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Why Disney Brings New Hope to Star Wars

The new films may turn out better than you think.

Walter Hudson


November 27, 2013 - 8:20 am
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Star Wars holds a sacrosanct place in my heart, as it does with so many among my generation. As we’ve grown up, its mythology has served as a ready reference, shaping our perception of the world. Good and evil, light and dark, rebel and tyrant – while its moral dichotomy may prove simplistic, the struggles in Star Wars nonetheless resonate with conflicts we face in real life.

Anything which has such influence over a child, sparking imagination, shaping morality, and stimulating aspiration, ascends to an object of reverence. It becomes something we carry around with us (some more literally than others) and cling to like a sacred idol. A kind of theology develops around it, with conflicting doctrines advanced by competing denominations of fandom. So it is with Star Wars. For that reason, any tinkering with the the saga’s mythology inevitably draws cries of heresy.

Betsy Woodruff of National Review went so far as to declare Star Wars dead, due in large part to the brand’s acquisition by mega-corporation Disney. Citing George Lucas’ own introspection regarding his Vader-like transformation from ragtag rebel of the film industry to head of his own corporate empire, and detailing her experience trying out for a role in director J.J. Abrams’ forthcoming Episode VII, Woodruff concludes:

Here’s why Star Wars is dead: First, because they made a huge mistake in not casting me. Second, because it’s no longer in the hands of a bunch of nerds in California and because it’s been entrusted instead to the kind of people who think eight-hour meet-and-greets are a good idea either as A) publicity stunts (or, giving them the presumption of good faith) B) a good way to determine who’s going to be the next Luke Skywalker. It’s because Star Wars — a story that’s profoundly anti-centralization, anti-bureaucracy, anti-depersonalization — is being micromanaged and scrutinized by nameless bureaucrats who think that people who’ve stood in line for five hours will be satisfied with being directed to a website. And it’s because a film enterprise that was initially about risk is now about bet-hedging. No one should need to be told that the seventh film in a franchise probably isn’t going to be super great. But, you know, just in case, consider yourself warned.

Consider me a fan of another denomination. While the next film in the franchise may indeed bomb, it won’t do so for the reasons Woodruff cites.

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The film may make a lot of money but you can't go home again with Star Wars. Those 3 films stunned people and created a sensation. I think it's a mistake to characterize the reason as the content of the films or the Star Wars universe.

What is special and unique about those first 3 films is that the tone, look and feel of them is very heavily reliant on the design of them tied into the special effects, probably their most underrated aspect.

You can't recreate that because it's a very specific oddball intersection of the design of a series of great sets that perfectly complimented the special effects like the Imperial Walkers and Solo's ship. Anything that moved among those sets and effects had massive credibility, so much so that even the fake Ewoks didn't make a dent. When you saw a new machine it was like "Yes, I know that. It fits." All that was further based on the design sensibility of Ralph McQuarrie, who should practically be given a screenplay credit.

It's not the world of Star Wars, the story and the actors that are the true stars but the designed stage that world, story and actors existed in. That was what jumped out at me every time I watched the films, not the trite plot and fairly wooden acting.

In the second series you have the same trite plots and wooden acting and though some of the settings are impressive they are not tied together design-wise in a way that makes you feel you're traveling through a real world. In fact the haphazard sets and space ships look like they were all created by different people inspired by different eras and sensibilities. I think that's why people weren't moved. The world the actors moved in seemed too concocted, busy and over-designed. Lucas didn't wreck the second series - the directing is very similar to the first. But in the first, every time the scene changed you said "wow" even before anything happened because you were in the grip of great designers. That cannot be duplicated - at least, not in that way. This new film will rise and fall on its own merits that will have little to nothing to do with the original films.

The original Star Wars created its own era and look. Vision was thrown at the first series, money at the second.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The original Star Wars created its own era and look."
I think you're right on. Sci fi before Episode IV had a lot of "suspension of disbelief" due to inadequate special effects... even Star Trek did. Star Wars was the first franchise with storytelling that made sense to people on the street, with good enough special effects, futuristic technology and mysticism to appeal to the sci fi and fantasy lovers. We've had a lot of films since then that captured two out of those three things that the "new" has worn off the genre.

We're looking for the thrill that the original series had because it was essentially a brand new genre and a leap forward in technology. We won't get it back.

What we MAY get is a really good series of movies, and that's all we can expect. And that's good enough for me.
I just wish we could see this kind of investment in Star Trek again. Michael-Bay levels of explosions was NOT what made Star Trek great.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As long as J.J. Abrams and Disney does not go the route of Return of the Jedi where they implied that our enemies were the good guys and we were the bad guys, I have no problem with Disney running Star Wars. Honestly, basing the Ewoks on the Vietcong was a very bad move on Lucas' part. I really wish he kept his trap shut. I know what the Communists did to us, the horrors they inflicted onto us.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
George Lucas himself killed his creation with the prequels, and his snotty declaration that everyone who thinks Han shot first is a bad guy. We should bury the whole franchise with a stake through its heart.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You forgot to mention his implication that the Rebel Alliance were supposed to be the Communists and the Empire was supposed to be America (you know, the whole Ewoks=Vietcong thing).
1 year ago
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