Saturday, March 9, 2013

Episode VII: Can It "Bring Back Star Wars?"

You Won't Have George Lucas to
Kick Around Anymore
Ever since it was announced that Disney/Lucasfilm would release a Star Wars: Episode VII, everyone in the galaxy has put forth their opinions about who should write it, direct it, star in it, provide the catering, supply the port-a-potties on set, and so on and so on. Being a lifelong Star Wars fan and publisher of this modest little blog, darthmaz314 figured why not throw his two cents (or Republic credits) out there into the blogosphere?

The debate over the impact that the prequel trilogy had on the Star Wars legacy may never end. How good (or bad) those three movies are is a topic for a future post, or series of posts, or a series of Congressional hearings. Some say that only George Lucas could have ruined the Star Wars franchise. Whether you believe that he succeeded or not is yet another topic for debate. But one thing is clear now that Disney has acquired Lucasfilm. Someone other than George Lucas will now have their crack at ruining Star Wars.
Episode VII Screenwriter Michael
Arndt Won an Oscar for Little Miss

The detractors are already lining up the scapegoats. They’re already blaming Disney, director J.J. Abrams, screenwriter Michael Arndt, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny…you get the picture. All this before a frame of footage has been shot or a special effect has been storyboarded. The fact remains that certain things are untouchable in the hearts and minds of the public, particularly the fanatical public. By the time there was rumor of another trilogy in the late 90’s, it had been over fifteen years since the release of a Star Wars movie, and even that last movie (Jedi) was already being criticized as the weakest of the franchise. The Star Wars films had already been cast as three mystical stone tablets in the church of science fiction, which, in my opinion, is no less credible than the Church of Scientology. It would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to live up to the expectations of the enumerable masses of Star Wars fans.

A Beatles Reunion Would Have Been Destined to Dissapoint...
Just Like the Prequels
You can compare it to a hypothetical Beatles reunion in 1980 before John Lennon’s death. Sure, it would have been the most anticipated musical happening since the first caveman smashed his stick against the cave wall. But once it had been done, there would have been tons of people lamenting how “they just don’t have the chemistry anymore,” or John and Paul can’t harmonize as well as they used to,” or “this new song is crap compared to A Day in the Life!”

Jar Jar Was the Scapegoat, But Not Totally
to Blame for Disenchanting Star Wars Fans
A cultural phenomenon like Star Wars (or the Beatles) eventually elevates to a point where it becomes unmatchable, particularly after the passage of enough time. Any attempt to duplicate its legend is futile. Does that mean that George Lucas hit the bulls eye with the prequel films and it was everyone else’s unrealistic expectations that were the problem? Not so much. There are problems with the prequel films and they extend beyond the long floppy ears of Jar Jar Binks, although it is hard to navigate around him in any defense of the prequels. But if we were to hop in our time machine and travel back to 1977 and not be influenced by the fact that Star Wars (I can’t bring myself to refer to it as Episode IV) was groundbreaking and unlike anything folks had ever seen in up to that time, AND were truly honest with ourselves, wouldn’t we all think that C-3PO was annoying? I think so. Did the character work? Absolutely!

C-3PO was Annoying, But the Character
Worked and We Loved Him
Did he have better dialog to work with than Jar Jar? Absolutely! Is Anthony Daniels a better actor than Ahmad Best? Absolutely! Was Jar Jar an over the top attempt at connecting to kids and selling action figures and Halloween costumes? Absolutely! Were both characters written to be annoying? Absolutely! The difference is that Jar Jar also annoyed the people on the other side of the movie screen. Simply put, C-3PO worked and Jar Jar didn’t, regardless of the reasons. Did many people think that some of Mark Hammil’s performance was corny and not his best work? Absolutely! But it wasn’t enough to destroy the movie. There was too much good about Star Wars to allow it the imperfections to tarnish our view of it. AND Star Wars was not trying to fill the shoes of three larger than life older brothers who were prom king, won every sports trophy, got straight As, and dated the head cheerleader throughout high school. 
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker 
So can a new trilogy be embraced by the fans? This fan thinks it can. As with the last trilogy, the first film will be crucial. Let’s be realistic. The true fanboys will go see Episode VII, despite their claims on the net of wanting to encase Lucas in carbonite or toss him in the Sarlacc Pit. Sure, they pound firmly on the keys as they post their bitter attacks in cyberland, but the diehards will be there when Episode VII hits the screen. The audience that will determine the fate of Star Wars’ next trilogy will be young adults or as I have dubbed them…the children of the prequel trilogy generation.

The children of the prequel trilogy generation, are now young adults. If you were ten when Phantom Menace was released, you will have been on the planet for about a quarter-century by the time Episode VII opens in theaters. Chances are that if you became a Star Wars fan and were baptized into Lucas’ Church of the Force during the release of the prequel trilogy, you are willing to give a new trilogy a chance. But if your parent was a Star Wars fan, you grew up hearing about how great Star Wars was and how much of a genius George Lucas was, and were dragged to three movies that you felt didn’t live up to the hype, you are probably not salivating for another trip to the galaxy far, far, away. If the Force is not strong among the entire prequel trilogy generation, the box office receipts will not be strong either. Considering how important the 18-34 crowd is in the entertainment economy today, it is hard to underestimate the power of the prequel generation in the success of Episode VII.  

George, Carrie, Mark, & Friends
The other category that will be crucial is the casual moviegoer. Will Episode VII be a movie event? Will the average multiplex-dweller feel compelled to pluck down their dollars to be part of the hype or will they be kept away by fifteen years of whining about how the prequels destroyed Star Wars. It is hard to say. The criticality of the opening weekend can’t be understated these days, so Episode VII may not have the luxury of waiting for word of mouth (or word of blog) to get around that Star Wars is back to entice the casual moviegoer. If the world doesn’t flock out to see this film at midnight screenings and the first few days of release, the word on the street (net) will be that it must be just like the prequels.
However, before Disney/Lucasfilm can woo the right demographics, they have to make a good film. So what will make Episode VII a success?
For our opinions, check back for Part II of this post coming soon.......

UPDATE: See Part II by clicking the link below:

Episode VII: Can It Bring Back Star Wars? Part II

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