This year’s Star Wars Day sensed a disturbance in the force and it was awesome.
On May 4, 2017, a Green Bay, Wisconsin high school student attending school dressed as Darth Vader and accidentally caused the school to be evacuated. Some paranoiac panicked at the site of the Sith Lord and called the cops. Class attendance got blown up like a death star.
Obviously, school sucks and the nerd’s a hero. But just as important is the extreme level of pop culture ignorance necessary for someone to fail to recognize Darth Vader. We need to see it for what it is: an encouraging sign that the force choke Star Wars has on our collective imagination might be finally be relaxing.
It’s been thirty plus years since America met Star Wars. The thrill’s been gone for a while but there’s too much money sloshing around the intellectual property for it to stop. But the movies are trash compactors that no amount of clever thinking or droid-like intervention will save us from. With every flaw the movies fix, the fundamental issues become more apparent.
Remember the crushing disappointment of the prequels? They were so shiny and clean, so full of Jar Jar Binks and so lacking in Han Solo that they didn’t really feel like Star Wars movies. Sure, they had Jedis, but they weren’t the mysterious cowboy samurai of the old movies. They were videogame karate guys with bizarre rat tails. And for what was supposed to be an epic tragedy, Annakin went in with a whimper and out with a whine.
JJ Abrams and the Disney corporation heard those complaints and addressed them all. They made a movie that looked as grimy and shopworn as the original trilogy. They brought back Han Solo. They took a mulligan on Anakin Skywalker and gave a more fleshed out revamp in Kylo Ren. They didn’t just give us Han Solo, they gave us the Millennium Falcon and Chewie, too. Hey, remember Chewie! The Jedi reacquired a sense of grandeur and mystery.
But it was hollow and unsatisfying coast on nostalgia. A new dread emerged. Is every movie gonna be about death stars? Does every main character have to be related in some way? And once the thrill of seeing the Millennium Falcon in action faded, the silly crap scribbled in the movie’s margins became more evident.
The Disney Corporation heard those complaints as well and made Rogue One, a movie with a serious tone and dozens of characters who shared no DNA whatsoever with the Skywalker family. And it got better as it went along. And then everybody died, which was a more powerful ending then I could possibly imagine. But despite the unassailable last act, it was a cluttered movie with cardboard characters and an impenetrable story.
Next up is The Last Jedi, continuing the story we’ve all forgotten about from The Force Awakens. Then there’s a young Han Solo movie. Then another one and another one and after a while global warming reaches its most brutal final stages and we wish for quiet death.
But perhaps there is a new hope. They could made a movie out of that awesome nerd shutting down school for the day.