Monday, January 19, 2015
New Day for Star Wars
The pictures in this post are a few of the variant covers from the Star Wars comic series that Marvel kicked off last week. And while the new movie doesn't drop until this December it's safe to say that the Star Wars phenomenon is back, alive, and well. Judging by the first issue, the comic series will be a good one; Marvel employed one of their best storytellers in Jason Aaron to work on it so they're serious about making a good comic and not just something to capitalize off of their parent company (Disney) owning the source material. So now the first two steps in the revival (the Rebels cartoon series and the comic) have come off well, and only the worst naysayers aren't waiting with bated breath for Episode VII to hit the theaters. And we have one person to thank for all of this: the man who gave it to us 37 years ago, George Lucas. Why him? Because he did the only other thing he could for all of us Star Wars fanatics: He got out. That's right, I'm glad he got out and you should be too. Because quite frankly, if the franchise was going to have any further life it had to be without him at the helm. That may sound harsh but it's the truth.
I remember when Episode I came out in 1999. I remember going to the theater, ready for the next chapter in the first series I loved as a child. I left the theater underwhelmed. Now I tried valiantly to defend it against all the people who unloaded their disgust on Lucas' work, but ove r time and after repeat viewings the awfulness of the dialogue, the acting, and Jar Jar Binks was no longer deniable. Episode II had a better story, but the painful dialogue remained. By the time Episode III rolled around I was just hoping for a decent ending to it all. Thankfully, Episode III mostly delivered on the initial promise of the prequels. With the end in sight and less need for backstory most of what made the first difficult to watch was kept to a minimum. But I don't think it's a reach to say that there weren't a lot of people walking out of the theater after Episode III ended saying 'Bring on Episode VII! We need to see what happened after the Empire fell!' After three movies with Lucas fully at the helm it was pretty clear what that meant. Awesome special effects, great visuals, great action scenes, a good enough overall story, painful dialogue, and wooden acting. The plusses enticed you but the minuses scared you away.
The next big project that came from Lucasfilm was the Clone Wars animated series. It was excellent, and no doubt much of that was because Lucas was directly involved in the creative process. The Clone Wars series was what we were hoping for from the prequels, and that was both a boon and a punch to the gut. Even though I have the entire series I haven't watched it all because I really wish they could have done that instead of the films that we got. Then a few years later the announcement came that Lucas was selling it all to Disney. While some didn't like it I was ecstatic. Disney is about good storytelling and using good storytelling to maximize their income. I knew they were going to put good people on any future endeavors because that's the best way to make the most money. Done right, Star Wars is a printing press even after the so so taste the prequels left in our mouths. But it was clear that Lucas wasn't going to do it right. He remains a master of visuals but has not business writing a script or directing a film. Under his direction a star studded cast of Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jimmy Smits sounded like they were reading off of cue cards with tips like "show some emotion here" written in parentheses before their lines. And don't get me started on Hayden Christiansen's emo Anakin Skywalker.
Now after all the Lucas bashing let me say this. I am eternally grateful to George Lucas for giving us Star Wars. Going to the movie theater to see that on the big screen when I was all of three years old changed my life. But I am equally grateful that he felt comfortable enough to hand things over so that some new stories can be told. Lucas is a pioneer in special effects and through his production company changed the way movies are made. The things we take granted in science fiction/fantasy films today would not be there without his work. Being a not so good director or script writer does not nullify all of that. But it does mean that, at this point, the product is better without his involvement. So bring on Episode VII, more comics, and more animation. The foundation that he laid is ready to be built on and taken to a new level.