Saturday, May 4, 2013

May the Fourth Be With You

So I know the new Star Wars movies are coming out in a couple of years.  I wish I could say I was more excited.  I LOVED the original Star Wars - now called Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope - and The Empire Strikes Back still holds up as a fantastic movie, even though it doesn't stand on its own.  Then Return of the Jedi came out in 1983.

I was 13 years old and so excited.  People cheered whenever a familiar character appeared on screen.  I enjoyed the Sarlaac pit, the Endor hover bike chase, and the big climactic battle of the Death Star that was basically a retread of the original Death Star battle, just with a bigger budget.  And of course, being 13, seeing Princess Leia in the slave girl costume ... sorry, where was I?  Oh, yeah.  So I left the theater after seeing Jedi and thought, "That was fun.  Now when does the REAL movie come out?"  It just didn't seem like a solid follow up to Empire. And I was 13!

Fast-forward some twenty-six years and the first prequel was released - The Phantom Menace.  The ads looked great.  And I was so excited to get a new Star Wars movie.  And then I saw it.  Here's how well it went over.  Remember that scene where Jar-Jar Binks gets his hand caught in the engine of Anakin's pod racer?  Everyone in the entire audience shouted, "Turn it on!  Turn it on!"

As much as Menace tried to deal with heavy themes, Lucas went too far the other way in terms of silliness or "comic relief" to balance it out.  And his writing was so stilted, particularly the dialogue.  Lawrence Kasdan's script for Empire was brilliant.  Simple, easy, fun, weighted, and balanced.  What ticked me off was how much Lucas just seemed to either forget about everything he established, or just decided to say, "Hey you know all the cool stuff?  Forget it.  I'm doing this now."  I mean, I thought the Force was something anyone could get in touch with.  It is, after all, "an energy field created by all living things.  It surrounds us and penetrates us and binds the galaxy together."  No.  You gotta have little microscopic midicholorians in your blood.  What the ... ?  Oh, and remember how Ben said that Yoda trained him?  Nope.  Who the hell is Qui-Gon?  Okay, sure Yoda may have trained Ben as a "youngling," but come on.  You're reaching.  Admit it.

The prequel sequels didn't fare much better in my mind.  Clones had its moments, but as a whole bored me to no end.  I hated Hayden Christensen almost as much as I hated Jar-Jar and the kid who played young Anakin.  In retrospect, Hayden may have been brilliant, but I haven't decided.  And I can sum up my reaction to Sith in one word ... "Nooooooooo!"

So now the new movies are coming out.  I think Disney will do a good job and I have faith in J.J. Abrams.  But knowing that Carrie Fisher and Mark Hammill are attached makes me wary.  I don't mind referencing their characters' legacies in the story, but bringing them back into it - even if only as a cameo - just seems like too much of a stunt.

I remember seeing an interview with George Lucas once.  It was just before Jedi was going to be released in theaters.  The interviewer asked him if there would be a lot more effects and eye candy or the like.  Lucas responded that there would be, but they wouldn't be the focus.  He said, "The story isn't the effects.  The story is the story."  He seems to forget his own words a lot.  I hope the new Star Wars movies are good.  But those hopes aren't high.  Maybe the writers will follow Patton Oswalt's advice ...

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