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Getting 'Star Wars: Episode VII' Right

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Think Pieces | October 24, 2013 | Comments ()


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When I was about five years old, my parents took me to see Return of the Jedi in theaters, reasoning that I had shown interest in science fiction stuff. I was carried bodily from the theater about fifteen minutes in as I started screaming in uncontrollable abject horror during the scenes in Jabba’s Palace. I don’t even remember these events that have been relayed down to me, my mind as blank as some miskatonic explorer brought back from below the ruins of Antarctica, feeble mortal brain incapable of retaining the depthless horror of looking on the face of the Old Ones.

In time, I recovered. By the time I was in junior high, the original trilogy was far and away my favorite set of movies. I’d watch and rewatch them, Jedi in particular as I always preferred it, Ewoks and all. I had the dialogue of the entire film committed to memory, including droid chirps and alien language. I’d come home from school, and shove Return of the Jedi into the VCR while I did homework. Damned near wore the tape out at the climactic battle. Poor Lando was about as Nubian as Carrot Top in some scenes.

This of course is all in the days before DVDs, before commentaries, special features, and director’s cuts, so the tapes were all in full screen and being watched on a television smaller than the monitor I’ve got these days. And it was before the Internet gifted us with the rabbit hole of pop culture knowledge. See whippersnappers, in those days the way you found out a movie was coming out was by either seeing the trailer while at another movie, or by opening the newspaper (I believe you call them “grandpa blogs”) and seeing what movies were opening that week.

So when I went with friends to the opening day of Independence Day, and we settled in for the previews, my mind was blown by the trailer for the re-releases of the trilogy into theaters. It was the greatest trailer I have ever known, that tiny television centered on the screen, the familiar battle over the first Death Star, only half paying attention at all since this seemed like it must be an ad for something rather than a trailer. And then with the thunder of engines and the screech of blasters, that X-wing burst out of the television, roared at us, and invited us to see them as they were meant to be seen. More individuals orgasmed in theaters during that trailer than in every shady porn theater of the 1970s.

There was a disconnect too, for those of us of a certain age. Star Wars meant television sets, other than my brief forgotten foray into Return of the Jedi. It’s weird to think about now, but at the time, movies that had come out before a certain date were in a different category. The difference between home video and in-theater was really that large such that the experience was entirely different. In the case of movies we had seen in theaters but owned at home, those copies were something lesser, they were a reminder of what we had seen in theaters more than an independent and equivalent copy of it. Movies we’d never had a chance to see in theaters, were something less, like music that even if we had loved, we had never been able to hear in stereo.

We had these endless rumors for a decade that next year, there was going to be a new trilogy. The new trilogy had been two years away for going on a decade when news of the prequels finally dropped. And gods we were excited, especially as the details trickled out, the hints that while we weren’t getting the sequels we’d always imagined, that we were getting the rise of Darth Vader instead. It’s hard to believe now, but there wasn’t a geek in North America who didn’t think this was the greatest idea in the history of science fiction. There was absolutely no way that these weren’t going to be the greatest film experience of our lives.

I suppose at some point, some of us may learn to trust again. But that depends on J.J. Abrams now. But, you know, no pressure bro.

Bring us back that enormous universe, that sense of sheer size and complexity that was washed out in the prequels. Those first films weren’t just objectively better movies than the prequels, but had that extra bit of staring into infinity. They were the sort of movies that made you dream, that made you stare up at the stars and know that there was everything up there.

That’s what I really want out of the new films, and all the other little details that sound fun are second to it. I perk up when it’s announced that Han and Luke and Leia will appear, listen with interest to how the mistakes of the prequels will be avoided, how the plot may or may not shape up. But all that is almost beside the point.

What I really want is for Abrams to bring back that joy of a farm boy looking up at the stars and believing.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here and order his novel here.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Yiğitcan Erdoğan

    i'm sorry mr. wilson but the farm boy looking at the stars is not luke; it's you. abrams will never be able to replicate that because you will never be a kid watching star wars while doing your homework. same reason why you didn't like the prequels. i was eight when episode 1 came out and i hadn't heard of star wars before. my mom just randomly put me in the auditorium while she watched a darker, more adult oriented film in the next one. as soon as the movie started, i was in love. i was in love with qui-gon and obi-wan, i was in love with the ship they used, i was in love with padme, with the pod racers, the final battle. it got my imagination racing. i was making lightsaber noises the whole way home.

    if you want to, you can find the same reasons to dislike the original trilogy. the writing is terrible (harrison ford famously said "you can type this shit george but you sure as hell can't say it" to lucas once), some characters are there simply for merchandising, some of the acting is stale... but the fact is, if you're a kid, it doesn't matter. all that matters is the endless imagination, for me. i suggest when abrams comes along with episode 7, you don't watch it as an adult whose favorite films include star wars episode 4-5 and 6; but rather, watch it as a kid who's seeing star wars for the first time... then, and only then you might find a farm boy looking up the stars and dreaming. cause to me, that farm boy was anakin.

