My previous blog (The A to Z of THE AFRIKA REICH TRILOGY, click here if you want to know more) was almost exclusively about the Afrika books. This new blog will have a more ‘personal’ tone – it is guysaville.com, after all. And what better way to start than with Star Wars.
I see myself as part of the ‘Star Wars generation’. It was one of the first films I ever saw and was a profound influence on my childhood. As the years have passed, however, that attachment has waned. The prequel trilogy diminished my interest further and now, with the first of the new Disney films about to be released, I feel a distinct lack of enthusiasm.
There’s a buzz around The Force Awakens and quite possibly I will change my views entirely in the space of a couple of hours (I’ve already booked my ticket for the BFI IMAX), so I thought I’d write something before I see it.
Why this lack of excitement? I’m aware I’m in a minority. Everyone else seems keen with anticipation, which suggests it’s not an age issue or a wariness that comes from the dire prequels. Was there ever a more disappointing film than The Phantom Menace?
My overwhelming sense at the moment is one of vague exploitation. I feel there’s something cynical about the whole affair. The Star Wars story was finished in Return of the Jedi. Satisfyingly finished. There was no obvious plot thread that cried out for a continuation. I get no sense from any of the people involved in the new film that there is a story screaming to be told. So why is it being made? Money. Disney have invested heavily in buying the franchise and want a cash cow. The planned films (I’ve read there will be one a year from now till 2021) are in many ways extended advertisements for a tsunami of new toys, merchandising, even theme parks. I feel the nostalgia for my childhood pleasures has been commodified.
Part of this process requires catalogisation: every character, droid, creature, ship, planet, weapon etc must be described, partly to satisfy the hardcore fans but also so Disney has more merchandise to flog. When I was growing up, we had the films and some toys but much of the Star Wars universe was only glimpsed. You had to imagine everything else. The interaction between films and fans required an active process. Now every detail is given to you in a great, unending dollop served on a tie-in plate. Nothing is elusive or a mystery. But wasn’t that part of the enjoyment? To create your own Star Wars world from the building blocks the movies gave you.
The Force Awakens is also part of a larger trend in the entertainment business that sends cold shivers through me. Hollywood studios, and indeed publishers, seem ever more reliant on existing franchises. Rather than invest in new artists or projects, everything is concentrating around the successes of yesteryear. I understand why this is done – it’s a safer investment and millions do want more of the same – but I find it depressing. If this is the future, how will the next George Lucas emerge?
As I said at the beginning, I might be thrilled and excited by The Force Awakens in a way that makes me forgive what I’ve written above. I’ll let you know after I’ve seen it…
Addendum – so I saw the film last night. I thought it was a passable bit of entertainment, there were some decent actions sequences, plenty of laughs and a few thrills – but there was no magic. At least not for me. I felt it was trying to capture a time that has long since passed. So I guess everything above stands.