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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Column: Can’t we all just get over Star Wars already?

    “Can’t we all just get over Star Wars already?” That’s the popular refrain going around the Internet this month as the hype for December’s “The Force Awakens” becomes impossibly more real. At the time of writing this article, the top trending topic on Facebook doesn’t even have to do with the movie itself, but rather the line of action figures and costumes promoting the film just revealed on “Force Friday.”

    Truly, just about every time a new pixel of footage is released, the fandom seems to lose its mind. It’s enough to provoke more than an eye roll from the casual observer, though there seem to be few enough of those. Even the film elite-est of my fellow filmmaking BFAs respect Star Wars. These are the same people who compare going to see “The Avengers” to *gasp* watching a football game, and yet they’ll take your head off if you dare to suggest that the original Star Wars films aren’t one of the best things to ever happen to American cinema.

    Nobody likes the prequels, though. That much seems to be common ground. Sure, there’s the odd fan who grew up seeing “The Phantom Menace” before the others and somehow then likes it more due to some misplaced nostalgia, but on the whole, the prequels have been firmly relegated to the Island of Cultural Moments We’d Rather Forget.

    For my part, I own six seasons of the “Clone Wars” cartoon on Blu-ray, so I can’t exactly claim impartiality. Though, as a filmmaker, I do strive for objectivity in analysis of any media, and thus the Star Wars films, though an important part of my cultural upbringing, are far from my favorite works of cinema ever — except “Empire.” Empire’s in my top five.

    What, then, is the effect of all of this excessive fandom? When the first trailer for the new movie was released, Telegraph writer Martin Daubney suggested:

    “The Star Wars films and their re-releases have generated $4.54bn in worldwide ticket sales … which is what all of this is really about — that makes Star Wars just another product … And that’s why, sorry guys, I’m just not feeling the Force with Star Wars any more.”

    Daubney seems to believe that obsession over Star Wars, like so many greasy McDonald’s hamburgers, has put a stranglehold on the creative arteries of Western cinema. Such a position is obviously extreme. Cody Young, adjunct professor for the School of Theatre, Film and Television at the UA, has a different take:

    “During the Hollywood Renaissance … there was a brief moment where there was the promise that Hollywood filmmaking would transcend its commercial limitations,” Young wrote in an email. “The blame for the death of that promise is often laid at the feet of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg thanks to the success of ‘Jaws’ in 1975, and ‘Star Wars’ in 1977 … [but] sequels, adaptations, and remakes have always been a part of the Hollywood strategy — from the prestige literary adaptations of MGM in the late ’20s/early ’30s, to the remakes of silent films in the sound era, and the sequels of the Thin Man and James Bond series — so this lament about the lack of originality in Hollywood today seems a bit overblown.”

    When considering the historical context, the Star Wars films are actually non-unique. Like any popular fiction, ranging from the caballerías of Cervantes’ day to the penny dreadfuls of Victorian England, they exist first and foremost to make money. But that doesn’t mean they are incapable of being art in and of themselves, or indeed that they don’t inspire even greater, undeniably valuable works.

    So while fan enthusiasm and hyperbolic claims such as “George Lucas raped my childhood” will always irritate, the Star Wars franchise does deserve its place in the sun as one of the most influential media works of modern times. Popularity and lucrative box office numbers don’t necessarily indicate a lack of artistic merit.

    “I think the focus on box office by popular critics and bloggers is at the heart of what’s wrong with film reception in America,” Young wrote. “I have hope that these new films can go beyond their franchise associations and serve popular culture as the originals served: as modern mythology.”


    Follow Greg Castro on Twitter.


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