OpinionStar Wars Why I’m Wary of Overhype for STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS written by Robert Reineke October 22, 2015 Part of me is overjoyed that the new STAR WARS film looks as exciting as it does. I already have tickets to an opening weekend screening. Part of me also remembers being just as excited in 1999. I’m not about to suggest that the new films will have the issues that the Prequels had, but perhaps a note or two of caution is in order rather than declaring the new film the best STAR WARS film ever, sight unseen. Perhaps it’s healthy going into the new film not expecting it to be a life changing experience. Anyways, here are a few reasons why I’m trying to keep my expectations in check. “Nostalgia is an illness for those who haven’t realized that today is tomorrow’s nostalgia.” – Zeena Schreck I’ll lay my cards on the table, I’m not a J.J. Abrams fan. He’s very skilled at assembling a cast and getting good performances, and generally good with his action set pieces, but I think you’d have a hard time describing the themes and style, other than lens flares, that make a film a J.J. Abrams’s film beyond that it will be paced very fast and that Abrams is nostalgic about STAR WARS and the films of Steven Spielberg. One of my problems with SUPER 8 is that it replicates a Steven Spielberg film while bringing no real insight to J.J. Abrams as a man. You can spot Steven Spielberg’s strained relationship with his own father in E.T., THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL and AMERICAN GRAFFITI is obviously based on Lucas’s youth and a look back on American innocence pre-JFK assassination and Vietnam. Those are windows into the director’s worldview that touch on more than nostalgia or child-like wonder. I see nothing of that sort in J.J. Abrams’s filmography. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being nostalgic and wearing your influences on your sleeves. Lucas and Spielberg were certainly nostalgic for old serials when they made RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. STAR WARS wears references to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, THE SEARCHERS, THE DAM BUSTERS, TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, THE HIDDEN FORTRESS, YOJIMBO, and SANJURO proudly. But, both those examples recontextualized those sources into something modern and relevant. Taking STAR WARS and handing it to a director that is nostalgic about STAR WARS may simply result in nostalgic pastiche, a copy of a copy. Now, that’s not to say that I wanted George Lucas back or that J.J. Abrams won’t do a good job, but so far the primary focus seems to be on how much like the original trilogy the film is going to be rather than on how it’s going to differentiate itself and move on. That desert planet looks an awful lot like Tatooine, for instance. I imagine most people reading this were young when they saw the movies originally and are now adults with a different set of eyes and different expectations of where the films should go. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS won’t be all things to all people when released. If John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Adam Driver nail their roles with charm and chemistry, that will be enough of a base to move forward. But, that would be enough if you didn’t choose to make it a reunion movie. Which opens up another can of worms. “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” – Orson Welles George Lucas ended RETURN OF THE JEDI on an unequivocal happy ending. The Emperor is dead, the Imperial Forces are routed, there are celebrations across the galaxy, Leia and Han are together, Anakin is redeemed and joins Ben and Yoda, and Luke has rejected the dark side of the Force. And everyone is apparently going to live happily ever after, perpetually young in our minds. Not anymore. The idea that having something not being the same as wanting something is common to everyone that’s ever been disappointed with a Christmas present or discovering that a much hyped movie has flaws. By continuing the story as they have, they’ve taken away the promise that Luke, Leia, and Han are going to restore peace and democracy to the galaxy. They’ve defeated the Empire, but fallen short of their larger goal. They may have drifted apart and become disillusioned. Be honest, is that the future you wished for those characters at the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI? Not that they don’t have further adventures, but that they never create a lasting peace? And, potentially, do we really want to see any of these characters die on screen? I’m not suggesting that this story continuation is turning STAR WARS into a tragic story, but it is changing our perception of Luke, Leia, and Han on a fundamental level. RETURN OF THE JEDI ended on a promise of happiness for the characters, and THE FORCE AWAKENS may break that promise. And it’s going to require some real deft filmmaking to avoid our reunion with these characters from being somewhat bittersweet. “You can’t go home again.” – Thomas Wolfe STAR WARS is approaching 40 years of age. While the franchise may still be young in terms of there being only six movies that are essential, time has had its effect on all principals involved in creating the original movies we fell in love with. Maybe especially the actors. Harrison Ford probably looks the most like he did then. But, I think it’s fair to say that Harrison Ford’s performances have received a much more mixed reception over the last decade or so. It’s indisputable that Ford has found it hard to channel the charisma that made him one of the biggest stars in the history of the movies lately, 10 to 20 seconds of clips from trailers