Friday, November 27, 2015
This isn't the post you're looking for.
I've seen far too many posts and videos lately trashing the original Star Wars movies. (The latest example: http://siskoid.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-curmudgeons-guide-to-star-wars.html) Now, my love for Star Wars has severely diminished over the years. But even so...I feel the need to address some of the complaints filed against it.
1) It's not a kids' movie. No matter how toyetic it became, no matter what revisionist history Lucas is spinning way after the fact -- he didn't intend for it to be a kids' movie. Kids love it, for sure, but that's obviously not what he was setting out to make. In fact, people who were adults in '77 say they remember it being considered a film for adults.
2) I don't understand where all of the "bad dialogue" stuff comes from. You know what has bad dialogue? The Matrix. Star Wars isn't like the most poetic stuff you'll ever hear, it's just rather flat to me, not BAD, not eye-rolling. They're not referencing tired, lame pop-culture that they should have no idea about, like Life cereal and Wizard of Oz.
"I have a bad feeling about this" isn't popular because it's a great line, it's popular for the way someone like Harrison Ford delivers it, at the NO-DUH, CHARACTERS parts of the movie where they'll say it. As in, "J.J. Abrams is creatively bankrupt. I don't know about this The Force Awakens...I have a bad feeling about this." Star Wars is one of the most quoted movies of all time, with numerous classic lines. What other movie with "poor dialogue" has accomplished this -- Suburban Commando?
Plus, that line only became quotable after fans noticed it was said in all three movies. It's quotable because of the repetition, not the wording.
I really blame Harrison Ford for this idea that Star Wars had "bad" dialogue. You know what he was complaining about? The technobabble and the mystical stuff. But people took him out of context and ran with it, wanting to sound cool.
3) I think how much you love Star Wars has to do with at what point in your life you encountered it -- if you've been exposed to harder sci-fi, you're probably not going to care for it. I know a lot of hard-core sci-fi fans dislike anything approaching science-fantasy, I know of some people who take pride in that they got into sci-fi with things like 2001 or Alien or Blade Runner. Star Wars isn't that, obviously. But I think there's something to be said for just what a phenomenon it was. It wasn't the studio buying people off, it wasn't anybody playing follow-the-leader -- Star Wars kicked open the door for blockbuster entertainment. It CHANGED things. And it was all a mixture of elements coming together at the right time like the advancement of movie technology and video games and people at that point looking to the future. Nobody saw Star Wars coming in 1977...it was a genuine juggernaut that struck a chord. There's nothing nowadays to compare it to, because Disney's already paid off all the critics and bought out all the theaters for the new one.
I'm a Trekkie now, but I can see why Star Wars appealed to so many people back in the day in a way that Trek never could, because Star Wars has that WOW factor, the spectacle, along with the hero journey and pseudo philosophy. (Hey, people like to knock it for being cliched, but...cliches become cliches for a reason, and that's because they work.) Keep this in mind -- Star Trek's answer to Star Wars was Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Has anybody made it through that movie?
There's also just a craft to the old Star Wars that is really underappreciated. I totally think Lucas lucked out in making the movie with a British crew, and that's where a lot of the attention to detail came from, but look at it in terms of scope, the creatures they brought to life, the planets depicted. It was a far cry from 2001's "They've gone to plaid!" or Star Trek's soundstage-with-the-pink-paper-sky and funky-forehead-aliens. I mean, I love Star Trek -- I love The Original Series -- but what we think of as these heady, cerebral scripts were really in fact just talky shows for the sake of masking they had no money or ability to do what they wanted to do!
We were only TOLD of worlds and their people and their wars, rarely ever shown. And who's worse -- Lucas for his hodgepodge, watered-down Eastern philosophy or Roddenberry using his show as a soapbox for morals and messages and ideals he didn't even hold himself to? ("MONEY IS BAD...but I'd like to sell you this IDIC pin and some books.")
What movie before Star Wars tried to do what it did, at such a scale, with such craft, utilizing so many styles of effects and costuming and puppetry and with the big Japanese influence? It made movies big. It made movies FUN. There's pre-Star Wars and there's post Star Wars. What was the most exciting live-action superhero/sci-fi/adventure/fantasy movie before it -- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? If Star Wars was so "bad," so "overrated," would it be one of the best examples of a movie completely accomplishing what every good movie is SUPPOSED to -- capturing imaginations and transporting audiences to another world? (In Star Wars' case, several worlds, worlds that audience members want to live in.)
Star Wars had such a Tunguska-like impact that it influenced ITS OWN INFLUENCE (Japanese culture, specifically the tokusatsu genre) for decades.
And the acting, why do people trash the acting? You have a British heavyweight like Alec Guiness, you have an old pro like Peter Cushing, the well-loved Ford, you have Hollywood royalty as the Princess...consider what a good job Carrie Fisher does now that we know she was stoned out of her gourd! I get why people think Mark Hamill is whiny, but he's really just overselling the bored, resentful youth side of Luke in the first one -- I don't think it's a BAD performance.
You know what I like more than Star Wars? V: The Original Miniseries. To me THAT is an entertaining, emotionally satisfying piece of sci-fi, and Star Wars done right. It would not exist without Star Wars. Sit and think of what Hollywood and the entertainment industry would look like without Star Wars.