So, let’s talk about Star Wars
December 16, 2015
I have tickets to see the new Star Wars movie at 1:30 am Thursday/Friday. I wasn’t determined to see the movie straight out of the gate, but friends acquired these tickets and who am I to say no? Let’s just say, as someone who camped out (briefly) for Episode I, I am completely and totally enamored with the modern convenience of online ordering and assigned seating. I will take a nap and head over to the theater a half an hour before curtain, because I am getting too old for this sort of thing.
In the meantime I’ve been thinking a lot about how to approach the movie. Has there ever been a movie with so much cultural baggage attached to it? So much expectation before a single digital frame has even played? After the culture phenomenon of the first trilogy, the rather brutal failure of the prequels to live up to the acclaim of their predecessors — what the heck do we do with this? Also, I have a paid gig to write a review for this puppy, and I’m trying to come up with a framework for that — a grading rubric, in a sense. What constitutes success for The Force Awakens? Is it enough that it entertains? Does it have to be objectively a good movie? Does that look different than a good Star Wars movie? What do I, personally, as someone who grew up with this franchise as part of my core programming, want out of this movie? I want it not to suck, of course. But what does that mean?
Add into that the immense amount of commentary — visceral, emotional commentary — playing out on social media. People who are exploding with excitement. Other people who are exploding with disbelief that anyone could be excited about these movies. Plus that really hard-core group of Star Wars fans who ought to be excited about this movie but are so upset that the Expanded Universe is now alt-canon that all they can do is foam at the mouth. And I’m like, really? You can’t keep a couple of different universes in your head at the same time? I was never attached to the Expanded Universe. There are great big chunks of the EU that I’m ecstatic about not having to pay attention to. Seriously, is there anyone who liked the Yuuzhan Vong and thought they were a good idea? They were so clearly an attempt to inject 90’s grimdark into the Star Wars universe — which wasn’t built for grimdark. So much of the EU doesn’t feel like Star Wars to me. (What does? Rogue Squadron. Tales of the Jedi.) And that leads me to. . .
What am I looking for in a Star Wars movie? Amazing feats of derring do. Engaging characters who are brave and charming. Engaging alien characters. Banter. Sense of wonder. Planetscapes and spaceships. An epic sense of story. Innocence and optimism. Respect for the original trilogy’s story — but something new. Show me corners of this universe that I’ve wondered about but haven’t seen yet. Build on the world without bashing holes in what came before. I want a movie that makes me happy.
There are those who believe this movie will fail to deliver anything resembling a satisfying experience, by whatever measure. They can’t understand why my friends and I are so stinking excited for this, but I know why: We have the makings a classic redemption story here. I’m not saying we’re going to get it — but what if we did? What if we got a new Star Wars movie that we could be excited about instead of apologizing for? That actually overcomes the negative expectation established by the prequels. Redemption. One of the most classic, satisfying story archetypes there is.
Yeah. That’s what we’re looking for.