While opinion in the Sky Movies office over the new Star Wars movies is split, regular contributor and Bride Of Crapula editor Mikey Papadopoulos puts forth his take on the imminent sequels and spin-offs...
"You must do what you feel is right, of course"
For hardcore Star Wars fans, the news last October that Disney had bought Lucasfilm for $4bn led to fevered excitement- more films were coming, and a further exploration of a galaxy far, far away.
For anyone with a fondness for the original trilogy, or for exciting, inventive, big budget cinema, the news that there will be yet more Star Wars films should be met with a knot in the stomach. We’ve got a bad feeling about this.
The reasons for this scepticism are legion. One of the reasons for the critical and commercial success of Star Wars in 1977 was its novelty. The breathtaking effects that redefined cinematic science-fiction genuinely took us to different worlds, and were light years away from the tin foil and balsa sets of the past. Punters were astonished. Star Wars won 6 Oscars on the back of this technical advancement. Not only was the story accessible, thrilling and universal, it looked incredible.
For a whole generation, Star Wars was the formative film of childhood, the reason they embraced cinema in the first place. For swathes of fans, the original Star Wars trilogy has a personal, emotional, familial resonance that reaches far beyond the movies themselves. That connection, that feeling, simply can’t be replicated by any other film, no matter how good. It’s like meeting up with your first love after 30 years and realising you both are fat, tired and old. The memory cannot compete with the reality.
JJ Abrams has been announced as the director of episode VII. As a man who reinvigorated the Star Trek and Mission: Impossible franchises, he seems the perfect choice to take Star Wars forward. But forward into what?
Both the Star Trek and Mission: Impossible films are episodic in nature- the characters have an adventure, then they move on to the next one. Star Wars was a story arc. After Return Of The Jedi, the Empire was destroyed and peace was restored to the galaxy. Good triumphed over evil…so now what?
To take the Star Wars universe forward, the story either has to be smaller, in which case, who really cares? Or else it needs to be bigger, thereby undermining all that has gone before. It will be fascinating to see what Abrams chooses to do.
One of the other concerns has been Disney’s announcement that they plan a series of stand-alone movies focusing on the back stories of certain characters. Boba Fett is all but confirmed, Jabba The Hutt and Yoda have been rumoured, but it appears there is definitely going to be a Han Solo movie. This is an idea that should be frozen in carbonite and hung on a darkened wall forever.
Let’s skip over whether Han Solo actually needs a prequel because quite patently, he doesn’t- those three films told us everything we ever need to know about him. We’ve seen the most seismic events in his life. Why revisit lesser ones?
So let’s look at the main problem. Who do you get to play a younger version of one of the most beloved characters in movie history, embodied by one of the most successful, most popular, most charismatic actors of all time? Plenty of ambitious young actors will try, but there is no try.
Look at the disaster that was Shia LaBeouf in the Indy sequel that dare not speak its name. As a screen presence, he was obviously no Harrison Ford and never could be. In fact, that whole film stands as a testament to why revisiting great films years later ends in failure. See the Star Wars prequels for further details.
They may have been financial successes but for most, the prequels diluted the joy of Episodes IV, V and VI. Of the six films, two are great, two are solid, one is bad, and one is a contender for the worst big budget film in cinema history.
The Phantom Menace lacked any of the magic that made its predecessors part of movie lore. The actors did their best with an atrocious script and tedious story, but the CGI was superficial and unengaging compared to the superlative model work of 1977. Attack Of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith were better, but that’s like saying stubbing your toe is better than a tooth abscess.
Obviously, Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm was a financial rather than a creative decision. It is an opportunity to make films for a ready-made audience who will consume the product irrespective of its quality. The Phantom Menace was loved by no one. It grossed $1bn. This is a problem systematic of modern risk-averse Hollywood. The last truly original big-budget film was Inception. That was 2010. Even then, Warner Brothers only took the gamble on Chris Nolan’s project knowing that his Dark Knight Rises would make them another $1bn. It presented a minimal risk.
In the next five years, we can expect to endure the continuing glut of comic book adaptations, franchises, sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes. Star Wars, Alien, The Hobbit, Superman, Batman, The Justice League, The Avengers, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America and so many more. Some will succeed. Some will fail horribly. Few will lose money. They are brands, not films. There is a very real danger that audiences will eventually tire of the familiar, and the more Marvel and Disney tighten their grip, the more box office receipts will slip through their fingers.
Star Wars is a cultural touchstone of Western Civilisation. It is quite possible that in an increasingly atomistic world, no film will ever have the same impact again. But just because the merchandising and the exploitation of this amazing piece of beloved cinema has never been bettered, doesn’t mean we have to like it.
New Star Wars films shouldn’t be welcomed, they should be dreaded.
The very best we can hope for is that they don’t desecrate our childhood memories any further, as they continue to make more money than Disney can imagine. And they can imagine quite a bit.