Star Wars… Another New Hope?

Star Wars - Opening Day

December has arrived. I’m wearing boots, there is water coming from the sky, I’ve turned on the “heater” and I’m looking at the last few articles of the year and I realize there is one thing I need to discuss, despite the fact that I have been talking myself out of even mentioning the new Star Wars films for several weeks now. I mean, do you really need to read another soul-searching post on the return of Star Wars when Jim already wrote probably one of the best pieces on the topic? We’ll see. I’ll try to make it brief.

I saw Star Wars at the Coronet Theater in San Francisco (left, more pictures here) in 1977, one week after it came out and remember the experience vividly (especially when the projector bulb blew out during the scene where Chewie is playing chess with R2-D2 — it was as close to a spontaneous riot as I ever got). I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Star Wars; I’ve been interviewed for a documentary that I guess was never produced, I’ve got a signed print from the late Ralph McQuarrie, I’ve got the original George Lucas-produced storybook record that I had as a kid, I have a complete set of the Yellow Star Wars cards, I’ve got the only tin boxes made for both Empire and Jedi. I listened to the aforementioned record so many times that I actually have a different version of the movie in my head, and there have been several nights in my past where I would come home in a…stupor and play Star Wars with only the audio, so I could see that same version as I passed–fell asleep.  When NBC aired Empire Strikes Back, I taped it, editing out the commercials as it aired, and watched that tape countless times. I saw the Star Wars Holiday Special on TV when it aired and didn’t care how annoyed Harrison Ford looked during it. I would watch the opening of That’s Hollywood just to see the Star Wars clip. Oh, and I saw Return of the Jedi.

So, like many of you, I am, for better or worse, the resident expert on everything Star Wars for my particular group of friends.

Star Wars did more than just introduce characters, theme and concepts that would be used, fairly or unfairly, as a kind of acid test for science fiction and fantasy for much of my life; it re-defined what a theatrical experience could be. It’s striking to watch Logan’s Run today, which came out just a year earlier — the special effects in that movie look positively ancient, with the model city and laser-free blasters, nothing like the hyper kinetic and much, much more realistic feeling effects sequences that came out of ILM for Star Wars.  So, too, the sound — nothing sounded like Star Wars, which really immersed audiences in ways that had never been done before. Every conversation you had about the movie (and you had many, time and time again) mentioned the “going-into-hyperspace” scene — the perfect blend of imagery and sound working together to make audiences experience something completely new.

One thing that is useful to remember, too, is that Star Wars stayed in theaters for well over a year. Despite the fact I only saw it three times, many people, when there was nothing to do, would just go and see Star Wars again. I had friends who would go once a month, easy — there was simply no reason not to go see Star Wars over and over, which is one of the many reasons so many people of my generation feel so passionately about the whole endeavor: we were the first ones to grow up with these stories.  These films.

My favorite scene of all

Like most of my friends, I never got into the prose books that followed the movies. The only Star Wars comic book I everbought since the movies came out was the Dark Empire hardcover trade, which I only grabbed because I was doing a roundup on various iFanboy Books of the Month — impressive art, to be sure, but I found the dialogue and story just tedious, perhaps overly reminiscent of the wooden writing that has come to define the Lucas scripts. While I was a huge fan of Dark Forces video game, I never stuck with the Knights of the Old Republic games, and never caught on to the many cartoons, even though I thought they looked kind of cool.

No, it was just the movies for me. I remember as a kid reading about how Star Wars was going to be a nice part series, with the first films followed by the story of Darth Vader, followed by adventures of Han Solo and Chewbacca.  I have no idea where I read that but that pretty much defined my expectations of what Star Wars was going to be about, the ages of the actors be damned. There would be nine Star Wars movies and that was that.

Now, much of what I have read about the news of the upcoming films tends to be of the “burned me once, shame on you, burn me twice, same on me” variety, that somehow the original Star Wars fans feel some kind of self-righteous indignation about the whole affair. I see what they are saying, of course — I waited in line for almost 8 hours for Attack of the Clones and Phantom Menace (and yes, aspects of waiting in line for those movies were more entertaining than the films).  On one level, I concur: it is very tempting and liberating to just drop the whole affair, shrug and announce, “you know what? These films aren’t really for me anyway. Let another generation of filmmakers and audiences celebrate their version of Star Wars, I’m done. Circle and life and all that.” Like Jim wrote, “welcome to comics.”

I was like that. For weeks. People would ask me, often, how I felt about the new releases coming out, and I felt like the old man down the block, sitting on his rocking chair, looking into space for a second and then saying, “well, you know, Star Wars really isn’t for me anymore, I hope they are good, and I will see them, but I cannot care about them anymore. Now get off of my lawn and let a man nap.”

