Musings on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Technically, there are no spoilers in this post, because I’m just reacting to what I’ve seen in the Comic Con reel and the trailers.  But, I know some people don’t even want to see that stuff.  So, you’ve been warned.  Don’t read further if you don’t want to do so!

One of the bonds my brother and I have is that we are both Star Wars fans from childhood and both like it a lot.  I sent the following message in an email to him recently after I’ve spent some time reflecting on the whole “Jar Jar is the mastermind” and “Luke is evil” hysteria over the The Force Awakens that has resurfaced with the new trailer.

So here is where I stand right now.  I’ve been reading a lot of the “Luke is evil” conspiracy hypotheses and they just don’t make sense, in my mind.  Not logically as a set of plot events, but in the greater scope of what Star Wars is, thematically.

Every time a new SW movie comes out, whether it was the Special Editions or Prequels or The Force Awakens, the Emotional Fan Boys immediately react with a barrage of conspiracy theories as to what is going to happen in the movie.  If we follow it closely, it invariably follows the same formula:  ridiculously complex.
I take issue with any ridiculously complex hypothesis for a couple of reasons:
1) The average Fan Boy is not, and never will, think clearly about this.  Am I this Fan Boy?  I don’t know, but my take on this is, in my opinion, a lot more reasonable than the extreme craziness I’ve read online.
Most Fan Boys are coming from the standpoint of what they feel and desire, not what is plausible.  My perspective is:  How would Disney secure their investment and still create something people will enjoy?
2) Trailers usually don’t lie.  At least in terms of plot or content.   The Phantom Menace trailer did, but only because we were naive and were receiving the first new Star Wars in a long time and we didn’t realize how severely Lucas was going to ignore any warnings made by people around him.
The studio isn’t pitching a trailer just for fans.  They’re also pitching it to the general populace.  I guess the one lie that trailers can tell is when they misrepresent the amount of time spent on something in the film.  Like when comedies tell all the funniest jokes in the trailer.
This trailer pretty clearly shows what Abrams is doing, in my mind.  He’s attempting to replicate what made the original films awesome, which Lucas lost in the prequels amidst galactic trade deals and a racist salamander thing.
So what made the original films awesome?  Other than someone telling Lucas he was crazy whenever he had a bad idea?
They stick to the basic human narrative themes of Joseph Campbell.
When viewed through this lens, some things become more likely, in my mind.
Most importantly, Luke’s voiceover is not the exact voiceover from Return of the Jedi.  It has been re-recorded.  This leads me to the simplest conclusion:  Luke is serving in a mentor role in this film.  He is the film’s Ben Kenobi.  He may die and ghost it.  He may not.  It’s simple, it’s elegant, and it sets these films to be a nice homage to the Campbellian themes of human history.
Why fix what isn’t broken?  Disney spent a billion dollars on Star Wars.  That is no small investment.  And the way you guarantee that investment is to finally listen to the fans and focus on what made Star Wars great, not what it could be, if mutilated.  THEME is what made Star Wars exciting for people.
The trailer has many Campbellian elements, which is why people like it.  Finn and Rey are The Reluctant Heroes.  Luke/Han are the mentors.  It is very much framed as a “rite of passage” start to a reboot.  Finn gets a (Luke’s?) lightsaber, he gets some sort of minimal instruction, he confronts the villain at some point.  It’s all there.
All of these “Luke is evil” hypotheses are pretty much ignoring what made Star Wars like Star Wars.  Luke going to the dark side completely invalidates the most critical part of his character arc from the first movies.  It’s kind of remarkable how deaf to the original Star Wars themes these “fan theories” are.

Exhibit 2:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTNJ51ghzdY

“Everything’s changed, but nothing’s changed.”  -Mark Hamill
Enough rambling.  I thought I’d update you on where I stand.
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4 thoughts on “Musings on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  1. Ironlightsaber

    Not one but four billion was spent to get Star Wars.
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2012/10/30/disney-star-wars-lucasfilm/1669739/

    When a Disney executive was asked about the 400+ million for the production of this first Disney Star Wars movie, he corrected the reporter by saying it was a 4 billion, 400 million dollar budget. Then they went on to say the first movie cannot fail or they might take the series out forever and never recoup their investment.

    Making a great movie would not be enough. They had to make a great Star Wars movie and they knew nothing else would payoff.i

    Out of the six so far, most agree there are only two great films, two good ones and two that are not the other two types.

    You are totally right in you assessment of Luke’s role in this new setting and your other thoughts on fanboy hysteria.

    You know everyone involved wants this film to harken back to New Hope and Empire. They know Campbell is the root of the best parts of the story. They know that Luke’s main character arc was told and that he could still serve an important archetype.

    Everyone who experienced the burn on the prequel trilogy now have a better check on their expectations. What has been shown has been brilliantly paced and his those chords you mentioned. Many of us hope we get a great Star Wars movie but are willing to be happy will just a good movie kicking off the next wave of movies in this series.

    From the movie wiki:
    Box office projection
    With an estimated budget of $200 million ($423 million including marketing, printing and advertising costs, and making and distribution of home videos), The Force Awakens is predicted to be a major box office success.[3][165] Reports in April 2015 from The Hollywood Reporter and Amboee Brand Intelligence predicted the film would earn up to $540 million worldwide for its opening, breaking the record for the biggest worldwide opening (currently held by Jurassic World with $524.1 million in June 2015), as well as breaking the record for the biggest U.S. opening (also held by Jurassic World, with $208.8 million). They also believed that The Force Awakens would have the widest release ever, across 4,500 theaters in North America (a record currently held by The Twilight Saga: Eclipse with 4,468 theaters).[166] Box office analyst Phil Contrino likened the film to Avatar (2009), which opened to $77 million in North America and went on to earn $2.8 billion worldwide, saying The Force Awakens would earn $1 billion “without blinking” and could cross $2 billion.[166] In August 2015, Deadline.com predicted an opening weekend of $615 million worldwide, including a $300 million opening in North America.[167]

    Even if it is bad a film it looks like the Mouse will be getting a good chunk of their investment back. That’s not even counting the toy sells.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. klecser Post author

      The marketing campaign has been pretty heavy. You can get new Star Wars merch EVERYWHERE, and I’ve been pleased to see a lot of it is Classic stuff. Hell, I’ve bought it. I just got a Vader T-shirt that says: “Free throat hugs.” 😀 Lastly, what is the second “good” film? I assume the first is Jedi. What is the second? Revenge of the Sith? I think it’s pretty terrible. I cite Emperor “Nos” before Vader Noooooooooo.

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      Reply
  2. Ironlightsaber

    On the scale I would put New Hope and Empire at great, Return and Revenge at good and Phantom and Clone at not good. Revenge does have a couple of rough spots but it is a much better movie than the others in it’s trilogy. The action pieces are solid, the characters actually have something to do and it does wrap up the Emperor’s rise to power arc in a mostly satisfying way.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Force Awakens Musings Take Two | Tactical Thinking

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