reasons the people who made this movie did what they did.

1 comment:

  1. I saw it yesterday and yeah... it's pretty much a re-do of A New Hope.
    Given the powers of God the Star Wars movies I'd want to see would be about Han Solo and Chewbacca's adventures before Episode IV... but I'm also the guy who always wants a Star Trek movie that doesn't center on the Enterprise/Federation... instead, something wilder, out on the frontier. Mostly I want something made by someone who doesn't have the huge burden of it being a Star Wars movie... which is why Guardians of the Galaxy is still the best Star Wars movie I've seen in years.