Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Star Wars: 3 Thoughts

There are mild spoilers for The Mandalorian Chapter Eight, below.

You've been warned.

Saturday night we finished The Mandalorian (wow) and sunday night we watched The Rise of Skywalker (wow, as well). It got me thinking about Star Wars and it's fandom and maybe, just maybe we've gotten some stuff wrong about it.

First, I was 4 or 5 when I saw the first film (yes, it was just Star Wars then, not A New Hope). I loved it. I got all the action figures, I wanted to be Luke or at least a Jedi and I even got a few Marvel comics. I had 3-3/4" action figures, guns (still own my Han Solo Blaster), dolls, lunchboxes, belts, underoos. All. Of. It. I even watched the Christmas Special.

Empire, which is still my favorite film, rocked my world. There was no way, nooo waaaaayyy, that Vader was Luke's Dad. It was absurd. And even more absurd, the bad guys won. They. Won.

Then we had Jedi. Luke was a real Jedi (ha). Vader really was his Dad, Luke and Leia were siblings. It was good. I even loved the ewoks. I even watched both ewok movies.

Then there was the dark age. I remember all three films being on VHS tape, but I don't remember them ever being on HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, or The Movie Channel. I could be wrong though.

Then we had the extended universe, which I never got into. I hated the artwork in Dark Empire from Dark Horse and it just didn't feel like reading a novel could fully channel Star Wars for me.

And then USA began running all three films during Christmas and just like that Star Wars was a big part of the holiday for me.

And then Lucas gave us the Prequels....

I've seen each Prequel once, in the theatre. I, like many my age, didn't care for them. Don't get me wrong, I saw what George was building. He showed us a Jedi Council blind to their ultimate foe, who was literally right beneath their noses. The were too set in their ways and the Republic was obsolete. A youngling had to point out to Master Yoda that a planet could simply be deleted out of it's database. Qui Gon was pretty cool though. Did I mention that Skywalkers are whiney little pricks? That Amidala had a thing for bad boys just like her daughter? Apparently genocide got Amidala where Anakin wanted her.

I discovered that learning all of the mysteries weren't as satisfying as I wanted them to be and when you know who lives and who doesn't it's not very dramatic. The Prequels were merely exposition with some terrible actors and way too much CGI, in my humble opinion.

I get that George isn't a very good director, he's proven it to me.

However, the Clone Wars animated special by Gennedy Tartakovsky was the bomb. Man, I loved that.

I didn't get into the second Clone Wars show.

I liked the Force Awakens, yes it is the second time that A New Hope has been reshot, but maybe we needed that pallet-cleanser? I loved the new characters. I really did. All of them. I was cool with this new chapter.

I didn't get into Rebels or the Resistance.

I'm one of the people who really loved The Last Jedi. Luke changed. He wasn't impetuous anymore. He'd learned. He outwitted his foe and he finally learned Master Yoda's lessons. The whole Finn/Rose storyline was strange and Poe was really a terrible leader, but I loved breaking from tradition.

I've just seen the finale, for me, the Saga is complete. I loved it too. It was a bit jarring to ignore TLJ, but well, Abrams took us to the end and I like him. I loved 8mm. I loved Alias and Lost. I even liked his first Star Trek film and enjoyed his second. I even liked his Mission: Impossible.

I've spent the last day reading articles from people who claim to love Star Wars but don't like any of the new Star Wars, except The Mandalorian. The crime? I read them all. I commited the crime, not the authors. Why would I devote time to something I claim to love when the articles are all about hating the final film? Why do "fans" do that?

Let me say that Favreau reached into my 8 year old brain (the age when I saw Empire) and made a Space Western out of it. But as much as I love it, it got me thinking.

People my age, generally, didn't care for the Prequels, but the kids did. They bought all the merchandise just like I did. And I did too, to a certain extent.

Maybe George realized that he didn't need to please the existing fanbase (and could he really?)

He just needed to hook the next generation. Which he did. He. Fucking. Did.

And maybe he knew that he'd rather have 4 billion dollars than to hook the next generation?

And. Disney. Did. They hooked the next generation and sold the merchandise even though was a shortage of Rey figures and too many Rose figures left unsold.

Maybe part of Solo's failure was that it didn't target the kids? I didn't go see it because of the track record for prequels, personally. I thought Rogue One was great, but it didn't target the kids either.

Remember, after the Prequels, George produced the Clone Wars TV show. He was still targeting the kids. And who do you think the two Ewok films were targeting? I didn't care that logs shouldn't be able to disable an AT-ST or that soldier in powered armor were beaten by Care Bares. I was 11. I just wanted more Star Wars.

And once Disney got rolling the produced both the Rebels and the Resistance.

I think what too many Star Wars fans miss is that maybe this Saga is really for kids. It might not have been planned that way, but what if George saw first hand the power of merchandising. And to support this, the Prequels weren't merely exposition for the younger generation first discovering Star Wars. They were dreaming about being Jedi now, real Jedi, not like Luke.

Second, I loved The Mandalorian, but there were moments, actually many, in the middle that I started wondering: What if Star Wars can't support a galaxy outside of the Skywalker line? What if Star Wars isn't meaty enough or properly treated to be more than merchandise and a viewer's favorite trilogy? What if it was played out and George realized he'd beaten a dead horse long enough and was ready to cash out?

I loved how The Mandalorian ended, how breezily Moff Gideon reveals who each of the people holed up were so matter of factly. How we finally saw Jin's face. But the moment where Jin is saying good bye to his friends...it looked and felt campy to me. Now the darksaber moment saved it, don't get me wrong and I'm going to buy Baby Yoda merchandise and see Season 2. Maybe Disney realized they could have their cake and eat it too and they were capable of better serving the Generations of Star Wars fans who separated most of the time by when their Trilogy was released. If they have, then we all need to watch out. Keep in mind that the Obi Wan show will definitely appeal to the Prequel crowd. Disney is always marketing. 

Hell, for all I know, they may want Kathleen Kennedy out, George hand picked her, after all. Maybe a couple of missteps are acceptable to hand the galaxy over to Filoni, Favreau, or even Kevin Feige. Especially when their selling Disney+ each month and Disney World and Disneyland let you visit that galaxy. They have enough money to play the long game.

Third, I really liked Rey, Finn, and Poe. I wanted to see more depth from them. I want to know what happens to them next. Just like I did with Luke, Han, Leia, Lando, and Chewy. But, in reality, I had the same amount of screen time for the Original Trilogy so why am I surprised to get less time with this generation of actors? It's because I'm not 5, 8, or 11 anymore. Star Wars is far more than my love for it and the imagination that gave it life far after the end of the Return of the Jedi. I don't know for sure what the next Trilogy is about. Maybe it will bring Rey and the gang forward. Maybe it will be Knights of the Old Republic. I know one thing, if George really understood merchandising, the only company that probably understands it just as well, if not better is Disney.


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