Huge Star Wars Fan Conflicted About the New Episode VII Movie

Posted on May 19, 2014

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I was in my teens, and a friend breathlessly asked: “Lila! Have you seen Star Wars yet?” I had not seen it. I had not even heard of it. What the heck was Star Wars? “You have got to see it, you’ll love it!” Eh, whatever, if you say so. So we settle into the theater. The 20th Century Fox fanfare blares. Then John Williams’ Star Wars fanfare blasts forth. After the text crawl, the camera pans down through the stars, past a couple of moons, to a desert planet. Cool, you can see the atmosphere. Then comes the thunder and whine of engines and a pretty impressive spaceship roars into view at the top of the screen, rocked by lasers and explosions. Whoa. My mouth is probably hanging open at this point. But then… then it takes a full 12 seconds – an eternity in movie screen time – for its pursuer to fully come into view. Holy crap, that thing is huge. That 12 seconds masterfully conveyed the enormity of what we were seeing. The first appearance of Darth Vader was equally amazing. My first thought upon seeing him was: What IS he? Whatever he was, he was the best movie villain to come along in… forever. Then there were the droids, the aliens, the lightsabers, the space battles reminiscent of World War II dogfights, and a princess who was pretty handy with a blaster, thank you very much.

That was the perfect way to see Star Wars: I went in completely ignorant, was completely blindsided, and came out a total fan. And while I enjoyed the two sequels, there was never again that same magic of discovering the Star Wars universe for the first time.

Then George Lucas had to go and ruin it all. The remastered and tinkered-with VHS tapes, which were then remastered and re-tinkered-with for the DVD version, which were then poked at again for the Blu-Ray edition. In the cantina on Tatooine in 1977, Han Solo could shoot Greedo with impunity and that made him cool. Decades later, political correctness… or something… prevailed, and now Han had to wait for Greedo to shoot first. The CGI version of Jabba the Hutt was supposed to be funny, but it was just pitiful. Hey, they’re George Lucas’ movies, but… well, some things are just best left alone.

Then came the worst: the announcement that Star Wars was never really just Star Wars, it was “Episode IV (Note, originally there was no “Episode IV” in the now-famous opening text).” A prequel trilogy was in the making, one which would take us back to the old Clone Wars (barely referenced in the original movie, the way we barely reference World War II these days). At last we would see galactic history, the fall of the Republic and rise of the Empire, and most of all… where Darth Vader came from.

Nooooooo! The beauty of Star Wars was that it was a fairy tale, black and white, good and evil, no fuzzy in-betweens, no angsty psychological reasons or half-justifications for how our favorite villain got the way he is. This was a major violation of the original appeal, in my mind: I mean, you don’t worry about how the Big Bad Wolf got the way he is, do you? He’s just bad.

But no, we had to go back and root around in Darth Vader’s sad past, psychoanalyze him, and reveal him to be something of a whiner and a patsy. For being one of the most powerful Jedi ever, he doesn’t come across as particularly bright. The movies were painful and even embarrassing to see; I watched them exactly once and then wished I could un-see them. Alas. I cringe even at the memory of watching them. They were truly awful and they pretty much demolished the mystique that was essential to a central character and one of the best movie villains ever.

Oh, and we also got Jar Jar Binks.  Ugh.

So now that Disney owns Star Wars, we are about to have Episode VII inflicted upon us, and probably many more to come ($$$$, you know). Since it has been 30 real-time years since we last saw Han, Luke, and Leia onscreen, Disney has at least had the decency to set Episode VII thirty years after the events of Episode VI (Return of the Jedi), so Han, Luke, and Leia will have aged appropriately. My fan-friends have high hopes that Disney will do better than Lucas did in continuing the saga.

I’m conflicted. I liked all the major characters in the original trilogy, but I’m having a hard time imagining a galaxy without Darth Vader in it.

Maybe I’ll wait until my fan-friends report back to me with their opinions… or maybe I’ll get the inevitable books and read them before seeing any of the new movies. If the horrid prequels taught me anything, it’s that it is easier to brain-flush a book than it is to un-see a movie.

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