Destroy All Monsters: I Don't Care That Much About STAR WARS Any More

Columnist; Toronto, Canada (@tederick)
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Destroy All Monsters: I Don't Care That Much About STAR WARS Any More

I was at Ebertfest last week, and at 11 in the morning on Thursday my phone - wifi-deprived and scarcely functioning - started blowing up. A social networking hailstorm descended upon me: texts, tweets, Facebook wall posts, a couple of voice mails and at least one four-paragraph email.

I admit that I've been slightly hazy on the Star Wars Celebration Anaheim details since about an hour past deciding not to attend the convention, so it took me a minute or five to work out that the J.J. Abrams / Kathleen Kennedy panel on The Force Awakens had just happened in California, and the new Star Wars trailer had dropped.

Here's the thing: I love Star Wars. I am a known quantity in the area of loving Star Wars. I've been with Star Wars since day one, and have carried that flag when a lot of other people put it down.

1987, when Power of the Force action figures were being bargained off in discount bins at K-Mart? I loved Star Wars. 1993, when the original trilogy was presented on Laserdisc? I loved Star Wars. That frozen-ass January day when the Star Wars: Special Edition was released? Seven hours in line.

The day The Phantom Menace came out? Two weeks in line.

I've written about The Force Awakens here at ScreenAnarchy a few times already. I've proposed that a 70-year-old Han Solo sounds good on paper but isn't going to make anyone happy this Christmas. The response to the new trailer is encouraging, but I'm still not convinced any of us actually want to know what happened to Han and Leia's marriage or Luke's hand, or whatever else is coming our way as connecting tissue between the Happy Ewok Bonfire Scene and "Chewie, We're Home."

I'm excited about the casting in the new movies, and think John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Felicity Jones all sound like the sort of folk I'd like to see on a t-shirt. Their action figures will be great, too.

And yes: I am pathologically obsessed with Ball Droid. He's my kind of Star Wars. He's my kind of filmmaking, actually: and not just because he's a practical effect. (The hoary insistence that The Force Awakens represents some kind of departure in that regard, and that practical effects weren't being used literally constantly on the Prequel Trilogy, is a bit maddening to anyone with even a basic comprehension of how physical film production actually works.) BB-8 reminds me of Star Wars, if that makes any sense. I'm glad to see him/her/it rolling around in the Millennium Falcon.

But all that aside, here's the real issue: I'm don't care that much about Star Wars any more.

Everyone is welcome to their excitement, but I have to admit I'm finding the scope of this reaction a bit crazy-making. (Two billion dollars in market cap? Over a trailer?)

Star Wars will always be the piece of pop cultural capital, for my generation and at least a couple of generations after mine. I get that. But inasmuch as I'm content to see movie studios continue to make money the only ways they know how, I look at all this Force Awakens excitement and wonder to myself: didn't we do this already?

I've had my Star Wars. I've done my Star Wars, literally twice.

My Star Wars includes the Original Trilogy, and the Prequels, and in a way the latter part is a big piece of my point: when I was a kid, I saw Episodes IV, V, and VI, and spent the next sixteen years messianically certain that there would eventually be an Episode I, II, and III.

And - harkening back to my thoughts on closure and mega-franchises a few weeks ago - one of the more appealing aspects of the Prequel Trilogy for me, as it turns out, was the fact that those movies closed the loop on Star Wars in my lifetime. Like I said: I had the Original Trilogy when I was a kid; and then when I was an adult, George Lucas went ahead and made a whole new trilogy of movies that I could go to a movie theatre and watch.

They cleaned up the narrative area yet undisclosed - I'll leave it to you to determine whether that cleanup was useful, worthwhile, or otherwise your cup of tea - and then, thank goodness, they ended.

This isn't more of the "closure is good" argument. This is simply, from my standpoint, that the experience was good, and felt complete. I got to love Star Wars as a kid, and circle back on it as a grown-up and look at it again from a different vantage point; and then I got to put it away and be done with it.

There will never again be a "putting it away and being done with it" with the new Star Wars. Yes, I'm well aware that the franchise itself has long since extended far past the frame of the movies themselves; I'm as big a Clone Wars fan as the next guy, and I read several runs of the comics (both the defunct Dark Horse and current Marvel runs), and I've played a video game here or there.

But now, with its aggressive-expansion plan not unlike Starbucks' plan of the same name, Lucasfilm is aiming to trot out an in-canon and beyond-canon film (the "anthology" series) every year for the rest of the lifetime of motion pictures. Which, themselves, will probably end sooner or later - but from this standpoint, what's the difference?

Star Wars is about to become something it's never been before: routine. Predictable. Generic. There's nothing wrong with any of that, and if the projects within that frame get to experiment with different types of stories and approaches - and continue to make money and make people happy - then so much the better.

