It’s old news – an entire election ago – but remains something that is in some ways more important to me than the identity of the next President: George Lucas has sold everything that is Star Wars to Disney. Everything Star Wars. The movies, the characters, the future. Just to drive the point home, he threw in everything that is Indiana Jones too.
I am kidding about this being more important than the election. Mostly.
Like many people, my first reaction was one of horror. I tweeted and posted, railing in nerdfury, and the world railed back. It just seemed instantly, immediately, and irrevocably wrong. World-wide, we all cringed at the thought of the Disney Corporation – crass, craven Disney – in charge of something so precious as the Star Wars legacy.
But time has passed, thoughts simmering, and over the last few days the rough edges of the idea began to wear off. Anger turned to questions. What Star Wars legacy? Am I reacting because everyone else is? Or because this is actually bad for me in some sort of personal way?
What does Star Wars mean to me personally? Today?
Once I was a teenager. Yes I know we all were, but the fact that I was a teenager is of particular importance to me. I wasn’t an especially troubled teenager although my life was quite turbulent. It’s hard for me to compare what I went through as a teenager to what would be the normal, because really, what is normal? I know that I was growing up and learning to take control of my own life and that is hard enough for anybody.
My friends were telling me about this movie that I just have to go see. This is quite unusual; when you’re a teenager, many things are urgent in a teenager sort of way, but this was extreme. About a movie of all things.
More weirdness: when my friends and I get to the theater, there’s a line. Huh? A line? That had never happened before. It was a long line too, full of friendly people, but still, a line.
It took 90 minutes to get into the theater. It was an old-school giant screen theater, not a multiplex but one huge building that was all one theater. It featured a technology called “Cinerama” that meant the screen was extra wide. Really, really wide. The theater itself was wide too, able to fit 3000 people. It was so big that it had two smoking lounges, one on each side of the main seating area, you could go sit in a lounge on the right or on the left, still be inside the main theater, still be able to see the movie, and not disturb the main body of patrons in the middle.
Lights down. Previews. Then the movie starts: blaring orchestra, words floating across the screen. That seemed strangely old-fashioned. But okay.
Then the camera pans down: a planet! And suddenly, a spaceship. And not just any spaceship but the very coolest-looking spaceship ever seen. And lasers! The sound is three-dimensional it’s coming from everywhere in a way that I’ve never heard before. This is amazing.
And then the whole theater rumbles as the prow of the Star Destroyer first appears at the top of the screen and begins to scroll across our view. It seems to be chasing the first ship, we don’t know yet, but it just keeps coming! Scrolling, scrolling, there’s some kind of gun turrets, there’s some kind of docking bay, holy shit it just keeps coming, this thing must be miles long!
There had never been anything like it before, nothing to describe the feeling that overcame you, sitting in that theater in 1977 and seeing the Star Wars opening sequence for the first time.
It sounds very silly to say this now, but it was life changing. It changed my expectations regarding entertainment and what was possible, forever more. My favorite authors were science fiction and fantasy; Tolkien, Asimov, Philip K Dick, Ray Bradbury, but this was different. Way different.
I went back to that theater in 1977 eight more times, something I’ve never done before or since, but we all did. That movie didn’t just speak to me, but it spoke to all of us. An entire generation that went from 0 to Star Wars in one singular moment.
Of course it was really Episode IV A New Hope, but we didn’t know that yet, we just knew it as Star Wars. All the rest would come later.
To me that movie is the Star Wars legacy, and especially, that moment. It’s not the mythology of the Jedi and it’s not the redemption story of Anakin Skywalker. It’s not about the in-camera special effects in the first three movies, nor the digital effects in the second set. And it is certainly not about who shot first.
It’s about that one moment, and trying to capture that moment again. But how can one recapture that moment? Movies changed forever that day and they never changed back.
Over the years I bought Star Wars toys and t-shirts and posters. I commissioned an original piece of Star Wars art when I was in high school (my art teacher was willing to work for cheap). I anxiously awaited the second trilogy when it came out. I was thrilled to be able to stand in a Star Wars line with my own kids, hoping to share that moment. But of course there was no such moment in the second trilogy.
I read some of the quotes George made while announcing the Disney sale and it seems to me that he is a little bit bitter. I can’t say I blame him, being creative is hard and putting your creativity out there for others to judge is harder yet. Meanwhile, the internet explodes every time Lucas does anything. Vicious, personal attacks and hate. There’s been love too, box office records, new generations brought into the Star Wars phenomenon, but I don’t think I could listen to that much negativity about my work and stay sane.
On the one hand, I too dislike most of the things George Lucas has done to my beloved Star Wars, but on the other hand, it is not my Star Wars. It’s his, and if there’s anybody who deserves to muck it up it’s him. And he brought us some pretty cool things in the process of doing all that mucking up.
In the end, if there’s anything that Lucas has shown us over the last 35 years is that he is not capable of bringing us another moment like the first Star Destroyer. To be fair, I’m not sure if anybody can. The bar was set very, very high.
So maybe it’s time to let someone else have a crack at it. What’s the worst that could happen? Another crappy Star Wars movie? Been there, done that. I’ll still go, and it’ll probably still extend the franchise box office record. It’s not like Disney is going to decide that Anakin Skywalker was immaculately conceived by cellular midachlorians, or computer-generated Jamaican frog men ought to get major screen time, or retroactively change an existing movie so that Greedo shot first.
See what I mean? Disney can’t kill something that is already dead. It’s not going to get any worse, it could be good, and there’s a chance it could be great. Perhaps a minute chance but still, a chance.
So I take back all my vitriolic rants over the last few days. I un-say all the hateful things that I said to my friends and co-workers. I’m honestly pleased that Disney has taken over the Star Wars legacy and I hope that they do wonderful things with it.
If they don’t, I have Star Wars IV A New Hope on DVD (and Blu-Ray) and there’s nothing Disney can do to take that away from me.
🙂 😀 🙂