Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Star Wars!

Yes, I’ve got my ticket.  It’s for Saturday, nearly 48 hours post-release, at the iMax place conveniently near my house. 

I go way back with Star Wars.

I didn’t see the first one until 1979, out of an abundance of pre-hipsterish shunning of things that were Too Popular.  And Star Wars was waaaaaayyyyyyy too popular. I knew the storyline, of course, since I was a compulsive reader of everything. I knew it was science fiction, which to me at that point was a genre in which polyester-clad dudes chased babes. I was more into horror. 

I saw Empire a few days into its release. I believe the Darth-Luke connection had already been spoilered. That was the movie that turned me into a fan. By the third one, I was ready to stand in line getting sunburned for hours. I grew to love the first one later, on a living room screen, after coming to an appreciation of the skill involved in editing. 

When the fourth one came out, I had dubious journalistic connections, and I got into an early screening, following which my internet died for about a week, leaving me in this horrible time-travel-shock kind of headspace to digest my thoughts independent of conversation with other humans. During that time I concluded that I didn’t hate it, and I’d gladly jump on the bandwagon for a brief respectful interval, but I wasn’t going to stay there. I felt the same throughout the rest of the prequel trilogy. There were moments (sonic detonators!) and then there were scenes lifted directly out of Dinotopia and Oddworld, both of which are more fun than the entire prequel trilogy. 

I’ve read some of the extended universe stories, cast forever into Schroedinger’s memory hole by the new official canon. My favorites were the Han Solo stories, and the compliations of short stories about each character in the cantina scene, or Jabba’s throne room. I played a deeply flawed but wonderful early MMO called Star Wars Galaxies for a couple of years, where you could always find someone to have deep philosophical Star Wars arguments with. In fact we used it to take the sting out of the venomous real world political arguments that were occurring at the time. 

I’ve tried to analyze why Star Wars grabbed me and dragged me into science fiction fandom through the side door when earlier things like Star Trek failed to register. I think it had to do with the way Empire pummeled the characters from start to finish, and then they all lose. Take that, heroes. Sorry audience, no vicarious ego-stroking fantasy for you today.

Of course, they lost in a way which clearly telegraphed a sequel would be forthcoming to set everything right in the end.  But still. A nihilistic, hopeless, Hays Office defying, bleak, dark ending full of failed heroes, in the kiddie movie franchise of the century?  That took some guts. Nobody had done that kind of thing before – of course, nobody had done the Star Wars kind of thing before either, and decades later people are still trying. To this rebellious teen, it was a clear blow against old-fashioned stuff. Very edgy, very cool.

I could imagine myself living in the Star Wars universe in a way I’d never before experienced with science fiction. Before Star Wars, space was limited to clean-cut military types, and I was always more of a scruffy-looking nerf herder. The Star Wars universe was full of civilians, and all the clean-cut military types were villains.

Star Wars is gradually getting more inclusive on human diversity. I’d previously assumed that a little pack of white folks on a spaceship stumbled into this vast intergalactic civilization, and they didn’t have a lot of women, so they made clones, which led to clone wars and the empire.  Now the canon is getting some official black and asian characters, which I think is cool. Star Wars shouldn’t be a discriminatory place at all. Star Wars is a place where you can walk into a diner with a wookiee and nobody bats an eye. 

It’s now a Disney property. That’s cool; I love Disney, and I trust they aren’t going to jeopardize their expensive new franchise with any kind of Jar Jar Binks nonsense.

Although, I can’t really join in the Jar Jar hatred. Jar Jar’s role answers the question of “who could possibly be stupid enough to countersign putting Palpatine in charge?”  During the entirety of episode one, Jar Jar demonstrates that yes, he is that stupid. And the fandom agreed with this convincing portrayal of stupidity! That’s an amazing performance considering it was filtered through a CGI frogsuit.

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