I’ve heard there’s an alarming amount of unguarded optimism about Star Wars: The Force Awakens right now, and I’m here to put a stop to it.
That’s one way Scott Beggs could have led off his recent essay “What if the New Star Wars Movie Sucks?”at FilmSchoolRejects. However, his goal was not to be a killjoy or Debbie Downer or express any kind of displeasure with everything we’ve seen from Force Awakens to this point. After all, it’s difficult to be down on the new Star Wars less than 24 hours after everyone lucky enough to get into the Comic-Con panel was led to a nearby venue and treated to free lightsabers and an hour-long concert of John Williams music. Before that, in lieu of a new trailer Disney surprisingly debuted a behind-the-scenes video from the set of the film, which is being picked over and analyzed as if it was a trailer.
Why does that one tie fighter have red on its side? Why is a stormtrooper pulling a captive through a corridor at gunpoint? What should we make of Daisy Riddley’s character seen sitting next to Han and Chewbacca in the Millenium Falcon?
It’s getting harder to be cynical about all of this largely because everyone seems so optimistic about it. There are those movies you have to seriously talk yourself into feeling excited about despite overwhelmingly negative buzz, like how all the signs (casting, plot rumors, pics from the set, trailers) painted a pretty bleak picture for Terminator: Genisys. Then there are those movies whose wave of good will makes it challenging to remain level-headed. Sometimes that works out, like how the closer we got to Guardians of the Galaxy’s release date the less we heard about all the reasons it would bomb and the more we heard about awesome it looked. Other times you end up suffering an existential crisis when The Phantom Menace lays a giant turd.
Right now, the positive buzz for The Force Awakens feels like Guardians times 100, and as Beggs points out, “Movies like The Fantastic Four and Batman v Superman get properly raked over the coals, consternation and snark reign supreme, while the strongest negative emotion facing The Force Awakens is apathy.” You get snarky about Fantastic Four because Rise of the Silver Surfer was bad, but you don’t get snarky about The Force Awakens because although the prequel trilogy was a big disappointment you can just blame those on George Lucas, who has nothing to do with the new movies. You get snarky about Batman v Superman for a many valid reasons, among them Zack Snyder and his prior work with Man of Steel, but you don’t get snarky about The Force Awakens because there is no Man of Steel to divide our opinions. We’re all just ignoring the prequel trilogy, and binging Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Netflix and Star Wars Rebels on DisneyXD. Plus, if you don’t’ like J.J Abrams they’ve already hired a younger, cooler director for Episode 8 (Rian Johnson) and awesome people for the spin-offs, Gareth Edwards for Rogue One and Phil Lord and Chris Miller for a Han solo prequel.
But what if The Force Awakens isn’t very good, more Star Trek Into Darkness than Abrams’ more widely embraced 2009 Star Trek? Disney is pushing forward so hard with Star Wars right now. We’ve only just learned about Chris Lord and Phil Miller’s Han Solo prequel, and we’ve heard Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow might helm Star Wars: Episode 9. The Comic-Con panel revealed Rogue One will start shooting in three weeks, and the rumor mill suggests Darth Vader will make an appearance, which makes sense since this will finally depict how the Rebels got a hold of the Death Star plans in the Original Trilogy. On top of that, Disney has all sorts of official Star Wars canon comic books coming out, and Star Wars Rebels has a second season on the way.
That’s a heck of a lot built off universal brand awareness and an assumption that Force Awakens will connect with audiences. Oh, it will make an obscene amount of money, but so did Phantom Menace. Just because George Lucas has shuffled off somewhere and left things to Kathleen Kennedy and J.J. Abrams doesn’t meant Force Awakens will be a truly amazing movie.
As Beggs argued, “If The Force Awakens sucks, it’ll be like Babe Ruth bunting after pointing to the bleachers. And then signing a new multi-million-dollar contract the following day. On the other hand, Star Wars is perfect as a fool-proof success specifically because it takes place in an expanded universe. J. J. Abrams’ movie could theoretically launch a billion angry nerd rants online, but everyone who writes one will still go see Boba Fett Begins when it comes out. That one could disappoint, too, and fans will still go see the Han Solo movie, and Episode VIII and whatever else Disney has inked on its calendar.”
There’s just something not allowing so many of us to give into the negativity, though. Why root for a movie to fail? As many movie critics frequently argue to a disbelieving populace, you don’t root against movies. You tear into them when they disappoint or offend, but you go in hoping for the best. The Force Awakens is the, ahem, new hope Star Wars, and the sea of support it has received has been staggering. Not even Sterling Archer can be down on it. At this point, it seems like bringing up Phantom Menace or Hayden Christiansen doesn’t even seem relevant because that has nothing to do with what we’re dealing with now. The prequels were just weird technology experiments Lucas made to give LucasFilm some work and reignite toy sales, or so the argument goes. Lucas was too close to the franchise to do it justice anymore. Now, people who only became filmmakers because of Star Wars are continuing the story, and they brought back the original cast, even mean old grandpa Harrison Ford. This isn’t going to defang Darth Vader by associating him with Jake Lloyd; this is going to legitimately continue the story. The teaser trailer we saw looks amazing, and the cast they have is promising. This is going to be the true future of Star Wars.
But what if The Force Awakens is just okay, or, worse than that, completely sucks? Then we’ll have fallen for the same thing twice, but it feels different this time, doesn’t it?
What do you think?