I’m really on a kick about loss of innocence and the need for childlike amazement lately. I’m sure that says something about what’s going on in my head.
But to be very precise about it, I’m looking forward to 2015 and what Disney does with the Star Wars franchise. This is for one very specific reason.
We Need Another Star Wars
Let me explain what I mean by that.
It’s no secret that I love the prequels. I’ve written often about them and have turned into the de facto Prequel Apologist. (Look up the word, it doesn’t mean “one who apologizes.”)
But the prequels are a very different animal from the original Blessed Trilogy. They are darker, they exercise within a difficult construct of dramatic irony and though they end on an “up note,” it’s after watching an heroic man turn into a sociopath.
And so they wind up a reflection of our more uncertain times, and reflect an artist at a very different point in his life. If anything, the prequels are far more honest works of art than anything else Lucas ever did.
But they didn’t ignite hope and cheer the way the originals did.
In fact, I don’t know the last time a film did spark the fire in quite the same way, much less a science fiction film. Avatar was James Cameron’s “Hippie Bulls*** In Blue” (apologies to Gershwin); the Matrix was bondage fantasy with guns and kung fu; Minority Report was based on a dystopian Philip K. Dick story with a Spielberg cop-out ending.
(Granted, Nolan’s Batman films are kinda sci–fi in their use of James Bond gadgetry, and they do leave you cheering for the good guy. But it’s a different sort of “feel good.” And Superman Returns was a rousing good hero film, but falls into the realm of fantasy and didn’t catch on with others in quite the same way it did with me.)
What I’m Talking About
What I’m hoping for is that magical moment again; not necessarily for me but for my kids to experience first–hand.
This is, of course, dangerous territory. It was the seeking of this feeling that defined the disappointment so many people felt when they saw the last trilogy. They were simply chasing the dragon and, 14 years later, they’re still pissing and moaning like babies that they didn’t get the same high. The ironic thing is, if it had been “the same thing” then they’d have spent the last 14 years pissing and moaning about how unoriginal it was.
But even if Star Wars as a franchise doesn’t go down a happier path this time, something else needs to fill that void. As LeVar Burton and others have asked, where is the optimism? Where are the stories that will make us skip out of the theatre and want to sit up at night talking with our friends about how much fun life can be?
Where are the stories that will make us feel young again?
I’m optimistic, actually. Man of Steel looks like it could fit this bill. Will it have the mass appeal that helped shift the cultural zeitgeist in 1977?
But I’m especially hopeful that JJ Abrams, whose work trends to the lighter side of life, can bring some of that needed oomph to make us forget our cares and believe in heroes. Not anti–heroes, but heroes.
The original Star Wars was an answer to the pessimism and cynicism of the Watergate years. What we need is another work to answer the trained, unearned cynicism and snark of a generation that thinks it’s far more clever than it is. The ones who weigh in with nasty humor, intolerant of other opinions than their own while decrying intolerance itself.
Dare I say it?
We need a new hope.