Monday Morning Critic – Trying To Come To Grips With Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Hype Vs. History

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A friend of mine from college and I had the same thoughts when the latest, and apparently greatest, Star Wars sequel trailer came out. While the rest of the internet needed a change of pants, it seems, there was a small minority of us who weren’t all that impressed. For all the blather about Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the past year the one thing that keeps popping in my mind is a familiar feeling.

We all felt this way about The Phantom Menace too … and the further we get from the Star Wars prequels the more people are willing to admit they were garbage. So how willing are to be able to overcome our excitement, and the jaw dropping box office numbers, of Episode 7 and be able to debate the film’s merits honestly? If it’s anything like The Phantom Menace I’m likely to just say nothing.

The year was 1999 and the internet wasn’t as pronounced a part of our lives when the film came out but the hype was just as large for Menace as it is for The Force Awakens. The only way to see the first trailer for the film was to pay for a ticket to Meet Joe Black or Wing Commander. Both of those films had their box office grosses enhanced because of it; it’s weird to think of someone buying a ticket for a film to see just a trailer (and people walked out after seeing it, crazy enough) but this actually happened. The hype wasn’t as 24/7 as it is now, mainly because the internet was still largely something inaccessible to a large swathe of the population at any sort of decent speed.

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Now having a connection in megabytes is something that’s so inexpensive it’s mind boggling. It’s rare to meet someone who doesn’t own a computer or have an internet connection these days. So in nearly 20 years we’ve come a long way … and for those of us around for the hype for the The Phantom Menace the potential for disappointment is real. And I think that’s why I’m a little cautious in my desire for the series this time around.

We’ve had this level of hype for a new Star Wars film before … and only now are we really able to admit that the prequel trilogy was garbage. When it was released people were lining up in droves to defend it because it was a Star Wars film … and those couldn’t suck, right? It was like being the guy that spent $50 to see Red State on Kevin Smith’s speaking tour. Not too many would say they didn’t like the movie because they spent a bunch of cash to see a movie and hear Kevin Smith speak … the more money you spend on entertainment, or the more emotional energy you’ve invested in it, the less likely you’re going to discuss a good deal of cash and/or time as a proper waste of time.

It’s why people now are more willing to discuss how they disliked the prequels, especially after Lucasfilm was sold to Disney. Enough time has passed since the prequels that we can properly evaluate them. We’re not as emotionally invested as we were then and unfortunately history is beginning repeat itself with The Force Awakens. For all the bluster behind it there’s an element of too much hype and too much expectations in a lot of quarters for this film.

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It’s easy to trust J.J Abrams and Disney, as they have more than just the echo chamber that best described Lucas’s return to cinema. Abrams is a maverick who relaunched Star Trek, understands the power of science fiction and has crafted arguably the best Mission: Impossible film. Abrams is the guy you want behind the relaunch of this; he took Star Trek into heights it never would’ve hit, box office wise, while also keeping the sanctity of the original franchise in check.

This isn’t going to be purely a CGI spectacle, blocked out like a soap opera by a director in the same spot as the emperor who had no clothes on. There’ll be notes, revisions and a collaborative effort, right? That this isn’t the vision of one guy in an echo chamber is a good thing, of course, and Disney has massive plans for Star Wars as a long term franchise. There has to be a unifying vision … right?

For so many reasons we want to trust that this is the new path in the same way that we convinced ourselves that George Lucas was the right guy to relaunch his franchise in the late 90s. He was the gatekeeper to the Star Wars mythos and crafting a new trilogy, about the rise of Darth Vader and the fall of Anakin Skywalker, and thus he wouldn’t turn the Force into something stupid right? I mean he created it … no one could turn the grand mythos of the original trilogy into something laughable without Lucas being behind the wheel. Right?

Getting excited for a Star Wars film right now is like getting a new job after you’ve been fired from one. You’re always looking over your shoulder, waiting for the shoe to drop.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

Burnt – Bradley Cooper is a chef with a booze problem trying to rebuild his life.

See it – Cooper is in that mid career peak where everything he does looks good.

Our Brand is Crisis – Sandra Bullock is a campaign manager hired to swing the election in South America.

See it – Hopefully this is more political satire outright instead of “these are all the reasons why I dislike people whose views disagree with mine” type of political comedy that you expect from Hollywood.

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse – A couple of Boy Scouts and a stripper get caught up with zombies.

Skip it – This film looks like it’s trying too hard to be Zombieland.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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