But I find my ability to get all worked up about it has waned significantly. This, I suppose, is why my phone blew up last Thursday; a lot of people who know how I feel about these movies needed me to be as fired up about The Force Awakens as they are. And I'm just not.

("Who are you?" one of my aghast friends quipped at my reaction.)

Are we all going to jump up and down like maniacs for every trailer for Episodes VIII and IX? What about XVIII and XIX? At what point of omni-saturation does Star Wars simply cease to be candy?

Put it another way: I used to collect Star Wars action figures. I used to be a completist. This was fairly easy when there were 94 original figures and a somewhat larger number of Power of the Force II action figures, when the line was restarted in 1995.

I realized with some shock that 1995 was, as of this writing, twenty years ago.

There are now, at a rough guess, 3000 or so Star Wars action figures. I'm sure there are people out there who own them all - but me, I'm glad I got out when I did.

I feel the same way about the movies now. Sooner or later, there's going to be a Star Wars movie I just don't get around to seeing - either because I'm dead, or I just don't care any more, or something else. There are no completists in this game any more: Star Wars is no longer a finite set. Star Wars is infinite, but I am not.

There's one more aspect to this, which I've been feeling in abundance for most of the decade since Revenge of the Sith was released: Star Wars isn't mine any more.

It sure felt like it was mine for a long time. I suspect this is true for a lot of fans. I suspect this is why The Phantom Menace is routinely treated as some kind of hate crime, which it categorically is not.

These days, I don't feel any particular sense of personal connection or ownership to the Star Wars monolith - and this makes me happy. I don't need, or even particularly want, Star Wars to be mine any more. I had it - a lot of it - as described above.

Every time I see an actual child wearing an actual Star Wars t-shirt, which may shortly bear the likenesses of John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, or Felicity Jones, I'm happy. I don't care what part of modern Star Wars has that child excited; I don't care if she loves Ahsoka Tano or the Despecialized Edition of the 1977 film. I'm just glad she has her Star Wars, just like I had mine. That both validates my own fascination and kindly reminds me that the torch has officially been passed.

Strip-mined nostalgia by way of its old-fogey original characters notwithstanding, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is not my Star Wars, and it's not meant to be. May the Force be with all the kids who are going to grow up wanting to be Rey, Finn, or BB-8. I'll see you on opening day, and then get on with whatever else is going on that week.


Destroy All Monsters is a weekly column on Hollywood and pop culture. Matt Brown is in Toronto and on twitter.

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KurtApril 22, 2015 10:33 AM

Amen. I think I jumped off the bus a dozen or so years earlier, and I do not regret it. The prequels offered a spike in interest again, but they were not to my taste, so any zeal for the universe faded away. It happens.

The obligatory nature of yearly film-entries in the multiplex is a product of The Marvel-Disney extrusion line, and I expect that while I will likely see many of these new films, seeing all of them is not necessary to me as a filmgoer.

(post script: I've never been a completest or collector of anything, that kind of stress is foreign to me.)

Dan HeatonApril 22, 2015 10:56 AM

I definitely jumped off the bus from where I was when I was younger. However, I'm so intrigued about how they try to do the sequels. There are so many ways to fail and only a few routes to creative success. Can they do it? I feel like Abrams defied the odds with the first Star Trek re-boot and then failed miserably with the second. The trailer has me optimistic, but I agree that Star Wars is something different (and less unique) by this time.

KurtApril 22, 2015 11:01 AM

I'll give you that Abrams is way better at 'starting' something than follow-thru or completing anything...

Pablo MiñoApril 22, 2015 11:41 AM

it`s been difficult to be excited about anything lately, with all the trailer and marketing saturation, my attention span can only take so much...

Mr. CavinApril 22, 2015 11:41 AM

I recognize a lot of this, but it's rather gentler than it felt to me at the time. What I remember is that Star Wars actually palled at some point right in the middle of my nth screening of Return of the Jedi. As a ten year old, I'd even been a little annoyed at Lucasfilm for trying to make me accept the authority of a character who was clearly a Muppet--hey, it felt like they were putting one over on me; I hear children can be pretty rigid when it comes to validity--and try as I might the Ewoks (and, let's face it, the whole jokey nature of Jedi) crept up and turned me off at thirteen. After that I just felt cut loose. I didn't go home and throw all my toys and bedsheets out, nothing like that. Hell, I didn't even stop watching the movie in the theater every chance I got. But as a barely-teenager I got my first taste of what it's like to have another couple of drinks just because the bar's still open, all my friends are still out. It was rough.