What belies that response is my genuine interest in the concept that Star Wars, if handled well, could be like the 007 series, with subsequent generations taking on the characters and the universe and telling stories relevant to their time. I wonder about this, I wonder if this can really happen, because when I think about Star Wars now, I think about all the crazy races and the names and the clones and the other droids and the vehicles and the armies and the generals and the counts and Sith lords and all this noise.  The best part of Star Wars, for me, was the simplicity, the honesty, of the characters and their relationships to each other, how this group of personalities had to work together to overcome adversity.  I mean, as I write this, I am wearing my Star Wars shirt with the Howard Chaykin cover art to the first comic (pictured below) — which I read before the movie came out, by the way — and this graphic distills the story to it’s base awesomeness.  When Empire Strikes Back came out, there was really no way to express how excited everyone was. We waited three years — an eternity — with almost no information about the movie (1980, folks — no Internet news for you!), to get a chance to see where our heroes were. And, of course, we were rewarded with possibly the best sequel ever.

Glory days, I know.

I had this comic, now I have the shirt.

As the weeks have gone by and Internet sites start revealing stories about the new writer and possible directors, something has stirred inside me, just a bit. I realize that I have…not an expectation, but, perhaps, an opinion…on what should be done. Instead of leaving this to the next generation of creators, I realize that perhaps…perhaps this is the time we can actually make the Star Wars we wanted to see. For those of us who saw the first ones and who have seen everything spin (in our opinion) so wildly out of control, maybe this is the time to start fresh, eschewing all the stuff that was in the books and the comics and just focusing on creating a series of films that start anew in a Star Wars universe that is about people finding truth, about people discovering friendships, about people understanding the power they bring to each and every moment.

Maybe the most important part of Star Wars is preserving the best aspects of the stories and sharing them with a new generation of fans, sharing them using cinema?

So I guess I have come around. Mostly. The more I read about Michael Arndt, who is writing Episode VII, the more I am convinced he understands what make the original movie work — its simplicity. And while we’re still waiting to hear who the director will be, I have a feeling he or she will understand that this is truly the opportunity to re-invent what is arguably the most important film franchise of all time. I personally loved Casino Royale and how it re-invigorated the 007 franchise, precisely because it felt so more lean and simple compared to the films that came before it — if the same could be done for Star Wars, all the better.

And suddenly, I want to help. Suddenly, I want to make sure this thing works. Suddenly, instead of rolling my eyes and sighing into my iced coffee, I want not only see this thing, but to, somehow, help. And I bet there will be others out there like me in the industry (who, for sure, have an actual chance to do this), who will want to do the same. For too long, we have been disappointed with George Lucas, whom we have blamed for not making the kind of sequels we wanted to see.  Well, now’s that time.

Jim was right: welcome to comics. Welcome to caring. Welcome to the notion of a personal stake in the stories you consume, to chance of being totally disappointed — or surprised beyond all expectation.

Star Wars has been through a lot and it’s easy to dismiss the new films and too much, too late. But as I take a step back and really look at this series of movies, the line comes back to me, as it has so many times in my life, “she may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.”

Let’s see what “special modifications” we can make.

 


Mike Romo is an actor in Los Angeles. He is available for the new movies. You can reach him through email, visit his facebook page,  and collect his tweets on twitter.

 

Comments

  1. bub64882 bub64882 says:

    This made me smile.

  2. Since the news of the new trilogy came out I’ve already written and rewritten the films in my head several times over. I wish I could help too, but *probably* better that they got Arndt instead of me! Also excited to hear that Lawrence Kasdan is in the mix too, as ESB is my favorite film of all time.

  3. MutantSentry MutantSentry says:

    Star Wars needs the JJ Abrams Star Trek treatment… not JJ nessecarily but the same back to basics reboot.

    • JokersNuts JokersNuts says:

      Remake the original trilogy? Don’t think you’ll find a lot of support for that

    • WheelHands WheelHands says:

      No way, man.

      I’m fine with a modern approach to new stories in the same universe, but remaking the original trilogy anytime soon would be a disaster. It might be the first premiere where formal protests are held.

      Sadly, it will happen someday, by people that feel the way you do, but there’s no good reason to do that now. Like Mike mentions above, going back to the tone and economy of storytelling would be a smart choice. But moving backwards in an effort to tell the same story a different way (ANY different way) would be a big mistake.

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      SHRIEK!

    • JesseCuster says:

      If anything needs a remake, its the god-awful prequels. You know what actually made them worse for me? I had these hardcore SW friends (I mean, these guys could play Star Wars Trivial Pursuit and and answer practically ANY question from the game!) and they used to tell me about all the stories… Mandalorians, Clone Wars, Siths, Jedis, etc. and the made-up “non-canon” was well thought out and intriguing.

