A few decades ago, in a theater far far away, “Star Wars” premiered. The film went on to define modern popular culture like nothing before or since. The adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa and Darth Vader have inspired a fandom with a fervor seen in few other franchises. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” will premiere on Dec 18. Fans are nervous as a new “Star Wars” trilogy is released out into the world; but maybe they shouldn’t be.
The mind set one goes into a movie with is important. If one goes in with too much hype, the movie fails to live up to it. Go in with a bad attitude, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It takes the right level of caution and optimism. This attitude can be difficult to have in this age of every movie being either, “the greatest thing ever” or “this just ruined my childhood.” Nothing can be okay anymore, or even great with some flaws; we live ina world of absolutes. This mind set is toxic, and needs to be stamped out. This being said, I’m airing on the side of optimism.
“But we’ve been in this situation before- What about “Nu Trek”? What about the prequels?” Hold on imaginary person I made up to set up this argument, let’s get some background information out first. While George Lucas was kicking around an idea of making another “Star Wars” film, unaware of this, Disney made a multi-billion offer to buy his studio, Lucasfilm with the rights to all of its properties, including “Star Wars.” Lucas accepted on the grounds they make episode seven without his involvement because he wanted to experience “Star Wars” from a fan perspective. Disney was all too happy to comply.
Let’s address the Computer Generated Image (CGI) elephant in the room, the prequels. 16 years after “Return of the Jedi,” Lucas decided to write and direct a new trilogy set before “A New Hope.” The hype was set and- the films were terrible. There have been discussionsabout why these films were bad, with theories ranging to use of CGI over practical effects, to the story of the fall of the Jedi at the hands of empire. Anakin Skywalker’s descent into the dark side was criticized for not being consistent with the good vs evil world of “Star Wars.” The truth is much simpler: they’re just poorly made. The acting is bad, the writing is bad and it’s poorly shot. Not to say there’s not a few good moments throughout the films, but that’s what they are, moments. The CGI, the dark story could have been fine if handled by someone who was more competent. I think that the reason for Lucas’ drop in directing ability is that he hadn’t directed a movie since the first “Star Wars” back in 1977 and hadn’t written anything since “Return of the Jedi” in 1983.
Directing is a skill that you need to practice to keep. This can be seen as the prequels got progressively less awful as they went on. They never got good, but there was growth.
Lucasfilm hired J.J. Abrams to direct episode seven. Abrams started off producing television shows, including “Alias” and “Lost” before moving on to directing films such as the new “Star Trek” films and “Super 8.” Now some Trek fans didn’t like Abram’s “NuTrek” due to its focus on action as opposed to exploring like in the show, but at least the action was well shot. While not perfect, again it’s okay for movies to have flaws and still be good, the films are fun with strong characters. Abrams was a casual fan brought a fresh eye to the Star Trek universe, but he seems to be bringing something else to “Star Wars.”
“The Force Awakens” is a sequel, taking place 30 years after the events of “Return of the Jedi.” From what little plot we can get from the trailers, the events from the first trilogy seem to be shrouded in legend. “It’s true. All of it,” growls on old Han Solo, as newcomers Finn and Rey look on in awe. A dangerous cult seems to follow in the footsteps of Darth Vader swearing to finish what he started. This is a cool mirror to how fans treat the series.
The movie looks beautiful, with sweeping shots of battle ruins, spaceship chases and far off planets. The movie is set to use practical effects mixed in with new CGI and it looks great. Lucasfilm is bringing a variety of actors including Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford to return from the original trilogy; newcomers John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver to play the new heroes and villains; topped off with popular character actors such as Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie and Max von Sydow to play more important roles. This is some impressive talent.
Will “The Force Awakens” live up to the hype? Nothing ever does, but that still doesn’t mean it can’t be good or even great.