5 Reasons Not To Get Too Excited About The Force Awakens
So there's a new Star Wars coming out, and it's almost certainly going to disappoint a huge chunk of the people who watch it. I don't mean it will be bad. I just mean there's no way it could live up to these expectations. Look at these people reacting to the trailer.
How often do you clap and gasp during a movie? There's no way any movie, even a really good one, can make people feel like that. You normally have to rent a sticky-floored booth in a very specific type of establishment to have that kind of knee-shaking reaction to a film.
And when you consider the factors stacked against the thing, you'll realize it's more likely than not going to stumble on certain hurdles. Like one of these:
It Could Be Terrible In A Completely Ordinary Way
There are many ways a movie can be terrible, completely independent of the way a Star Wars movie can be terrible, and we should probably get those out of the way first. Movies can have nonsensical plots, or tedious pacing, or thinly drawn characters, or wooden actors, or any of a few dozen pedestrian flaws like that.
They could be a lot like the prequels, basically.
I will grant that there's reason to be optimistic on this front. The director, J.J. Abrams, has made many movies that don't suck, most notably the pretty successful reboot of the Star Trek franchise. All of the original cast (aside from Alec Guinness, who did not wish to participate) will be back, playing the characters we know and love, and sure, some were a little wooden before, but it was a woodenness we came to accept.
Who among us couldn't relate to not getting to go to Tosche Station to get power converters?
But it's worth pointing out that pretty good directors and pretty good actors can still make bad movies. It happens a few hundred times a year, in fact. That might be the saddest possible outcome of all this: that the new Star Wars isn't great, nor horrible in an interesting way. It could just be mediocre.
Let's get on to the Star Wars-specific ways it could be terrible.
It Could Rewrite The Rules
The Star Wars universe has a lot of elements that make up what we understand to be Star Wars. It just isn't Star Wars without lightsabers and Star Destroyers and white plastic codpieces, and for many fans -- the biggest and stinkiest ones, to be specific -- a respect for the existing canon is something the new Star Wars films will have to demonstrate for them to be acceptable.
"A chrome codpiece? How would that even work? Worst movie ever."
Merely by existing, these new Star Wars films have already pissed on these fans a bit. Over the past couple decades, approximately 1,000 parsecs of Star Wars novels and comic books and video games were created, all set in the time after Return Of The Jedi, in what would come to be called the Expanded Universe. All of these things are now no longer canonical, this time period being rewritten to accommodate the new movies, which understandably pissed off everyone who'd invested their time and money in the old setting. But oh, my salty, sweaty lads, so much worse could be coming. And to demonstrate, I'm going to need to take you on a tour of the ancient enemy of Star Wars, the hated Star Trek franchise.
In the rebooted Star Trek films, J.J. Abrams played pretty fast and loose with one of the signature pieces of Star Trek technology, the transporter. Previous movies and TV shows had established that transporters were capable of transporting people only over short distances, say a few thousand miles. But in the new films, transporters were apparently capable of sending people hundreds of trillions of miles. However far the script needed, really. Which kind of worked in the context of a fast-paced movie, where you're rushing from scene to scene. But it doesn't work at all when you think about it later, which is kind of the main thing fans do with these movies.
There would be a lot less "trekking" in Star Trek if you could literally
teleport anywhere you wanted.
Imagine how the same thought process could lead to some blasphemous development in the Star Wars films. Ship-sized lightsabers? Stormtroopers that can shoot? Teleporters?
Does R2 discover he's a Jedi?
That couldn't happen, could it?
Or has it already?
The New Characters Might Not Mesh Well With The Old Ones
These new Star Wars films have to navigate a lot of potential problems on the character level. There's first the obvious problem that they intended to use the old, very old, literally dusty characters from the original trilogy. This sounds like fun, until you realize a lot of what we like about Han Solo is all the stuff he did. But the man is like 70 years old now, and it will stretch the movie's plausibility to have him shoot any more bounty hunters in the dink. I think it would be interesting to see how an old, retired adventurer lives in that universe, to see the regrets and pains that he carries. But that's a different, slower-paced movie than what we really expect from Star Wars.
Not that it wouldn't be badass.