      Then when it came time for Lucas to tell this story… all the things we were looking for, were no where to be found. The Clone Wars was clones vs… droids? A war against robots was the worst thing the galaxy had seen and why cloning was banned? Ok.
      No Mandalorians, just ANOTHER mysterious guy in Mandalorian armor? Um.

      But no… no remakes. Give us the sequels, atone for the prequels, and move on. Once the entire saga has 9 chapters and in the can… then make films in other time periods, like Knights of the Old Republic.

  4. kennyg kennyg says:

    This article made me smile and nod several times. I saw Star Wars in the movie theater in its initial run 21 times. I had toys, magazines, posters, hell I had the curtains and bedspread. I loved SW. I remember getting this hand-cranked film viewer from Kenner with these red cartridges that had clips from the movie. I tried to take them apart and play them in our 8mm projector. I had never seen anything remotely like that before – hell, nobody had! That’s why it had the impact it did.

    That said, I’m troubled by the idea of reboots/remakes. I certainly don’t want to see ANH, ESB, and ROTJ remade. That just doesn’t interest me in the least. There’s no reason to do that other than money. Sure, they could update the effects, but even that would not make them better. Continue the story, by all means, but don’t reboot.

  5. kmob181 kmob181 says:

    Supposedly this article is what Brian Wood will be attempting to do over at Dark Horse. Strip the story down to essentials, and forget about the prequels, books, and comics. It might not be a bad preview into what could happen with the next films.

  6. JesseCuster says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS.

    Seriously, in the sea of inter-webs, I always thought I was alone. For once, someone else succinctly sums EXACTLY how I felt about Star Wars. While I was way too young to catch New Hope and Empire in the theaters, I remember my dad taking me to Return of the Jedi (I also remember having to pee in the middle of it, lol… odd memory…)

    After the prequels, I came to this seemingly logical conclusion that I must not be a “real” fan of Star Wars because the prequels sucked and I had no interest in most of the auxiliary stuff like cartoons and novels. I couldn’t bring myself to buy merchandise or collectibles because I felt it would be hypocritical, or that I was a poser if I did. The thing is, I WANT to be a Star Wars fan… I’m hoping new creative forces behind the films can…. wait for it….. lure me back to the dark side. :)

    • JesseCuster says:

      Oh, I will say though… Knights of the Old Republic. Fandom or no fandom… those were just ouright bad ass RPGs. I still own my Xbox copies of KOTOR 1 and 2. Anyone who has played Mass Effect (or Dragon Age for that matter) will easily see the DNA in KOTOR.

  7. kmob181 kmob181 says:

    The prequels did suck – as movies. But for a historian of politics and religion they were actually quite brilliant. The galaxy is essentially given a choice between, on the one hand a hyper-military superpower which, while power hungry, self-interested, and brutal does generally safeguard the universe from conflicts and threats and, on the other, a group of religious jurists who, although largely beneficent in their intent are entirely detached from the everyday realities of the ordinary person, and have been increasingly radicalized by decades of conflict to the point that they think they know better than the elected government. If you want to oversimplify we could call it America after the first Gulf War versus Iran a year or two after the revolution. Lucas gives every indication that neither option is palatable. So for the story to work and connect back to the original trilogy the Jedi, as they currently existed, had to be wiped out. So did the Empire. Because the right answer turns out to be the very basic message of the original trilogy that Mike has so eloquently stated: Faith in human relationships, not technology or religious doctrine, is what endures. So actually by reviling the prequels you are embracing Lucas better than Lucas could and, in so doing, making the world a better place. Plus the way the Emperor pulled together the Empire was positively Machiavellian but I’ll stop (non-comic book) nerding off now.

    • kennyg kennyg says:

      The main redeeming thing about the prequels is how the Emperor enacted such an elaborate plan to force the Senate into giving him more and more power. It was almost Hitler-esque. Manufacturing a credible, tangible threat in the form of a Separatist movement and droid army was brilliant, if somewhat unbelievable. Hard to keep something like that hushed up. The whole thing was a scam to seize power, which I think is lost on some viewers, especially kids. Wonder if it was in any way intended to comment on the Patriot Act or the GW Bush years?

    • kmob181 kmob181 says:

      I think so. But also on populism more generally. There was certainly the security aspect as you so correctly point out but it was also interesting that the Separatists were all capitalist forces such as the banking guild or the trade federation. This could be interpreted as a commentary on leaders like Hugo Chaves or Ahmedinejad in Iran who made fighting capitalist oppression and defending democracy the centerpiece of their populist platforms. Of course like the security threat argument this is just another sham designed to let a leaders accumulate unprecedented power – just in a slightly different way.

  8. pyynk pyynk says:

    ..and now I’ve got the John Williams theme in my head. Great article Mike. For the first time since the initial announcement which only generated a shrug from me, I’m legitimately interested in Star Wars. Thanks.

