THE FORCE AWAKENS IS NEARING ITS RELEASE: WHY DO WE LOVE STAR WARS SO MUCH?
Before we get started, I must add a preface caveat. Yes. Some people don’t like films for ‘kids’ / ‘families’. Some simply don’t ‘get’ it. Fine. Nothing to see here. Move along. For the rest of you? This is where the fun begins. A list of reasons ‘we’ / you / general public seem to love STAR WARS. I have a good feeling about this…So, in no particular order..
- HAN SOLO / HARRISON FORD
Yep. Just one character in an ensemble. But there is no doubt that his particular brand of charisma, charm, comic timing, action heroics, style and sheer star power helped STAR WARS become an actual series. HARRISON FORD lends a warmth and reality to lines that might otherwise have had all the life of a sterile CGI green-screen.
Ford ‘got’ that the scripts were clunky and he plays to that in his performances. But he also understood that this was a brand worth developing, investing in, fighting for. And so, what we get with Han is a redemption story of sorts. A true character arc.
He goes from drifting cowboy soldier of fortune (Han is possibly a space age stoner / rock star, too?) to a man with a cause and a family and friends. THAT’S why it is so important that Han shot at Greedo first. It’s not a nerd thing. It’s a story thing. THAT’S also why the prequels suffer: because the human element that Ford delivered so well is just not there. And the main reason, frankly, why THE FORCE AWAKENS is going to be so big? BECAUSE HARRISON FORD IS PLAYING HAN SOLO AGAIN.
- MORE THAN JUST MOVIES
STAR WARS became an experience that went far beyond a series of movies. The toys are a part of two generations’ childhoods from plastic X Wings to Millennium Falcon drones. Just a glimpse of the packaging alone on these things can give one pangs of excitement.
The computer games and apps redefined the process of technological interaction with a fictional universe. Almost 40 years on and still there are new gaming apps and the like and mobile platforms and so on that emerge to fulfill a viewer’s need to revisit a galaxy far far away in a more interactive fashion. Indeed, only the other day, I found myself playing Poki star wars games: a new selection for the week to kill my pangs for a Star Wars fix until THE FORCE AWAKENS is released.
There is also a wealth of ‘expanded universe’ fiction one can read / download / listen to. Whilst the Disney takeover meant a re-set on that material, it is still ‘there’, just renamed as ‘legends’. And that combines with the ‘new’ supplemental novels and comic books and the like to ensure that there will always be a wealth of STAR WARS based worlds to explore beyond the films.
The legacy has continued not only from film but also television. THE CLONE WARS and now REBELS provide series of stories that truly enable the viewer to inhabit the fictional space opera universe and enjoy the visual landscapes in new and interesting ways.
- A FEAST FOR THE SENSES
Film is supposed to be a sensual medium: sight / sound MUST be stimulated and stretched and there must be innovations in the fields. Well, STAR WARS models cinema doing just that at its best.
BEN BURTT’S sound designs have become recognised throughout the world. You can know a distinctively STAR WARS noise just as soon as you hear it. It’s how SIMON PEGG met NICK FROST, in fact. One night in a restaurant, one of the men made that mouse droid noise from the Death Star in A NEW HOPE. They started talking. And the rest is cinematic and comedy history.
Visually: one can just LOOK at a STAR WARS film and remain satisfied. You can criticise the prequels and rightly so: their scripts are pompous and vague; the tones muddled and their flaws alone are the basis for a potted film school in how not to make movies. See Red Letter Media: http://redlettermedia.com/plinkett/star-wars/ . But as a VISUAL FEAST? Unbeaten.
Look and just marvel at the artistic and technical accomplishment? Those prequels are an absolute delight. It’s all too easily taken for granted but they made gigantic leaps forward in visual storytelling; like silent movies but with the most special of special effects. Hate on Jar Jar all you want but he is the first fully functional all CGI character and that is quite an achievement in itself. Thank you, George Lucas!
And as for that music? Well it truly is some of the finest ever committed to film. JOHN WILLIAMS‘ ability to create and capture a mood in a movement of film score is yet another amazing asset in the STAR WARS universe. The Imperial March! Duel of the Fates! The opening crawl theme! Atmospheric. Ambitious. Amazing.
- A LOVE LETTER TO MOVIES, MYTHOLOGY AND MORALITY IN ALL FORMS
I mentioned at the start of this that some see STAR WARS as primarily for kids and that an adult should have moved on rather than go all giddy at the thought of more. I do understand that view. But I think it better to see these films as a platform that one can return to at any age, refreshing one’s love of movies in general.
Of course you need a balanced diet in film as in anything. But it is also great to revisit something from childhood to see what ignited your interest in a medium. And many film makers have become more passionate about film BECAUSE of STAR WARS, rather than despite it. They SEE its inherent invitations to probe further beyond the stories to discover the kinds of film and other mythological templates that inspired the whole enterprise.
JJ ABRAMS (Director of THE FORCE AWAKENS) sees the western genre as a great influence on his take for the new movie. GEORGE LUCAS himself was keen to fuse all mythologies and fairy-tale lore in a space landscape, with hints of world war 2 films and political cautionary tales.
Lucas also acknowledged his debt to JOSEPH CAMPBELL’s anthropological study of storytelling: HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES. Sadly, Hollywood now imposes that template on every new film series! But one can see WHY they do so. Because STAR WARS did it so well that the series survives and thrives today partly as a result of the story telling methods it modeled so successfully.
But at its heart? This is a series with SOUL. A primal ability to speak to our most basic camp fire dwelling, cave painting images of good vs evil through to a religious and philosophical spirituality that transcends borders and boundaries.
The Force. The fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker /Darth Vader. The Father and Son dynamic and recurring and repeating the same conflicts between generations that can either embrace or redeem past mistakes. Screwball comedy as platform to a will they /won’t they lifelong romance (Han and the Princess; C3 P0 and R2D2). The anthropomorphic love of animals via furry fuzzball ewoks and wookies /Yoda and so on.
An entire system of languages and geography that plant a seed of seeking REAL adventure and diversity in life among those watching the films..be they an imaginative child or the most skeptical of adults. It’s all there: genuinely, something for EVERYONE.
Profound and civil bridges to cultural understanding, wrapped in a pantomime of spectacular special effects fun. THAT is STAR WARS. And THAT is why at its heart we all DO love the series if not specifically then at least what it STANDS for: hope. A new HOPE. One that keeps coming back..and now more than ever as the FORCE AWAKENS next week. It will be a day long remembered.
And if you are STILL not persuaded? Well how wude! Jedi Pu-du. No wana wanga. E-CHU-TA.
THE FORCE AWAKENS is released next week and will be reviewed by MOVIEVIRAL.