This past Sunday I watched the Academy Awards for the first time in years. I’m a huge movie buff, but the last few years it’s just been tough for me to keep up with anything other than comic book movies that I needed to watch for podcast reviews. This year, I made a concerted effort to venture out to the cinema to see a few films that were recommended by friends or other critics. As a result, I saw three OUTSTANDING films: Whiplash, Nightcrawler, and Birdman. Nightcrawler was woefully under-recognized by the Academy, but that happens. Whiplash won several awards, including Best Supporting Actor and Film Editing, both of which were well-deserved. Birdman is one of my favorite films of the last decade, and will end up in my top 10 films of all time, so I was very glad it won Best Picture (along with Best Director, Original Screenplay, and Cinematography), because that means a wider audience will check it out. I don’t expect it to resonate as much with most people as it did with me, but at least I’ll have more people to discuss it with.
What does all this have to do with my STAR WARS blog, you ask? I’m glad you asked that question. As always, I have to tell you a story before I can tell you the REAL story. As I’m watching the Oscars, Neil Patrick Harris is singing an opening number about how great movies are, and at one point a step-line of Stormtroopers appears, and I giggled like a little boy. I actually said “Look! Stormtroopers!” to my girlfriend. She smiled dutifully and continued watching. I think she’s getting used to that sort of thing from me, which is a good thing, since it will happen again. And often.
I’m very excited about the possibility of The Force Awakens being mentioned on next year’s Oscar telecast, even if it is “just” in the technical categories. What struck me last night was that most people in my world STILL talk about the Original Trilogy when discussing Star Wars. We didn’t see Clone Troopers dancing at the Oscars, we saw Stormtroopers. People don’t make references to Jar Jar Binks, they still reference Chewbacca, and when they reference Yoda or C-3PO or R2-D2, it’s typically a reference to the OT as well.
I’ve heard people say (and I’ve said it myself) that The Force Awakens SEEMS like it’s going to feel more like the OT than the prequels, and that’s generally considered to be a good thing. I know there are many people reading this who hold the PT in just as high a regard as the OT, and I don’t mean to ruffle any feathers with this blog. I make no secret of the fact that I STRONGLY prefer the OT, but I have never dismissed the PT completely. There are some great moments in those films, especially in Revenge of the Sith, that I think bring a lot of weight and gravitas to the Star Wars saga. I was just struck last night at how little the prequels are considered by the general public. I know a lot of it is just the way we consume media these days, nothing lasts in the public conscience for a long time like it did in the 70s and 80s, so it’s partially a result of the era in which the films were made. However, I am amazed at how little discussion is given to the PT by the general public (or “normies” as I like to call them).
I think this is actually a positive indicator for how The Force Awakens will be received. If, as I think we can all agree, the general moviegoing public generally thinks less of the Prequel Trilogy than the Original Trilogy, I think it shows what a strong property Star Wars is. If it can survive an entire trilogy of films that failed to really connect with an audience on the scale of the Original Trilogy, and still have people tremendously excited at the prospect of new entries in the saga, then George Lucas has achieved something even greater than any of us imagined. Think about The Terminator series, or Alien, or Robocop. As those film series kept churning out work that paled in comparison to the original film (or films), interest in them has degraded along with the work. The originals are still held in high esteem, but there isn’t the same groundswell of excitement when a new film is announced. People are seeming to take a “Wait and see” approach to most of them, whereas with Star Wars, it seems like the vast majority of people are just excited and ready to be taken away to the Galaxy Far, Far Away yet again.
It’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan. The fact is, it’s ALWAYS a great time to be a Star Wars fan. Even when the culture at large isn’t as invested as us fans, it doesn’t take much to get people talking again, and just a little bit more to get them actually excited. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to be able to have a positive conversation with someone who’s just “into movies” about a Star Wars film. No more of this “Yeah, those new ones just aren’t as good,” or “Eh, the first ones were good, but these new ones have kinda turned me off.” How amazing is the universe that Mr. Lucas crafted? Even after all this time, people are excited about it! We even have Stormtroopers at the Oscars!!!!
How about you, dear reader? Are you as excited as I am, or are you wondering why it took me THIS long to figure this out? Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Marvin says Hi.
Jeff can be heard weekly on Assembly of Geeks (www.assemblyofgeeks.com) and on his own podcast network, MarvinDog Media (www.MarvinDogMedia.com) where he hosts The Pilot Episode, Talking Toys with Taylor and Jeff, and Bantha Banter: A Star Wars Chat Show.
Email Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org