  9. Good article. You can either accept what has happened and be hopeful for the future of STAR WARS or pout, sulk, be miserable, and waste the day complaining. I believe that those involved in the early stages of the next movie are looking at Episodes 1- 3 and declaring, “Here’s what we shouldn’t do.”

    I’m fairly certain that I’ll be in line for Episode 7 on opening weekend.

  10. There’s new Star Wars films coming out?? I guess I should come out from living under this rock! Great article :)

  11. I think we are going to be surprised with the new films. Listen, Disney has a track record of making decent films that please the audience. They know that if they get a franchise that people are very attached to right, they can make a lot of money. See Avengers for proof. A new Star Wars film that is as good as Empire will rake in money.

    I just want to see an expansion of the universe on film. The comics, books, and video games have made the Star Wars universe the most interesting and expansive in sci-fi. Use those properties and ideas as foundations for some great films.

  12. jman313 jman313 says:

    Sue me, but I am a fan of all of Star Wars, even the prequels. But just the movies, I’ve liked some of the other stuff that’s been made, but at the end of the day I like what Ron once said. I have my own cannon. Star Wars is over with Return of the Jedi. I’m okay with more movies in the Star Wars Universe, but I think the story of the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, and Luke’s coming of age is over.

  13. Switch625 Switch625 says:

    I’m a fan of a lot of things – comics, movies, music, television shows. Star Wars is #1 on my list. I have been there from the beginning. My father took me to see the original in 1977 or 1978. I remember standing in line to see Return of the Jedi on opening weekend – the line was around the building (still, we’re talking maybe 20 people). I have friends who camped out to see Episode I (I would have if I didn’t have to work). It’s easy to dismiss Episodes I – III, but I can glaze over their (many) faults and hold onto the bits and pieces that make them Star Wars.

    Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises concerns me. First and foremost, make no mistake about it, every Star Wars movie that comes out from now on is being made not from a storytelling standpoint like the first 6 movies were, but as a part of a business plan. Star Wars makes a lot of money and that’s why Disney bought the rights. Lucas made the movies we have to tell a story. Disney will do the same to make money. No matter how many times the movies are remastered for whatever media outlet is popular at the time, like blu ray or digital download, no matter how many upgrades and special editions we get, they do not generate as much money as a new film will, especially now that we’ve got multiple options for viewing them: 3D, IMAX, IMAX 3D, 24fps, 48fps, etc. Lucas has said repeatedly that Disney will protect the Star Wars brand. While that may be true to some extent, my fear is they will completely pimp out the franchise: new movies, new television shows, new books, new comics, etc. If you thought Star Wars was a licensing machine before, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

    The movies (at least Episodes I – VI) are about the Skywalkers – namely Anakin and Luke. That’s been the key since day one. Disney’s “Marvel’s The Avengers” changed everything and I see them applying their Marvel formula to Star Wars. Now there’s a real chance Joe Johnston will get his Boba Fett movie. The Star Wars universe is huge and now everything under the Star Wars banner will get a chance to shine at a theater near you. And that concerns me. Vader’s story is done, but I’ve read rumors that Vader will be back in some capacity. That brings a chill to my spine – and not in the good way.

    I guess that’s a long way of saying, “I have a bad feeling about this.”

    I’m skeptical and cautious, but I love Star Wars enough to put my fears aside and hope for the best.

    • Well to be fair, Lucas did not do a great job protecting the franchise and pimped it out as much as possible. He had less control over Empire and it was the best film. I am optimistic about the new direction. I like that the one writer that is being mentioned has writen some serious works that got Oscar buzz. Get a good director and you can have magic.

      Disney gave us a pretty good Avengers film. They selected a guy to write and direct who took his source material seriously and worked to please both die hard and casual fans. It made a billion dollars and is a good movie.

      Disney knows they can throw out whatever junk they want, put a Star Wars label on it, and it will make money. They also know that they can make a lot more money if the movie is good and the fanbase is pleased. They took Avengers, a comic book read by a small group of people, and made a billion off of it because it was a good movie. Star Wars has a much larger fanbase, has been seen by pretty much everyone under 80 in the western world, and its characters are pop culture icons. I bet right now Disney is thinking about the multibillions a good Star Wars film could rake in. I think they can deliver.

  14. sitara119 sitara119 says:

    i like everything Star Wars. Movies, games, comics, cartoons, books. Can i find fault in any of it? sure. i can find a lota fault in the original trilogy, too.
    i’m looking forward to the new movies. i’m sure most of the people who hated the prequels will hate the new sequels as well. i suspect they’re looking for something to inspire that magical feeling of wonder from childhood when they first viewed the original trilogy. recapturing that sense of awe through a child’s eyes is near impossible. i still feel a jolt when the music starts blasting and words float through space talking about “galactic turmoil”.