The Millennium Phoenix?
The Force Awakens finally arrived yesterday, coincidentally the same day FTL.com was launched, and while we are still noodling through exactly HOW to feed Miguel Alcubierre’s little equation, lets take a look back on that galaxy far, far away, where they nailed this problem to the wall a long time ago.
I was lucky enough to take my family to a private viewing of the new Star Wars film this morning. I was eager, though with more trepidation than I care to admit, as I waited for the big screen to come alive and to return me back to the galaxy that launched the imaginations of an entire generation of X’ers like myself. So it was with high hopes that J.J. Abrams (and the Disney megaverse) would finally throw the gauntlet down, to dare the critics (and the public) to not fall in love with The Swashbuckling Space Opera again. Did he pull it off? Yes…and no.
The “No” first: The original Star Wars, much like the Millennium Falcon, looked to all of Hollywood, like a piece of junk. Indeed, much like the iconic freighter, Star Wars (A New Hope) was an unrepentant cobblestone tapestry of historical storyline scraps. And to carry the analog along, it far exceeded all outsiders expectations. Lucas (with help from Gary Kurtz and Alan Dean Foster) ended up crafting an original story from all those spare parts. It was the First. It effectively (and somewhat arguably) launched the modern blockbuster movie, but much more significantly: it directly influenced millions of people, sparking imaginations, industries, and ultimate untold numbers of careers. All this, from a non-very “Sci”…fi. Pretty impressive. So, say what you will about George Lucas’s story writing ability, but his positive impact on popular culture is undeniably significant. Because of all this, I do not think The Force Awakens can come close to being an equal of it’s granddad. There is no denying Star Wars launched the special effects era for Hollywood, and it is essentially the king of the ball… But 38 year on, its a pretty crowded ballroom, and so even an authentically fresh Star Wars film is far from alone.
On to the Yes: Shooting this movie with *actual* “film” (for the Millennials), and using real people, full size sets, and costumes, J.J. Abrams paid homage to the original’s efforts. In doing so, the film had a quality about it, which seemed more “authentic”, more gritty, more real. It was very satisfying. They were able to balance the need for great effects with a connection to the overall presentation, the story and the characters. I found this very satisfying, lets see how many others did as well. It certainly seems like a bit of a risk, in this age where 4K is almost passé, they chose reboot the original sci-fi blockbuster, almost 40 years later using the same type of film in which the original was shot! I think they might just have pulled it off. Lets see how the numbers come in. A New Hope grossed about half a billion dollars back when the average ticket price was less than two and half dollars! That is something like $2.3 billion dollars today. It will be interesting to see if it beats the original. After all, most of those Gen-Xers and their Millennial kids are lined up like its Black Friday and Boxing Day combined.
Although it is not the only game it town (thanks in no small part to J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot…man, that guy gets around!), it is STILL Star Wars! And THIS go around had Mr. Abrams at the stick! It seems Disney had a strong need to cleave off the old era (with due respect to all those Gen-Xers) and to simultaneously build a foundation Millennials will embrace (after all, Mr. Lucas didn’t give it to them for free). To this end, I think they succeeded, and it is quite likely The Force Awakens will become more of a Millennium Phoenix than a falcon 🙂
May The Force Be With You.