But the movies have apparently already handled that by creating new characters who at least appear to be in all the action sequences. That's good! Unless it isn't! Like how are they sharing the screentime with the old characters? Because the cast is getting crowded now. If we provide new character arcs for the old characters, to really see how the intervening years have changed them, does that leave time for the new ones to develop? Or are the old characters given little more than extended cameos? Will people be happy with that? What if the new characters just don't hold up, the audience all checking their watches, wondering when Han and Chewie are going to show up next?
Audience: *unintelligible shrieking*
Speaking of *unintelligible shrieking* ...
It Could Be Filled With Shameless Fan Service
It's no secret what makes a good adventure movie. Interesting characters, including memorable protagonists and antagonists. A cool setting. A straightforward, even highly traditional plot. Things like the Millennium Falcon and lightsabers and men wearing robes are all cool parts of the setting. Star Wars needs those, and we all want to see them.
But they only serve the setting, and if there's too much of them, they'll get in the way of the other stuff. This was a big problem with the prequels, with those massive lightsaber battles that got longer and longer and less and less exciting as they went on. Or the massive battle scenes between combatants we didn't know or care about.
But I think this problem goes deeper than just colored swordfights. Think about the response the fans had to the prequels, and the specific complaints they had, and how these new movies are very specifically doing things the exact opposite way. "They're doing everything right!" is a common thing I've read about the new Star Wars. "Proper model-based special effects! All the old characters! Beardo is nowhere near the director's chair! They listened to everything we said!"
"We matter! We really matter!"
And that might be the problem. There's a common rule writers use when soliciting feedback from their friends and other early readers. If a reader tells you that something is wrong, they're almost certainly right. If they tell you how to fix it, they're almost certainly wrong. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes things in writing and making a movie that an audience doesn't understand the importance of, and their diagnoses on how to "fix" a movie won't take those things into account. Trying to satisfy all their demands won't fix the mess so much as it will make a different type of mess.
An awful lot of the things that fans say they want in these new Star Wars films have nothing to do with making a better movie. Model-based special effects have different advantages (and disadvantages) compared to CGI, but they sure aren't a cure-all. Seeing all the old Star Wars characters again will be great! Unless it isn't. Can you think of any examples of an old character appearing more than 15 years after their last movie and everything being fine?
That's a bit unfair -- all the Indiana Jones parts of Crystal Skull were pretty good. But his presence didn't make that a great film. Which is what a lot of people seem to be hoping the Millennium Falcon does for The Force Awakens.
The Fans, Oh God, The Fans
First, you just know some motherfuckers are going to cheer in the theater when the Millennium Falcon comes on the screen, or Luke Skywalker steps out of the shadows, and you'll miss a couple lines of dialog. Did he finally make it to Tosche Station? We'll never know.
"Hush! I'm trying to take notes here."
Look. I like Star Wars. I've seen the movies and read the books (including a lot of the bad ones), and played the video games, and gotten way too deep into the lore. I know why the parsecs line makes perfect sense. And for all their flaws, I don't think I've thought more about any set of movies than I have about the prequels.
Largely because of their flaws, actually.
But I'm not a "Star Wars Fan," which is effectively a proper noun now. I'm not taking my lightsaber to opening night, or even attending opening night. I'm looking forward to seeing The Force Awakens, but I am so cautious about it that it staggers me to see how excited people are getting. Are you letting your emotion blind you, you path-to-the-Dark-Side-walking morons?
None of these people, aside from perhaps the baby, are acting rationally.
The same thing happened with The Phantom Menace. It took a few months for everyone to settle down enough to realize what a fly-strewn turd that movie was and have coherent conversations about it. I'm worried we're going to have the same thing happen again, which sucks, because talking about these movies is where all the fun is.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and sometimes not that fun to be around. His first novel, Severance, is incredible and available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Apex Books. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.
Don't set your expectations too high. After all, the only way the original trilogy was good to begin with was dumb luck. See how the iconic trench in the Death Star was purely a result of bad model-making in 5 Dumb Accidents That Made 'Star Wars' A Classic, and imagine how bad it could have been had Christopher Walken played Han Solo (which almost happened), as revealed in 5 Actors You'll Never Believe Were Almost In 'Star Wars.'
Also follow us on Facebook, because we can complain about the new movies together as father and son.
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