So, I suppose by now everybody (certainly everybody who would be in danger of reading this blog) has seen the teaser trailer for J.J. Abrams new Star Wars movie (Episode VII: The Force Awakens).
(And if you haven’t, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMOVFvcNfvE )
And it should surprise absolutely nobody to know that I have an opinion on it. After all Star Wars was my first and greatest fandom, before I even knew what a ‘fandom’ was. I was born in 1977 “The Year of the Droid”, the same year the first one came out, the first movie I ever saw in theaters was ‘Empire Strikes Back’, heck my first steps towards telling stories (something I do for fun twice a week with friends) was stories I made up with my Star Wars action figures. Hold on, where was I? Who are you? WHERE ARE MY PANTS? What have you done with the Stolen Plans.. er Pants… er…Sorry, just having and Elder Nerd Moment there. At any rate, it will surprise no one to find out that I have IMPORTANT OPINIONS ™ about the new Star Wars trailer.
Reaction to the trailer seems to, predictably enough, be along two general schools of response. 1: OMG! SO THE AWESOMES *drool* SO SHINY! and 2: This is dumb. What is that? A soccer ball droid? And c’mon, a cross-bladed light saber? Really? *spit*
Now, this is to be expected, I think. We are, after all, Star Wars fans and, unlike other fandoms I could mention (I’m not JUST talking about Trek by any means here), we don’t “Do” consensus. We thrive on hating things about the things we love, whether its because we’re imaginative perfectionists who just want our favorite thing to be even better or a pack of ornery, contrary, nit-picky nerds, who like being superior is up for debate.
[If you have not read the seminal essay “Star Wars fans hate Star Wars”, then you are reading the wrong blog, because it is brilliant and because most of the points I make here come from there and you need to go read it RIGHT NOW! GO! GET OVER THERE! DO IT!
My take: I agree. With all of it. Both the ‘Drool’ and the ‘Spit’ schools.
The Abrams Disney Star Wars looks awful, from it’s insipid title (The Force Awakens! *snort*) to the pandering soccer-ball droid (which is named BB, and probably has its own facebook game already) to the now-infamous Cross Light Saber. The total and criminal lack of any Billy Dee Williams at all (is that just me?) It looks like an absolute mess from the man who gave us the steaming train wreck that was “Star Trek: Into Darkness” and the studio that managed to screw up “John Carter of Mars”. Soon, Trekkies, soon we will feel your pain.
And I couldn’t be happier about it.
See, for me anyway, and judging by the size of the EU it’s not just me, the whole point of Star Wars isn’t the parts where it is good, or where it makes sense, but the parts where it doesn’t. And it needs both. A good movie engages a viewer for a an hour and a half to three hours and maybe a couple more in discussions over coffee or wine, a bad movie engages not at all, but a movie that’s ‘almost good’? That keeps reaching for the brass ring and failing? That engages for a lifetime. We who really engage with star wars are like the kind of people who buy run-down old houses and spend our entire lives building on
new wings, and plastering over cracks and twisting our brains inside out to come up with ever more convoluted ways to merge utterly, irreconcilably contradictory elements into some kind of whole, even if it is a twisted Frankenstein abomination that lurches from sad contrivance to sad contrivance with all the believably of a toddler’s first lie (wait, is that last thing a thing that home-owners do? I think I just lost my metaphor).
At any rate, we are compulsive retconners and explainers and fixers. I believe that deep down we love the gaps between the random, badly-thought-out bits and pieces that make up Star Wars because that’s where we insert ourselves, with a disgruntled superior sigh, to find a way to put them together. And the more people try to fix things, they more they will disagree and the more they find broken to fix. We’re an active fandom, and we like to get actively involved. Take it apart, put it back together again, imagine a better plot, invent a self-insert Mandalorian-Tusken-Cyborg-Sith-Turned-Jedi love interest that
will just piss everybody off, rinse, repeat. That’s the part that engages arguments and reimaginings and retcons and all the things that Star Wars fans really love. To quote the above essay: “We hate everything about Star Wars. But the idea of Star Wars…the idea we love.”
How many great works of science fiction or fantasy came from a cocky, self-rightous young fan starting out decades before to ‘do [something about Star Wars] right”? I would guess plenty, although I can’t back that up with anything more than a gut feeling and some sleep-deprived overconfidence.
Our hate, as Palpatine said, has made us strong. The fact of the matter is, no Star Wars, even one written by the Ghosts of Frank Herbert and J.R.R. Tolkein and with dialogue by Joss Whedon, will ever be good enough for us. Not now, maybe not ever. We want it to be perfect, and by perfect I mean “Everything that I, specifically, have ever dreamed of in a movie, only better”. And that, I think, is a good thing. George Lucas, by his own admissions in the 70’s (before he discovered Joseph Campbell and started calling himself a ‘mythmaker’) said that he was “no writer” and he wasn’t. The original Star Wars wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t really that good. But it was good at suggesting things and letting the imaginations of the audience fill in the spaces. No version of the Clone Wars, no matter how good, will ever, EVER live up to the versions that grew up in my head over two decades of imagining them. Which is why the fact that the J.J. Abrams Disney Star Wars movies being badly-done committee-made tripe is a good thing, at least for fandom. A new generation will learn to love the idea of Star Wars, and hate the realities, and from that, an even more fertile field of imagination will spring.
Plus, these new films are going to be Hella Pretty and that really has always been the USP of the franchise.
On that note, I nominate Michael Bay to do one of the stand-alone films. That alone should provide me things to hate and things to fix to last me the rest of my natural life.
And you, George Lucas and J.J. Abrams can all bite me 😛