JandyApril 22, 2015 12:25 PM

I actually found the new trailer piqued my interest a lot, but I think we're actually in pretty similar spots. I don't think we NEED more Star Wars, I'd be perfectly happy without these new films, and I'm still dealing with so much franchise exhaustion that I was planning to just skip these anyway. So I guess the trailer made me care more, but that's because I already didn't care. :)

I guess the difference is I love Star Wars, but I'm not invested in it the way a lot of fans are. I'll see the upcoming entries that interest me, and not the others. I've always been into the Extended Universe stuff, so I'm actually more curious to see what they do with that than with the main series, but I'll pick and choose. I think your point about Star Wars becoming less special because there will be so much of it is a good one that I hadn't really thought of before (I'm getting burned out on Marvel, so Star Wars wouldn't be far behind), but I think the key is not feeling the need to be a completist. Which is admittedly hard for me, but working on it has made me happier.

arturoApril 22, 2015 2:44 PM

Reading this article shows that deep down inside you do care about Star Wars, as long as you get talented filmmaker's, there is so much possibilities that can be done with Star Wars, look how much James Bond has changed over the years, or Sherlock Holmes or Batman. There is so much to explore with Star Wars, some might be below average and others may be masterpieces, it's all down to the filmmakers and how much love and care they treat the franchise?

ZetoApril 22, 2015 7:14 PM

I agree 100% with you.
I loved Star Wars. When I was a boy. A long time ago. But then I grown up. I found others things to care about.
When ended the caring and began the milking?

DJ_BobbyPeruApril 23, 2015 1:23 AM

Understandable. The blockbuster hype cycle for every 'big' movie can be fatiguing, even if its something you liked as a kid. I'm kinda the opposite with this Star Wars, though. I'm looking forward to it more than the prequels because George Lucas isn't doing it. Abrams can be hit or miss, but this is something that I think he could do well.

I've never been a 'fan' fan of Star Wars, but I do find them entertaining(even the prequels, for good and so-bad-its-funny reasons) so I don't have a built-in nostalgia for it, so for me its just gonna be a reason to have a night out in December. Not having mega-expectations or standards makes movies easier to enjoy for me.

jammamonApril 23, 2015 8:51 AM

Star Wars was always "ok" for me. Enjoyed it as a kid and outgrew it later on. It is the fans, the marketing and the artificial hype that I reaaaaally hate about it.

Matt BrownApril 23, 2015 10:57 AM

Favourite comment. :)

Matt BrownApril 23, 2015 10:58 AM

I feel that. This week's trailer explosion was a bit too much.

Matt BrownApril 23, 2015 10:58 AM

It's weird how much the completist stress applies, especially in all things Star Wars related, for me...

JimboApril 23, 2015 11:22 AM

Well congrats bud! What you're saying is that you have graduated to adulthood! That is your point to this article, right? I knew the prequel trilogy wouldn't be as good as the originals because I wasn't a kid anymore. By that time I had moved on to Tarantino films and classics like, Apocalypse Now and The Godfather. Despite your newfound maturity, it's really ok that the story continue past your personally perceived conclusion of the story. I figure if kids are still going to enjoy the heck out of them, have at it. Make as many as you can. I'll be along for the ride as long as the stories and film making are good. Isn't that what even passive SW fans are excited for? A quality story and a well done film? We didn't get either of those scenarios with the prequels. That is the catalyst for the over the top excitement, not the fact that it's "new Star Wars."

Martin WagnerApril 24, 2015 12:49 AM

I personally don't think that "adulthood" and "enjoying escapist fun" are mutually exclusive propositions. But it's easy to be tired of hype.

In any event, the SW prequels weren't disappointing to those of us who were kids when the first movies came out because we've "since grown up." They were disappointing because they were objectively WORSE movies in virtually all relevant departments — writing, direction, performance, sense of wonder.

Peabo BronsonApril 25, 2015 2:27 AM

For now, I am cautiously optimistic that Star Wars is in new hands, and that such interesting director/actor/writer choices are being made. The trailers have looked great, and have seemed to capture a sense of nostalgia, mixed with the possibilities of something new and exciting. So yeah, as I said, cautiously optimistic. For now.

But I also know it's only the beginning, and this thing is going to be eventually milked dry, and that's kind of sad. Because despite the commercial juggernaut that Star Wars has been for decades, it's special. However, I don't feel that I have completist/collector tendencies, and ultimately I will love that ones I love and disregard the ones I don't. As it stands now, only episodes IV-VI are really "Star Wars" in my mind. The rest (prequels, cartoons, products, ewok spinoff movies, etc) is just noise.

Robert MarvinApril 27, 2015 4:07 PM

I'm just happy these films are coming out while my kids are still kids. I'm over-the-top excited about the new films, but I suspect I wouldn't care half as much if I didn't have my boys to share them with.

ebsterSeptember 8, 2015 2:43 AM

Thank you for describing exactly how I feel