notwithstanding. Granted, Harrison Ford wasn’t the problem with INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, but that was seven years ago and that performance wasn’t quite the same. Why should we expect any better with Han Solo? Carrie Fisher is a long ways away from the feisty young princess that could sport a blaster or a metal bikini. She’s never really been a star, but she’s always been a talented supporting actress and a talented writer. I’m not really concerned about her acting, although the chemistry will obviously be different, as much as it’s hard to accept that Leia would turn out so matronly. Hopefully her tongue is as sharp as ever. And, perhaps no one has changed more as an actor than Mark Hamill who’s gone from callow, fresh faced, youth whining about picking up some power converters to a weathered, scarred appearance that can delightfully ham up a guest appearance with the best of them. Obviously, it’s acceptable that Mark Hamill will have morphed through age into the Alec Guiness mentor role, but can Hamill bring the same sense of gravitas and dignity that Guiness did? I don’t think it’s unfair to Hamill to say that Guiness was the better overall actor. Asking all three of them to recapture the magical chemistry of their youth, especially when none of them are the same people they were, is asking a lot. If this was just a generic science fiction action movie, it’s hard to imagine the circumstances where these three would be cast in important roles, outside of Harrison Ford’s star power. Now, there would be a riot if these roles were recast, but it’s also something of a double-edged sword given the recent histories of these actors. Beyond that, when’s the last time Lawrence Kasdan has made anything of real significance? Beyond fan goodwill, what’s he really bringing to the table? John Williams is at least a member of the old guard that’s still retained his reputation and skills over the years and I imagine he was brought back with the least bit of reluctance. Which isn’t to say that everyone won’t dig deep and turn in their best work in years. They very well might. But, undoubtedly, it won’t be the same. Maybe that’s even a positive overall, but I expect that it will also be somewhat jarring to a lot of people. Moreover, we’ve all changed in the interim. I was nine when I first saw STAR WARS in a complicated world where STAR WARS didn’t previously exist. I didn’t have any preconceived expectations then. I do now and, somewhat regretfully, it’s harder to summon up that inner nine-year-old’s eyes these days. The world is quite different too, especially since we’re replete with movies that summon up STAR WARS in many ways. Clearly the people that make Marvel’s films are big fans and it’s going to be harder to stand out in the marketplace with films like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY in existence rather than NEW YORK, NEW YORK being seen as the big competition. And that’s fine. Every good movie doesn’t have to be a transcendent experience. But, I think going in with reasonable expectations is healthy. There’s no point in being disappointed if THE FORCE AWAKENS “only” turns out to be very good. There’s no point in childishly attacking critics when there are inevitably some negative reviews like we’ve seen with early reviews for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. Especially, sight unseen. If THE FORCE AWAKENS lives up to the hype, then kudos for it. But, it’s worth remembering that we’ve seen very little of the movie, seen almost none of the performances, and heard from nobody without a financial interest in the film. In the history of film, how many blockbuster films hyped as a transcendent masterpiece months before being shown ever really lived up to the hype? It would be a shame if a good time at the films was ruined due to hype that the movie itself is not responsible for. Why I’m Wary of Overhype for STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS was last modified: February 20th, 2016 by Robert Reineke Related 14 comments 0 Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest Robert Reineke previous post Making Mine Marvel – Ant-Man And The Wasp, Thor And Hulk next post POP – Top 25 Superhero Movies Of All Time, Part 1 You may also like Superhero Cinema 101: Embracing Versatility with Professors... May 11, 2012 Watch The New Trailer For STAR WARS:... April 16, 2015 JOE KUBERT – IN MEMORIAM August 13, 2012 Marvel & STAR WARS Pair Up For... July 28, 2014 Popular Opinion Podcast: STAR WARS: THE FORCE... 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Unfortunately, no Star Wars film has been known for phenomenal acting (or better said, dialogue), and Harrison gave his best work after Star Wars. Star Wars didn’t do well because of the star power of the actors involved. Having the original primaries involved is the best way to forget the prequels immediately, regardless of the feelings toward them. I don’t think anyone would argue the prequels were superior. The story will focus on the new characters, but most would assume that those characters are very closely connected to previous characters. It’s the easiest way to accept a new story and characters in a galaxy well known to everyone by having those connections. I think you’re absolutely right that many films that revisit the same stories fail from the weight of expectation after so much time has passed. Fair or not? Lightning in a bottle again? Robert Reineke My point is not that I expect Carrie Fisher to still look good in a bikini, but that we need to accept that these actors and characters aren’t the same as they were before and recapturing the same magic may prove elusive. Revisiting them, may prove to be bittersweet, especially if we find that there