I like Star Wars. Swear to god. I really like Star Wars. I know it’s bad for me. I know that it’s not really worth the love. I really do. But I like it. I like Star Wars. But do you know what?
I’m not excited about the new trailer.
Not one fucking bit. In fact, I’m pretty tired of hearing about the damn thing. Because even more than I like Star Wars, I like movies, and good art, and have a memory of past movies. So lets do this Star Wars defenders.
My first and foremost concern is this guy:
You might recognize him as Bad Robot mastermind JJ Abrams. Lets take a quick scroll through his filmography, shall we? Specifically his directing credits, let’s not shame him too much. There’s Mission Impossible The Third, which is forgettable with exception of Philip Seymour Hoffman. There’s the first Star Trek remake. It’s pretty fun. There’s a certain flair to it, some entertaining characters, a nice entertaining gleam. It’s pretty dumb if you start to think about it though. There’s a core of corrupt stupidity that relegates it to the sidelines of my cinematic interests. Then there was Super 8. A Spielberg homage with a character arc that was all symbolic and completely unfounded in actual change. It also had a monster, for some reason. Seriously, I defy you to find a thematic reason for that monster. It in no way affects that kid’s mother-related sadness, regardless of how many slow-motion lockets the finale includes. Then there was Star Trek Into Darkness, a movie so vapid it’s not even worth discussing. Suffice it to say none of the creators will even stand by the damn thing.
But he’s not working with the same writers (they’ve gone on to run Star Trek into the ground and God knows what else), he’s working with Lawrence Kasdan! The guy who wrote The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark! Except instead of collaborating with George Lucas and the guy who wrote both the The Right Stuff and The Unbearable Lightness of Being he’s working with JJ Abrams. The guy who we have to ultimately blame for Star Trek Into Darkness (that being said – Orci and Kurtzman are probably even more worthy of that blame, but as a director Abrams should’ve worked to remedy their insipidly despicable scripts.)
Because lets commit to hate mail and discuss the actual value of the original trilogy. Star Wars is quantifiably the most overrated film series ever. Two of them are actually good, A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. But A New Hope features Lucas’ terrible dialogue and character writing and Empire Strikes Back regrettably features less Lucas. That’s right, I’m about to defend Lucas’ early contributions to the series. He brought a certain art-school pretension to the first film that legitimately carries the weight of the entire franchise. You might think I’m exaggerating, but it’s easy to see that carry on properly into the next film, and it plays a big part in that too. He treated the challenge of creating iconography like a creative exercise, pilfering and imitating and combining to create a world and basic story that struck a primal Cambellian tone with great aplomb. He started giving up on some of the seeds he was sowing by the time he got to Empire (look at the ways Vader changes, or the dropped subplot about the subjugation of droids). But that initial skeleton is the reason the original series is so powerful.
Despite the movies being incredibly flawed, George Lucas created one of the most powerful fictional worlds ever. He eschewed logic for mythology, and the results were so strong he changed cinema and created an intensely massive franchise. The movies rightly earned a lot of love. And then the prequels happened. Terrible non-movies. Some time passed. And honestly people seemed to be getting over Star Wars. Maybe they just needed to be confronted with a handful of undeniably awful films to really think about the series as a whole. To quote Dan Harmon, “That’s what I love about this generation, they don’t care about race and they don’t give a fuck about Star Wars.” People started actually thinking about the ratio of good movies to bad in that infinitely popular franchise and realizing that it maybe didn’t need to be quite as high on the cinematic pedestal as some would claim. I’ve read several well written articles expressing this thought.
And then the fucking trailer came out.
And like some sort of horrible domestic abuse case everyone starting crawling back to suckle at Star Wars’ teats. That may seem glib, vaguely offensive, and an exaggeration and well, it is. But I think it’s an unfortunately apt comparison. The very same people who might have written articles expressing a certain over-popularity inherent in the franchise suddenly started freaking out over the teaser. Like really freaking out. I’ve read more eye-rolling, click-bait, bullshit analyses than my stomach can handle. Everyone suddenly decided they should be excited, despite literally all the odds.
Because the odds aren’t good. Most Star Wars movies are terrible. None of JJ Abrams’ movies are good. The film had major script trouble. It’s a tentpole blockbuster. These aren’t the sorts of facts that make me enthusiastic.
The trailer does little to change my mind, if only because it’s a fucking teaser. There’s barely any footage and no hint of story. Yet everyone has suddenly decided it looks amazing. Critics I read who frequently speak out against JJ Abrams and his mystery box are rabidly guessing about and examining the trailer.
There have been a few major reactions to the trailer.
One of the most prevalent reactions is simply that it “looks like Star Wars.”
Here are some quotes in place of incoherent rage:
“Are you quitting on me? Well, are you? Then quit, you slimy fucking walrus-looking piece of shit! Get the fuck off of my obstacle! Get the fuck down off of my obstacle! NOW! MOVE IT! Or I’m going to rip your balls off, so you cannot contaminate the rest of the world! I will motivate you, Private Pyle, IF IT SHORT-DICKS EVERY CANNIBAL ON THE CONGO!”