  • Fantastic timing on this.

  • idiosynchronic

    Short answer: Look at what Brian Wood is doing with Dark Horse comic's new Star Wars series. No one's saying that the writing is Alan Moore, but he's got that grand wonderment, and doing it with Leia kicking ass and Luke being an asshole.

  • Dita Svelte

    Let JJ edit the trailer and let someone else shoot the movie. He caught that sense of wider world wonder, yonder, brilliantly in those enigmatic few minutes of Super 8 we saw before, like, the actual hot mess of a terrible movie was released.

  • commanderfunky

    "What I really want is for Abrams to bring back that joy of a farm boy looking up at the stars and believing"

    Yeah and also world peace. Good luck with that.

  • BlackRabbit

    Problem is, recreating that sense of wonder you had as a younger person or a first-time viewer is a trick that no moviemaker can accomplish. You're pining for an impossible dream. I wish it weren't so.

  • BWeaves

    I was in college when Star Wars Episode IV came out, and I had no TV or newspaper. Personal computers had not been invented yet. I would learn to program using punch cards in a couple of years. A girl in my dorm went to see Stars Wars, came back to the dorm, and proceeded to reenact the entire movie in my dorm room. I had no freaking clue what the hell she was talking about or doing, especially her impression of R2D2. I think I finally saw the movie after the summer semester ended.

    Fast forward to Episode 1. I'd started a new job at a software company. Upper management was so afraid that us geeks would ALL call in sick the day the movie premiered, that they bought us all tickets and scheduled us to go to the movie in shifts during our workday. The movie stank, but we had fun as a team outing. I remember the first shift coming back and talking about the gay, Jamaican rabbit. You know of whom I speak.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Your first story reminds me of the best scene from Reign of Fire.

  • Read any behind the scenes account of the filming of Star Wars...Lucas had a horrific time with the crew (especially) and some actors.

    At the time, he swore off film-making and it shows in subsequent years. He handed off directing duties for the next two films and when he did return, it was in a position of absolute control. He wanted nothing to do with the on set process of filming and fixed things in post.

  • janetfaust

    Really well written, and I agree 100%. For me, it was Empire that I watched time after time. I loved the drama of them hiding in the asteroid, Luke training and being humbled and challenged by this new world that had opened for him, then his brave journey to rescue his friends despite the danger. Those aspects of the story were missing for me in the next set of movies. Annakin seemed like a petulant, whiny little brat who was so easily manipulated by Palpatine and made such horrible decisions it was hard to root for him. The love story between him and Padme was weak; I could never understand why she would fall in love with him. There was no chemistry there at all. They just missed note after note in the prequels that they seemed to hit so effortlessly in the original trilogy. Not that 4-6 had intricate plots or nuanced character development, but somehow the simplicity of it all worked together. I could continue on in this vein for a while...

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I still can't understand how you fuck up the prequels as badly as they were. They're a different kind of story, I think inherently, but I believe it's a compelling story in its own right, if you don't let a hack do the thing.

  • I'm in the same boat as you, SLW. I was five when my parents took me to see Empire. I think I fell asleep but have vivid memories of waking up in time to see the duel and to hear the gasp in the audience when the words "No, I am your father" were uttered. You could hear a pin drop. That I remember clearly. I was 7 when Jedi came out and went with cousins and friends and came out a crazy-ass kid afterwards. From then on, whenever the cheap cinema near my house would play any of the Star Wars movies, I'd find a way to have a buck -- as would my brother.

    To say the Prequels were a disappointment is not doing that justice. Yes, Jar Jar and the Neimoidians were slightly racist. Yes, the actors who played Anakin Skywalker were not really up to par. And the "romance" was the most stilted, stunted thing since "Who da man? Yoda, man!"

    But the bigger mistake was Lucas' desperation to use CGI to the point of absurdity. The point of Star Wars was a "lived-in universe." The Millenium Falcon was a real ship. The base on Hoth and Yavin were real places. The Death Star had real hallways and real elevators and real doors. The Prequels made a world that never felt "real." And I know it's odd to look for that in a fantasy series, but if the world doesn't create that feeling of it being real, you can't buy the more fantastical elements behind it.

  • jon29

    In the director's commentary for Attack of the Clones, Lucas talks about messing around (digitally) with Obi Wan's robe in the Jango Fett fight scene, and he basically says that the idea was to do the bare minimum on set, and everything they possibly could do with computer effects. That's exactly backwards for Star Wars.

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