The Mother Brain Files: Never Tell Me the Odds
By Mother Brain
The following is my own personal tale about my Star Wars fandom from childhood to manhood as the release of Episode VII is just months away:
The one little factoid that most people may not know about me is that a long time ago, at an age far, far away, I was a major Star Wars geek. I was born while Return of the Jedi was still in theaters, but had no knowledge of the phenomenon. It was only when I was nine years old that my neighbor was moving and he was selling off all his old toys that he collected over the years. Something attracted me to the Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader toys which began my quest for seeking out the whole line at flea markets, toy shows, yard sales, etc. Meanwhile, my parents got me the entire trilogy box set on VHS for Christmas which I wore out to death on repeated viewings. Who knew that in time, these old movies would become significant again as well as polarizing?
At this time of my fandom, Star Wars was no longer cool with the public. People saw it as childish and they had already moved on to the likes of 90210, Jurassic Park, the grunge scene in music, etc. I felt like the only kid in school who had a love for the trilogy and the only people I could relate to were young adults who were my age when the films came out. But two years later, a new box set came out that people flocked to get because creator George Lucas was planning to re-release the films on the big screen with all kinds of new scenes and enhancements. So this was the last time anyone could get their hands on the films in their original cuts. Concerning the “special editions,” I remember my dad and I seeing Episode IV and V at late night showings because of the sold out times before that. It was the latest I ever spent going to the movies and those times were well worth the audience reactions. Nothing beats the experience of seeing Star Wars as it was intended… at least in my thirteen year old mind.
Little did I know about the backlash against the new scenes until a year later when South Park spoofed it. Fans of the original trilogy shit on Lucas’ decisions to add unnecessary CGI scenes, replacing a few old scenes because of creatures he didn’t like physically, and to alter Han Solo’s most bad ass moment when he shot Greedo. Yet, none of this stopped the public’s excitement when the new prequels were going into production with Episode I: The Phantom Menace set for a 1999 release. The first trailer alone set new records for internet downloads and even boosted box office for such disasters like Meet Joe Black and Wing Commander. People got excited to see young Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi as well as the badass Darth Maul, fans bunking out at multiplexes around the world, John Williams’ score featured on MTV, etc. This was a great time for movies again. Something still didn’t feel quite right.
I vowed myself to get the Episode I toys no matter how interested I was in toys by then. I go to Toys ‘R’ Us and witness the ridiculous jacked up prices for the figures in contrast to the ones for the original trilogy (i.e., the line that started in 1997). I still got them, but I never finished the line. Then I found myself getting turned off by the excessive use of tie-ins with Pepsi, the Tricon corporation (KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell), Star Wars-licensed Monopoly game, and countless other promotions. Regardless, it was the must-see movie of the year. So my dad and I waited a few days after opening day to see the film.
Underwhelmed is the best way to describe my reaction to Episode I. Like most fans, I found the acting to be incredibly flawed, the CGI sets excessive, the political angle to be boring, and Jar Jar Binks to be flat out annoying and offensive. For a guy who made millions by spinning off the Ewoks, Lucas proved to be out of touch with his audience. This was also the same year when The Matrix took the world by storm as the new innovation in Sci-Fi cinema, making Star Wars seem ancient in comparison. All of a sudden, I got more excited for new Matrix films than this old ass franchise.
By Episode II: Attack of the Clones, I didn’t not expect much better. I found joy in laughing with the audience over Hayden Christensen’s terrible acting as Anakin and we compared the love angle with Natalie Portman to a badly written episode of Dawson’s Creek. Even a CGI Yoda battling Christopher Lee at the end was straight out of an Austin Powers flick for me. At this time, Lucas pushed out more expanded stories through the Clone Wars television series and the expanded universe novels. There was so much Star Wars story to catch up on, I got completely lost. Like taking a shot of heroin to chase a dragon you never catch, Star Wars became an empire in itself. One with a dark side I refused to drop more money on.
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith would be by far the best in the prequel trilogy. My Matrix love affair ended after two lackluster sequels, but I wasn’t cozying up back to my old flame that quickly. Yet, I had to admire its brilliant turn to a darker, more apocalyptic tone that had not been in existence since The Empire Strikes Back. Lucas got it right in Anakin’s transition to the dark side and his inevitable transformation into Darth Vader while tying everything nicely to lead into the original trilogy. It remained flawed in terms of the actors’ performances, but still a major improvement across the board.
For a long while, it seemed as if the saga had ended for good and all that was left were television shows, books, and more toys. Fans for the most part still harbored resentment towards Lucas for his bizarre decisions on the prequels and special editions. Perhaps the hate was too strong for Lucas to push back against which led to his surprise retirement from show business… only to sell Lucasfilm to Disney.
As soon as I heard new Star Wars films were coming, I shook my head in disbelief. Why do I want to see my heroes old and haggard now? Especially if the plan is to phase them out for new characters? Then the call for J.J. Abrams to helm the new movie only made me more frightened since he made his own polarizing decisions on the new Star Trek movies. The only silver lining besides Lucas not calling the shots was the decision to rehire Empire and Jedi screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan to co-write with Abrams. To me, Kasdan was the only writer in the franchise who gave emotional gravity to the characters and avoided the cheesy dialogue that Lucas has been criticized for.
Like Episode I, there has been a lot of mystery and a tremendous amount of hype. The first trailer felt like a fanboy flick with black stormtroopers, a hispanic X-Wing pilot, a Wilson the volleyball-style droid, and a Darth Vader wannabe with a sick looking lightsaber. Enough footage for all fans to spoof and recreate. Then this most recent trailer hit everyone at an emotional core, including yours truly. Real sets, matte painting-style backdrops, the Luke voiceover, Darth Vader’s eroding helmet, Han and Chewbacca together again. This felt right. Star Wars was real again.
I still remain skeptical and a bit fearful for Episode VII: The Force Awakens and the overwhelming follow-ups and spin-offs to come. I won’t be one to shit on the little bits of info being presented, nor will I predict that it will be the best movie ever. Like every fan, I want Star Wars to remain special because of its connection to us. Sometimes too much of a good thing can be a killer. Trekkies know this all too well. Let’s hope Disney/Lucasfilm’s plans are solid enough to keep us invested in the never-ending saga for years to come.