Even if Disney produces new Star Wars classics, the media onslaught means the old magic may never be restored.
Cast your minds back to November 1998. That was when the teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode I came out, and we all got our first look at what the brand new Star Wars looked like. As first impressions go, it was and remains a brilliant trailer, full of action and adventure, lots of cool looking spaceships and Yoda’s little mantra about “fear leads to anger” and so on (which, before long, every boy in my school was quoting).
Here’s the truth: The Phantom Menace was the film that, for me and others, destroyed the magic of the original Star Wars trilogy
For the next six months, Star Wars mania carried on building and building till it wasn’t so much reaching fever pitch as plague proportions in terms of how much excitement there was. When the film actually came out, so many people pulled a sickie for the honour of being the ‘first’ to see it that their employers were left ruing the cost. Except, as we all, sadly, know, Episode I is…how to say this politely…such a poor cinematic experience that, had it consisted of nothing but a monotonous debate in the senate, as it was in the Simpsons skit of the film, it might actually have been a better movie.
That’s the polite version. Here’s the truth: Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Plot was the film that, for me, and for a lot of others, destroyed the magic of the original Star Wars trilogy. Sure, Star Wars is still cool and still retains a certain level of kudos, but the awe, the mystique (made special all over again in ’97, when the original trilogy went back to cinemas for the release of the special editions) that had surrounded the franchise was forever banished to the realms of movie and pop culture history, to be remembered wistfully by fans getting used to the merely ordinary Star Wars movies that came after 1999.
Since then, it’s been a mixed bag where quality is concerned. The two films that followed were better, and the Tales of the Old Republic and Force Unleashed computer games have been well received. On the other hand, we had to endure Star Wars does zombies with the truly lamentable Death Troopers series of books. So the news that Disney is making brand new Star Wars films, starting with Episode VII next Christmas, doesn’t manage to set the soul on fire. It’s not that I think it will be a bad film. If anything, it should be a great film, given that JJ Abrams is at the helm.
The way Disney plans to handle the Star Wars franchise, we are going to be carpet bombed with movies and merchandise
Sure, the plot details as revealed by Devin Faraci on Badass Digest don’t seem overly original (desert planet, ice world and so forth), apart from the film opening with a severed hand floating through space (which sounds very, very cool), but Star Trek Into Darkness filched its plot from a mishmash of Space Seed, The Wrath of Khan and classic Trek novel Dreadnought, but still ended up being one of the best science fiction films of recent years. It’s just that, the way new owners Disney plan to handle the Star Wars franchise, we are going to be carpet bombed with movies and merchandise, to the point where special detox clinics will have to be set up for Star Wars obsessives and geeks everywhere, alongside rest homes for parents exhausted by kids pestering them for the latest thing Star Wars.
While Episode VII will be out next Christmas, Episode VIII will repeat the feat for Christmas 2017, with Episode IX out no later than the end of 2019. In case you can’t bear the thought of having to spend 2016 or 2018 without any Star Wars at all, don’t fret – there’ll be enough standalone films to make sure the trough doesn’t run empty. Going back to Mr Faraci, you’ll find an article on Badass Digest where he notes that “Disney didn’t buy Marvel because they wanted to make Avengers movies, but because they want to sell Avengers diapers”.
The article goes on to state that such an interest in selling the merchandise is why Episode VII is still coming out next Christmas, rather than being put back to May 2016 to make allowances for Harrison Ford’s broken leg. If that’s the case, then it would seem that Disney will let nothing derail their commercial juggernaut. Which means we all get to spend however long Disney think they can keep this juggernaut going enduring the onslaught from continuous barrages of Star Wars.
We will either have to fall in line or form groups of ageing discontents brooding and bonding over memories of the original trilogy
If such an onslaught were one being sustained by cult acclaim from popular culture, then the tone of this article would have been markedly different. As it is though, the onslaught will be one artificially sustained by Disney publicity engines. This means that any magic associated with the new Star Wars films is going to be sourced from, produced by and nurtured within Disney, who, given their undeniable market sense, will aim the movies at kids as much as is humanly possible, ensuring all the greater financial reward. The rest of us will either have to fall in line or form groups of ageing discontents brooding and bonding over their memories of the original trilogy, in between watching them over and over again and hoping they don’t go stale.
So, even if the films Disney make are five star masterpieces, with critics left and right queuing up to produce reviews so overflowing with praise that anyone not flocking to the cinema may actually be reported as missing, the fact is that we’ll have so much Star Wars this and Star Wars that over the preceding months that it won’t matter. The magic of the original trilogy, that left your jaw permanently set to ‘gaping in astonishment’ mode, will not have come back. Even the talents of JJ Abrams won’t have been able to restore it.
Featured image: 20th Century Fox
Inset images: 20th Century Fox; Marvel