A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, Star Wars was the biggest thing since sliced bread. Critically acclaimed, popular with kids and adults alike, the original Star Wars trilogy was a cultural force to be reckoned with. Then the prequels came and the bread got stale. Popular things can only be popular for so long before the backlash hits. What was cool to like becomes cool to hate. It’s likely that Greedo shooting first and the prequels with their racist aliens and cardboard acting are what soured the public on Star Wars. Now everyone over ten years old has given up on Star Wars denouncing the prequels and even Return of the Jedi as terrible movies.
The last ten years were a dark time for the rebellion. Those of us that didn’t flee the sinking ship were barely able to keep afloat as George Lucas continued to tinker with the movies upon each subsequent video release. It looked as though Lucas had succeeded in erasing whatever goodwill he had built up from the late 70’s to mid 80’s only to replace it with mistrust and weariness for the bloated, overgrown merchandise machine that Star Wars had become.
In late 2012, however we were given a new hope. George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney for the astronomical sum of $4 billion. Disney wasted no time in announcing their plans to start producing a series of brand new Star Wars films. Since then the good and bad news has been coming at a steady clip. The good : JJ Abrams the man who successfully rebooted the Star Trek series was picked to direct. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford are back reprising the roles that made them famous. Abrams is shooting on film and with mostly practical effects. The bad : JJ Abrams the man who made Star Trek a mainstream hit but pissed off the hardcore fans in the process was picked to direct. Harrison Ford hurt himself on the Millennium Falcon set. Of course the most polarizing news to come out of the whole ordeal was the announcement that the Expanded Universe is no longer considered cannon.
The fate of Star Wars as a fandom, may very well rest upon the quality of Episode VII. That may seem like hyperbole until you look at how many chances the series has been given and how many times it has disappointed. People lined up to see The Phantom Menace weeks in advance. It’s understandable that the hype surrounding Episode I was built up to such monstrous proportions that almost nothing could have met the fans expectations. So we gave the first prequel a pass and got ready for what was sure to be a great middle chapter. Then the clones attacked and we were left feeling underwhelmed, our trust shaken. Somehow, we still got excited for Revenge Of The Sith. This was possibly due to what we knew had to be coming, the legendary duel between Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker that we’d only dreamed about as children. That plus Episode III being the first PG-13 movie in the series definitely peaked our curiosity. Truth be told, people seem to forget that Revenge Of The Sith was actually well reviewed at the time of it’s release. However, it was soon lumped in with the other prequels under the banner of “worst movies ever made” by everyone with a keyboard and internet access. Couple that with the original trilogy’s DVD release featuring Hayden Christiensen as Darth Vader’s ghost and you can see where the fans were starting to feel like they were getting burned left and right.
If the new movie is successful it will bring the tally of good Star Wars movie up to four versus the three “bad” ones. If the movie fails it’s going to feel like Episodes IV and V were flukes and that Star Wars is for the most part a horrible film series. I say IV and V because if Episode VII goes down, the trolls will drag Return Of The Jedi ever further into the dark side and feast upon it’s corpse.
As it stands right now, Star Wars fans are in limbo. Upstarts like Supernatural, Sherlock and the revitalized Dr. Who are the fandoms of the day. The hardcore sci-fi fans such as those of Star Trek find Star Wars with it’s unscientific tech to be too ridiculous to take seriously. On the flipside, if you try talking to a casual Star Wars fan about how Han’s “less than 12 parsecs” claim in A New Hope actually makes sense because of the blackholes surrounding kessel you get a blank stare. Disney canceled the Clone Wars series, one of the only good things we still had going for us and as previously mentioned, invalidated our Expanded Universe. This means that soon we will see brand new story lines told in books and comics that rewrite what has been history for us since 1991. Gone will be Mara Jade, Admiral Thrawn, and Han and Leia’s children, characters that we’ve come to love as much as almost any from the actual movies. There’s always a chance though, that what what is projected on the screen next year could be even better than what it’s replacing. Until we know more about Episode VII we must cling to any hope we can. The alternative would mean giving up.
I for one can’t face people and defend another sub par trilogy;Empire Strikes Back can only get you so far. If the new movie tanks,I’ll be forced to give my Blu-rays to the next little kid I see in a clone trooper t-shirt, grab my pre-special edition VHS copies of Episodes IV-VI and sulk in my room. JJ, if you don’t want to see me or any other thirty-something break out in tears while clutching a paperback of Heir To The Empire, please, make this new movie a good one. We need it.
May the force be with you.