(Full Metal Jacket)
“Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck
Drop five bombs, fuck that I’m on”
(“Bliss” by Flatbush Zombies)
“I wish I had a bullet fucking big enough to kill the sun.
I’m sick of songs about the summer.
And I hate everyone.
I’m gonna load my rifle and aim it at the dying star.
I want to live in a bubble.
I need a getaway car.
Hate, rain on me.
Hate, rain on me.”
(“Hate Rain on Me” by Andrew Jackson Jihad)
I don’t know if that helps or not but the other option was just mashing on the keyboard until it felt cathartic. “Looks like Star Wars.” Dumb, that’s dumb, that’s a dumb thing to say. You wanna know what else looked like Star Wars? The prequels, and a million shitty Star Wars knock-offs. But more importantly THE PREQUELS. THE PREQUELS. THE MOTHERFUCKING PREQUELS. Learn your lesson. Not all Star Wars is good Star Wars. Super 8 looks like a Spielberg movie. None of these things are good. And some of them are the prequels. “Looking like Star Wars” should be the least of our worries. It’s the easiest part.
The second camp of praise is even more obnoxious though. Remember when they were casting this movie and everyone was pissed at the lack of women? Well these same people have spun completely around and are salivating over how much Abrams is “listening.” Because the twenty seconds of footage includes a black dude and a woman. Do you know what other trailer meets this stringent criteria?
I even read an article about how the robot in the trailer is probably a female robot and how great that is. All but threw up in my mouth. The genderless ball gets called a female by the SPFX team? Start the presses, trenchant gender inequality has been defeated by the might of JJ Abrams. Racism? A thing of the past! All thanks to our lord and saviour. WWJJAD.
Representation in film is great, don’t mistake my sarcasm for opposition, it’s a real problem in the film industry and it’s worth getting excited about in certain circumstances. But guess what? We know nothing about these characters. We don’t even know who the main characters actually are. We do know they cared the least about casting women, but hey, that lightsaber with a guard is probably a Venus symbol so it’s gotta be a civic rights accomplishment.
Also that lightsaber is fucking dumb. All that cross-guard would do is carefully direct an opponent’s blade towards the little inch of hilt between the blade and the guard that the device presumably needs to work. Now looking for logic in Star Wars’ vision of combat is an utterly futile and frustrating effort (how about actual lasers, they’re hard to block), but maybe drawing our attention to it with a fiercely dumb new lightsaber design isn’t ideal.
The thing is I’m actually looking forward to is the second wave of Star Wars spin-offs. Rian Johnson’s doing episode eight! Writing and directing! The awesome director behind The Brothers Bloom, Brick, and Looper! That’s amazing! Gareth Edwards is doing a spin-off, and if there’s anyone capable of capturing the pseudo-mythological, icon-charged tone that a Star Wars film needs it’s him. Godzilla proves that and then some. When the trailers come out for those suckers I might get excited. Some talent backing up the film would make me way more hopeful.
As opposed to the situation now. When we have no information on the story. No reason to believe JJ Abrams won’t make another JJ Abrams movie. No real evidence to support any kind of enthusiasm. All we have is a handful of video clips that “look like Star Wars.”
So no, I didn’t get excited by this trailer. There’s no information to support that kind of reaction to it. Instead it’s left me kind of sad. There are a handful of critics and websites I legitimately have less respect for now. No shred of valuable writing from otherwise solid critics. Star Wars has blinded them, and there’s no reason past the worst one – nostalgia. Is there a less professional response for a critic? I loved Star Wars for ages. I still like that world a lot. Not recognizing nostalgia can completely blind you, and getting so swept up in it with so little reason is terrifying. The absolute lack of reasonable self-awareness kind of terrifies me. How can I trust a writer to be impartial if the mere fact that a movie features two little monosyllabic rhyming words causes him to invent a narrative in which the movie is surely good, is surely diverse, is surely worthy of discussion and analyses already.
I wanted to post two Star Wars articles. Or at least two articles that referenced Star Wars in the title. The second one would have been this one. The first one would’ve looked like an analysis of the film and instead been literally anything else. Because JJ Abrams twenty seconds of uninformative footage isn’t worthy of this much attention. There are too many legitimately good movies out there to spend so much time and energy on this one that super nostalgic people think might be good. I feel defeated having exhausted 2000 words on the subject. Fuck this trailer, who cares. Wait till a longer trailer. Wait till some news. Wait till the bloody movie comes out. Then we can discuss it like reasonable people who’ve gone in with an open mind to judge a movie based purely on its own merits. Until then, fuck Star Wars, go do something better with your time. Watch better movies. Write better articles.
While you’re here, if you like the titles I’ve been making you can see a gallery of them over here: the3rdwall.wordpress.com