I kinda don’t care. I mean, a big company spent a lot of money to buy something. Big deal. Or: a massive, ginormous soul-less corporation buys something deeply loved by millions of people. Okay, getting there. Or this: icky yucky grody Disney just bought my youth. There, that captures it.
The Disney Corporation just bought Lucasfilms. This will in no way impact my life or the lives of anyone I know, aside from the fairly horrifying probability that another Star Wars film might result. The price tag is high, and it may be seen as something of a gamble for Disney, but I doubt much of one. And it might be seen as an omen or a microcosm or a harbinger or a warning, of where Big Business is and what it does, except that I don’t know anything about that world, and don’t care. It does mean that today’s filmmaking world has changed in ways that make it all the more difficult for a young George Lucas to pursue his or her vision. That’s a bad thing, but indie film continues to survive, and the Riann Johnsons of the world still get three picture deals.
But. Someone involved in the deal was quoted as saying that this mean there will never be another John Carter. Ha ha ha! You can practically hear the chortles. Fact is, I loved John Carter. I liked pretty much every thing about it. I think the narrative there is something like ‘never again will we let some ‘visionary’ spend a lot of money making a crazy movie we can’t market; we’re exercising corporate control to a much greater degree.’ So that sucks. Except we’ve seen that before too, after Waterworld, after Heaven’s Gate. Those corporate pronouncements about control, and not letting the inmates run the asylum tend not to last, is my point.
No, the real fear is this: another Star Wars film. Yikes. Was a time when I would have thought the prospect of a seventh Star Wars the awesomest idea ever. Nowadays: yikes.
Star Wars was the first movie I saw when I got home from my mission. In fact, on the plane on my way home from Norway, I read a magazine article about this crazy sci-fi flick that was changing everything in Hollywood, and thought, “man, I have to see that.” And I did see it, and it was also the next eight movies I saw; I mean, the next eight times I went to see a movie, I saw Star Wars. With eight different girls, one of them my aunt. Okay, my super-cool Aunt Janice, who wanted to see it, but didn’t want to go alone. And who paid for my ticket.
And yes, I know it’s Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope. Blarg. It’s Star Wars. The second movie is The Empire Strikes Back. The third movie is Return of the Jedi. I’m perfectly aware that the second trilogy is a prequel, and that The Phantom Menace is episode I, but I don’t care: it’s the fourth movie. And it’s the beginning of Star Wars sucking. Then, after Phantom Menace came The Really Stupid One with Hayden Christensen, followed by The Only Slightly Less Stupid One where Hayden Christensen’s Face Melts. I don’t remember their actual titles, and I don’t care.
Here’s what George Lucas never seems to have gathered: Star Wars is great not because the movies are great, but because they’re bad. They’re great bad movies. They’re B-movies, serials. They’re ludicrous, silly. That’s what makes them so much fun.
Case in point: this. It’s better with the Benny Hill music. But, okay, Han and Chewie and Luke and Leia are in the Death Star, and need to be separated, for plot reasons. So how does Lucas do it? He has Han just go insane, run right at a bunch of Storm Troopers, who unaccountably react by running away. The Emperor’s elite forces, just losing it, a whole squad of ‘em. It’s the dumbest scene imaginable, and it really only works because it happens fast enough that we hardly notice it. But it’s ludicrous. And I love that scene.
I mean, the funniest line in the movie is Obi-Wan’s, examining blaster damage: “only Imperial Storm troopers are so accurate”. This, about white-suited clowns that never can hit the broad side of a barn the whole rest of the movie. But that’s what makes Star Wars great: its over-the-topness, its complete willingness to just be ridiculous.
That’s why I didn’t mind stuff like the Ewoks. Return isn’t as good as Strikes Back, but it’s awfully good; those forest chase scenes on those flying motorcycle-y dealies were about the most exciting things I’d ever seen up to then. Okay, cuddly little teddy bear guys don’t entirely fit the Star Wars universe; but only because they’re not as funny as all the creatures in the bar scene; ‘cuddly’ felt wrong as a matter of . . . feel.
And then came Phantom Menace. And I know this has been said a million times on the internet, but it really is as though Lucas took himself much too seriously. So many wrong turns, so many bad choices. So bad choices, in no particular order:
The idea that The Force is a blood disease.
Jar-Jar Binks. I know, everyone beats up on Jar-Jar, but it’s only because everything about the character is annoying. Everything.
The big race scene with the kid. It was a very cool big race scene. But it didn’t mean anything. The kid is racing for . . . spare parts? So they can maybe fix their ship? Stakes not high enough. Turns a cool chase scene into a major yawn.
The politics of it all. I’m an American; darn it. I want separation of powers; I want checks and balances. I hate hate hate all the scenes involving the Imperial Senate.
Hayden Christensen. And especially his embarrassingly bad love scenes with Natalie Portman. And she’s a great actress, but not in those scenes.
Plus, you know, what exactly does it mean to ‘turn to the dark side’ of the force? Annakin commits basically genocide, plus also the Slaughter of the Innocents, but he’s still redeemable? Ties in nicely with the worst part of Return: the way Vader’s deathbed repentance works. That it’s efficacious.
Worst of all, though, the whole idea of the second three movies, the prequel trilogy. The way they try, ineptly, to turn melodrama to tragedy. The way we lose the fun of the whole enterprise. The fact that the movies begin to not just invite but require us to consider issues like politics and theology, and how badly Lucas fails us; how he introduces political and theological questions he’s not up to exploring except superficially and unsatisfyingly.
I mean, they’re not a complete waste. Watching Yoda’s fight scene was great. The only watchable four minutes of Send In The Clones (okay, Attack of the Clones, I lied, I do too know the title of the second/fifth movie of the series). They didn’t know what to with him, but it’s always fun to see Sam Jackson in anything. Likewise Ewan McGregor, likewise Liam Neeson, likewise Natalie Portman.
I waited in line for hours to see Phantom Menace, and it took me days to admit to myself just how bad it was. Hearing that Disney is planning to push on, make Star Wars VII: The One Without George Lucas, fills me with dismay.
Worst of all: I will see it. I won’t be able to stop myself. Addiction is a terrible thing.