lives are full of sadness and disappointment. Does anyone really want to see sad, regretful Han Solo as opposed to cocky Han Solo? To cite another example, would anyone want to see a Harry Potter film in 20 years where Harry is going through a mid-life crisis? Even if it the story was good, that would be a fundamentally different story and our relationship with the character would be quite different. Yes, I know why they’re in the film. And, I also think their parts aren’t going to be too large, although there are certainly rumors that Harrison Ford plays a large part in the proceedings. I’m just saying, that there’s value in a good ending and I expect that messing with ROTJ’s ending is not going to be without pitfalls. Justin I think we will get both Han Solos as well as a Grand Torino Clint Eastwood added in. The characters have changed, the interest will be focused toward the newer characters. I think JJ has shown a good balance of respect towards the past and showing older characters still have relevance in his treatment of Star Trek. We need a different story, you’re right, there is no point to retrace the past and revisit characters just to revisit. I don’t think that’s happening here. Sounds as if you’re just tempering your own expectations, as I believe everyone should. We are going to see these characters again, and that’s the fun of it, for exactly some of the reasons you fear. Everyone has changed, Han Solo changed/matured a lot through his arc just in Star Wars and especially through Jedi. He wasn’t the same person we met in the cantina, he grew up from being a nerf herder to one of the heroes that saved the Galaxy. Now it’s time to pick up that blaster and do it again. It’s the opposite of dark knight rises, we had never seen a happy ending for batman, he just picked up and fought again. CaptainJack Another great article as always Robert, always enjoy your insights. I’ve been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember, and am eagerly awaiting this new film with the enthusiasm of the kid that would madly spin the backyard clothesline around and deflect towels and shirts with my lightsaber as they swung wildly into view. With that said I agree that overhype is always a bad idea, absolutely, and that it will only ever set you up for disappointment; but the goal to which this film needs to meet or accomplish is by no means an unachievable one, especially from a mainstream perspective. I also think, and perhaps it is a bit different in America, that I am seeing a sensible level of good-will and optimism rather than downright overhype toward this film, generally speaking. What is required of this film is to inject life, energy and, perhaps most importantly, charisma and fun back into Star Wars; a difficult feat but not impossible by any means, especially not for JJ Abrams who I argue has done this before (twice in fact to two established franchises). In this way I do disagree a little in that I think we can feel a level of steady confidence in this team to deliver a Star Wars movie worthy of the banner. I can’t agree, sorry, with your appraisal of JJ’s body of work which I think has demonstrated a sure-handed ability in storytelling and character; especially your assessment of Super 8 which I find to have a heap of heart, and to be a somewhat overlooked and definitely personal film for him (Spielbergian riffs aside). Kasdan may not have done much of note lately, but he is still the man who wrote the best, most well-rounded incarnations of these characters and I feel it is safe to assume that having lived with those characters so long he would have interesting ideas of how they would change and grow and be different as the story necessitates. As for the “legacy players” themselves, we will absolutely have to wait and see but everything we have heard about this film indicates that their roles will be small (Harrison having the lion’s share in this film) with the three new leads being the focus: the wildly talented Oscar Isaac, the charismatic and instantly likeable John Boyega, with Daisy Ridley being the only unknown in terms of ability and talent at this point (side note I think she’s adorable). Rounding out this cast with Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita flipping Nyong’o and Andy freaking Serkis; it’s a group of talent who have more than proven themselves in parts large and small throughout the last few years, not to mention that evil guy from Flash Gordon (Sydow is still the man). Again, reasons to be confident – not overhyped but optimistic. I know you were addressing the hype more so than the film’s actual potential, it is good to remind some that no film should automatically assume some sort of legendary masterpiece label before the actual viewing and that we should all keep our expectations in check. With that said, I do feel that those expectations are lower than they have ever been (apologies prequel fans), and the bar is not exactly lofty in terms of delivering a great Star Wars experience, and hopefully a good film as well. Robert Reineke We’ll have to agree to disagree on Super 8. I do love the first act. Everything after that, I consider a colossal mess and trying to have your alien be both the Thing and E.T. is completely misguided. More importantly, the main character’s arc could have continued completely without the alien storyline at all as we already see him moving on with friends, a fun hobby, and falling for a girl. When your plot arguably has no real effect on your main character’s story arc, that’s an issue. And I kind of hate Star Trek Into Darkness. It’s not the worst Star Trek movie by any stretch, and it has some effective acting and set pieces, but it can’t follow through on any idea for more than 5 