A long, long time ago, in a far away time known as my childhood, I was a moderately big Star Wars fan. How big? I had some hand-me down Star Wars toys (e.g., a totally awesome action figure of one of the red imperial guards) from my older brothers, and for a period of time I did have Star Wars-themed bed sheets. My experience is certainly not unique among kids born in the 1980s, and it does out me as a bit of a geek or nerd, but I think the existence of this very website has pretty well done that already. Geek and proud, that’s our motto–if we had a motto.
However, the tide has turned for me enough that I greet each news story about the new Star Wars films with a sigh and quiet plea, “Can we we please not do this?” But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is the latest:
J.J. Abrams has confirmed he will not be directing a third Star Trek film, seemingly putting to rest the rumors that he might quit the Star Wars gig and stick with Star Trek (via IGN.com).
Marvel has moved Ant-Man from a November 2015 to a July 2015 release, perhaps opening up the space for Star Wars: Episode 7 to open up in December 2015. This would ensure the Disney-owned Marvel and LucasFilms would not be placed in direct competition with one another. It’s a move that makes less sense for Marvel than it does for their corporate parent, Disney (via AVClub.com) .
The Chief Financial Office for Disney informed Variety that the plan is to release a new Star Wars film every year beginning 2015, with the new trilogy coming out in 2015, 2017, and 2019 and new origins films for established characters like Han Solo coming out in 2016 and 2018 (via ScreenCrush.com).
The most interesting part of all this is probably the move of Ant-Man, as Abrams merely confirmed what we already guessed and the CFO for Disney also confirmed what had been widely rumored enough to have taken on the inaccurate shape of accepted fact. Starting in 2015, we are going to get a new Star Wars film every year, whether we like it or not. The only thing left to decide now is when exactly Episode 7 comes out, and which non-Skywalker to pick for the first standalone origins film (Han Solo is the most popular pick). But, again, is it too late to just cancel all of this, and focus on creating something else rather than rolling the corpse of Star Wars out there for all of us to involuntarily fork over our money to see?
Of course, I was singing a completely different tune when the new trilogy came out in 1999. Even after The Phantom Menace sucked harder (real technical film term there) than anyone had expected, I was still there opening day for Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. I had multiple nerdgasms the moment Yoda walks up at the end of Attack of the Clones and lays the smack down on Christopher Lee’s awkwardly named Count Dooku (a name that sounded better once we met General Grievous one film later). I remember being actively mad at Annakin and Obi-Wan for needing to be saved by Yoda, thus the only reason Dooku was able to escape the fight with his life intact.
Against my better judgement (Ian McDiarmid’s performance as Palpatine put all other over-actors to shame), I just went with the camp-tastic joy of watching Yoda take on Palpatine in the galactic senate at the end of Revenge of the Sith. However, these were largely involuntarily responses to seeing objects of intense nostalgia being slotted into heroic moments to take full advantage of modern CGI technology. The films overall were clearly not the same as the originals, more technically accomplished but showing Lucas’ extreme and regrettable rust as a storyteller.
If the original trilogy represented for many the pureness, innocence, and joy of their youth, the new trilogy represented a corruption of that innocence, the hallmark signs of a capitalist endeavor laid bare and tarnishing what had come before. I was not as invested in Star Wars as all that, not having had the formidable experience of seeing the original films in theaters multiple times with the rest of the world since the films actually predate me. As such, I did not take nearly as much offense to the new trilogy. I just objected as a film fan who found the new films wanting in comparison to the old ones, even if I’m not nearly as down on Clones and Sith as some others.
However, as excellently argued in the documentary The People Vs. George Lucas the new trilogy signaled a sea change among Star Wars fandom. It really was the movie version of the second half of Marty McFly’s classic line in Back to the Future, “…but your kids are going to love it.” We saw Jar-Jar Binks as a walking minstrel show; kids saw a funny looking alien with a goofy voice. We rolled our eyes at Jake Lloyd’s improbable run of luck as a pilot at the end of Phantom Menace; kids saw a wish fulfillment character. We squirmed uncomfortably with each painfully failed attempt at humor (e.g., “Wait. We’re Jedis. We should know better than this.” Audience reaction: complete silence, no laughter), and wondered if Hayden Christensen may in fact be the worst actor alive; a quiet few dared remind the rest of us that the acting in the original trilogy is just as arch just with enough charisma to hide such deficiencies.
I have witnessed this firsthand in my 6-year-old nephew who is now arguably a bigger Star Wars fan than me, having been converted by the Cartoon Network series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the video game series LEGO: Star Wars and related tie-in animated short films. He loved going to see The Phantom Menace in 3D, and cannot wait for the new trilogy.
Of course, this is an over generalization on my part, as not all kids who saw the new trilogy became lifelong Star Wars fans and not all adults reacted negatively or felt betrayed. However, I know that at this point when it comes to Star Wars I may just be “totally over it.” The story has been told in 6 parts, on George Lucas’ admittedly flawed terms. While there are certainly arguments to be made for valid reasons why the story should be continued, the blatant and obvious financial imperative behind this whole endeavor is so impossible to ignore it has completely dampened any enthusiasm I might muster. Yes, the primary reason movies of this magnitude are made is to make money, but this feels more transparent than usual. A clear cash-grab can actually turn out to be a good movie, although I’m drawing a blank for a quick example (maybe the first Pirates of the Caribbean).
There is a new-old hope: J.J. Abrams appears completely genuine in his contention that directing this new trilogy is his dream job as a lifelong Star Wars fan. The reason Disney is making these films is obvious, but Abrams does not appear to have any financial need to make these films. I believe he is doing it because there is a good story to be told, even if his telling of it will be filled with far too much lens flare. LucasFilms head Kathleen Kennedy says similar things, emphasizing the need to get Episode 7 right and not rush it to market if it’s not ready. Those are encouraging signs. Plus, the removal of George Lucas from the equation might be the best thing, creatively, to happen to the franchise in over two decades. However, without him the signature independence of the franchise is gone, and the possibilities for films which will be focus-grouped to death heightened.
I just have to deal with the fact that these films are happening. Luckily, I’ve got plenty of time since the first one won’t come out until mid-to-late 2015. What about you? Are you excited for the new films? As depressed about it as me? Don’t care? Let us know in the comments.