Midweek Memo: My Enthusiasm Awakens

This post is part of our weekly newsletter, the Midweek Memo. Subscribe to it here.


If you listen to the show with any regularity, you probably already know where I stand on J.J Abrams’s upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really expressed just how much Star Wars once meant to me. As a child I was a huge fan of the original Star Wars films. For years I popped in a VHS tape of Episode IV, V, or VI every night before going to bed. If my love for film has an origin story, it begins with those three movies.

But as I grew older my horizons expanded, and Star Wars slowly drifted from my orbit. This was in no small part due to the prequels. I’ll attempt to spare you the redundant laundry list of complaints everyone throws out for Episodes I, II, & III, but I will say this; those were the first Star Wars films I ever saw in theaters, and they likely play a key role in my lack of fanboy enthusiasm for anything today.

Attack of the Clones was the greatest letdown I’ve ever experienced in a theater. Sure, the plot of The Phantom Menace was convoluted and plenty of things felt forced or unnecessary. Why did Anakin Skywalker need to be an annoying child? Was it really necessary to portray Padmé Amidala as a cradle-robbing teen cougar?  The second sentence of the opening crawl was, “The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.” Did ole Did George Lucas earnestly believe this was the most engaging way to return to his beloved franchise??

Maybe it was a rocky start, but there was still hope. When Menace ended and the credits began to roll there was still plenty to look forward to. We were promised TWO MORE STAR WARS MOVIES! The jump from A New Hope to Empire Strikes Back was a massive leap in tone and story. Attack of the Clones could surely do the same! Anakin wasn’t going to be a little boy anymore, AND WE WERE FINALLY GOING TO SEE THE INFAMOUS CLONE WARS!!

Remember how A New Hope opened?

ANewHopeOpeningCrawl-01

Civil war! A hidden base! The evil Galactic Empire! I couldn’t have been more excited to see where all of this began.

But we didn’t get any of that, not really anyway. Anakin was older, but worse than ever with his raging case of mood swings brought on by PMS, profuse midi-chlorians syndrome. And The Clone Wars? We got two hours of Anakin & Padmé rolling in the hay and about twenty minutes of nearly inconsequential clone army action.

Attack of the Clones took my enthusiasm, my optimism, my childlike wonder and crushed them all. I drifted to the dark side. I let go of Star Wars.

Empire-DarthVader-01

Like Old Ben Kenobi, I tried to put the past behind me. When I stopped watching the same three tapes on repeat I found that there was an infinitely vast world of cinema to explore.

Then one day the unthinkable happened. George Lucas relinquished control of the Star Wars franchise, effectively expanding its potential to infinite possibilities. The middle schooler in me who bought (and played with) action figures long after it was socially acceptable to buy (and play with) action figures began to dig his way out. After all, I didn’t hate the franchise. I hated what Lucas did with the franchise.

My reluctant enthusiasm has been all over the place since then. The announcement of J.J. Abrams taking the reins terrified me. Mission Impossible 3 was okay. Star Trek was great!  Super 8 was masturbatory. Star Trek Into Darkness would have provoked an unenthusiastic shrug as a stand-alone film, but as a sequel to a solid picture, it showed serious signs of atrophy. Abrams was actually at the top of my fantasy “directors who could resurrect Star Wars” list five years earlier, but when he was announced I approached with caution.

There was also the announcement that Luke, Leia, and Han would be in Abrams’s film. The universe is so vast. He could explore anything he wanted. And those characters had an acceptable send off in Jedi. Why do we need to see them 30+ years later?? It feels like pandering fandering. I don’t like it.

Then, just over a year ago, a new hope arose. I began to actively care about Star Wars again.Why? RIAN. JOHNSON. When he was announced to direct Episode VII and pen VII & VIII I was floored. Johnson has been one of my absolute favorite working writer/directors since his debut feature, Brick. He’s young, he’s intuitive and innovative, and he he hasn’t even come close to reaching his full potential as a filmmaker. He has accomplished incredible feats with tiny budgets. I can only imagine what he’ll do with  a Star Wars-sized sandbox.This changed everything. But there’s still one little hurdle to overcome before we get to see Johnson’s take on Star Wars.

Abrams.

He’s remained a variable that I am reluctant to trust. Sure, the teaser trailers look cool, but plenty of trailers look awesome. Plus there’s that exhaustingly unnecessary push-zoom.

SWTFA-06

 

Then this happened last week at SDCC:

And with that, my fervor for The Force Awakens has reached a measurable level of excitement. I mean, yeah, this is just a really well made behind-the-scenes video with awesome music and a great pace, but there was still enough to get my heart a-fluttering, like:

SWTFA-01

PRACTICAL EFFECTS!

SWTFA-02

CELULOID!!

SWTFA-04

A GONK DROID!!!

SWTFA-03

A STORM TROOPER WITH A FLAME THROWER!!!!

 

I even had a small change of heart on the inclusion of the original cast in Awakens.

While I still think expanding the story has the most potential, seeing Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford here makes me reconsider my previous opposition.

SWTFA-CC-CF-01

SWTFA-CC-HF-01

SWTFA-CC-MH-01

Look at those faces! I’ve been afraid of how the years would look on these characters, but if I’m being honest, I really love the way each looks. Fisher looks older, but still strong and beautiful. While the guys have aged considerably, they have the perfect look the rough and lived-in Star Wars universe I fell in love with as a child. I’m sold. I don’t know how good The Force Awakens will be, but it can’t be any worse than Into Darkness, right? If nothing else I think I can probably ride the wave of nostalgia through Episode VII before setting my hopes sky-high for Episode VIII.

 

…BUT, then there’s also this thing:

SWTFA-CC-WTF-01

Dammit Abrams! This is why we can’t have nice things!!


Can someone please tell me how the hell a Goomba ended up on set of The Force Awakens?

If you know what this hideous creature is or have any ideas let us know on Facebook or Twitter.