minutes, Kirk has all the depth of a caricature, the Khan material is completely fumbled, it seems unaware of the consequences of anything, and it completely fumbles its redo of the Wrath of Khan climax, partly because that despite all the quips, it hasn’t demonstrated that these characters are actually close friends. That said, I do thoroughly enjoy Abrams’s first Star Trek, even if it is overly reliant on coincidence as a plot device. And I’m psyched to see what John Boyega delivers. The new stuff has me excited. CaptainJack Haha, agree to disagree like gentlemen on this one indeed, because I think Into Darkness very much improves on 2009’s Star Trek in every possible way precisely because of it’s wholly consistent ideas; a Federation losing it’s way, aggressive militarization, the real world parallels, a terrifying villain (regardless of who he was in previous incarnations of whom I think some Star Trek fans can get a little carried away with); though I can concede that I feel both Super 8 and Into Darkness unravel a little in their final acts – a very fair call, and Into Darkness also throws in a few too many fan service-ish elements that have no real place other than to go “Tribbles! I remember Tribbles!” Anyway, always enjoy your thoughts sir. All the best to you! 🙂 Jett Batmanonfilm Good stuff Robert. I’m not a STAR WARS fan per se, but I was 12 when the original came out and remember fondly seeing it in the theater — as well as the 2 sequels. I’m with you on the nostalgia thing and this new movie — I think the only reason I will go see it in the theater is to kinda-sorta relive seeing the first one all those years ago. Kerry Vanderberg Interesting article. You are literally the first person I have encountered that doesn’t like JJ Abrams’ films. I think they are all fantastic, have a ton of heart, and get characters and dialogue really well. IMO he has not made a bad film yet. I think my biggest hesitation about SW is that I already have ideas in my own head about what happens in the years following ROTJ, and I’ve had two decades to create that personal fan fiction. I still don’t quite understand why there are significant portions of the Empire 30 years after ROTJ, or why more Jedi aren’t around. I would have thought it would only have taken them 10-15 years to find any remaining members of the Empire and deal with them, and that Luke would almost immediately have begun searching for students who were force-sensitive and start training them. But that’s just me. stock I’m far too jaded with my own age and feelings of nostalgia to allow myself to have overly high expectations for SW7. I agree with most of what you say. I’m almost disappointed that all the old characters are still alive. What are the chances? As far as a lasting peace goes-thats too much of a fairy tale to ever exist. The end of WWII did not end war. Hostilities abound throughout the world as it would likely in a galaxy far, far away. Robert Reineke I think the fairy tale nature of Star Wars justifies a happily ever after ending. Part of what makes Star Wars a success is that it’s a contrast to messiness of real life. CaptainJack True, but we wouldn’t get the “Empire Strikes Back” if they stopped after the happily ever after of “Star Wars” – that would be a great shame because that film proved just how good a dark and depressing and narratively odd film in that universe could be. Happy resolution is fine, but not at the expense of telling interesting, impactful, emotional stories – and ultimately I think it’s safe to assume that both episode 7 and 9 will end on a positive note – this isn’t Dancer in the Dark 🙂 stock I never saw Star Wars as a fairy tale. Even as a kid I saw more of a Arthurian legend joined with space opera and western/war movie. The greatest disappointment in the prequels that I have is they didn’t grow up with me. Abrams could fix that by having a beloved character like Chewie make the ultimate sacrifice for his friends. It was done in a book I didn’t read, I know. So that, or even Han himself making such a sacrifice would go a long way toward erasing the foul memory of the prequels. At least something that we humans can relate to: death and loss, would be addressed. Either that, or I want Han to crash land the Falcoln on a space resort. Art imitates life. That would be cool. Stuntman06 I happen to really like what Abrams did with the Star Trek movies. I’m looking forward to seeing what he will do to Star Wars. All I want is to get rid of the bad taste from the prequels. spiritof67 Wow, was the new “Star Wars”overhyped? Did any of the respondents actually comment on the body of the text? Hmmmm….no. So let’s get something straight: this is the week after the movies’ release, and it is without any question the MOST overhyped movie of all time, quality thereof notwithstanding. When you have cosmetic companies hyping your movie alongside Chrysler and a drove of toy companies, clothing companies and God only cares what else, “overhype” is a mild word. Then there’s the whole group of lost souls for whom the movies tropes constitute a wonderful nostalgic trip to adulthood. Wow. And I must also comment on the whole “Science fiction movies started with Star Wars” thread, which is the height of absurdity. Now lets discuss the real phenomenon: movie grosses as a measure ofyour personal worth. Why exactly are those ofus not stockholders in film companies supposed to care how much a movie makes? Has that become an enfranchisement for people who can’t establish self-worth parameters? And as for JJ Abrams: decent work for a Scientologist, but no more. Given the weakness of the original “script”, there was a lot of latitude available. I mean, just eliminating Jar Jar Binks alone probably drew cheers!