Not the Droid You're Looking For

I'm not a perfect person. Like everyone else, I suffer from a wide variety of major and minor personality flaws which in many ways helps to identify my individuality, but at the same time tends to leave me vulnerable at times for missed opportunities, disappointment, and public ridicule and/or shame. But the strange thing is that one of these perceived flaws has actually turned into something of an social asset over the years:
My never-ending sense of Star Wars nerdosity.
There was a time when Star Wars geeks were just a smaller subset of the larger nerd demographic. Groups of socially awkward, shut-ins who obsessed over a series of 30-year old kids movies that the rest of society enjoyed catching on cable once in a while, but never really made that big of a deal out of after a certain age.
But then something changed.
Over the years, part of what kept the Star Wars fanboys from falling too deep off the cliff was the fact that the movies themselves were rarely shown on television. An occasional holiday marathon somewhere in deep cable, the limited VCR set or laserdisc -- if you felt a deep love for the movies themselves, you were partially shielded from social ridicule by the nostalgia factor involved.

Oh sure you could take the plunge yourself and lose yourself in the deep waters of fan-fiction, comic books, dressing up as characters at the conventions, or whatever -- but for a lot of us, the draw was simply a love for a trilogy of movies we really liked when we were younger, and the characters that made it memorable.

It's not like we were Trekkies, who always seem to take things too far -- dressing like their favorite characters when they go to jury duty or some other wacky BS like learning to speak Klingon for college credit.

In other words, Star Wars nerds could always manage to have a life outside of it.

You could like other movies, other genres, or even members of the opposite sex. A lot of times you could even ply your love of Star Wars into some sort of social tool -- where if you discovered other people liked the movies you might get mileage our of talking about it once in a while, as long as you didn't get too deep into things or start correcting them if they mispronounced the names of minor characters or whatever.

In fact, when the talk started up many years ago that there were going to be three new prequels made, many people who hadn't really thought much of the series got really excited for the thing all over again. There were lines around theaters, and the toys started selling in bigger numbers again, and to a small extent the people who were into it (as long as they weren't too into it) gained a little ground in society because of the retro cool cred that came with the original films.
Then the prequels came out, and the cycle started right back over again.
Because much like I imagine my parents felt back in 1977 when I was climbing the walls wanting to see Star Wars for the billionth time in a row, a lot of us were faced with a series of really bad films that a lot of people seemed to love anyways. Kids flocked to this flawed second-rate copy of the original, and a lot of us began to drift away from it because we felt burned by the entire process once we began to see the films for what they really were.

Not that I don't still love me some original trilogy, but that right up until the moment Jar Jar Binks appeared on the screen I'd gotten overconfident in the product -- elevating it to a level of greatness that it had never really deserved.

In other words, living in a world where every Kevin Smith movie and Family Guy joke was filled with some sort of aside to the trilogy had put me in a mental place where I sorta started to believe my own hype and forget that part of one of the things I'd always loved about Star Wars despite it's coolness -- was that it was always kinda campy.

There weren't really any messages taken from eastern philosophy. No huge meanings. There were suggestions at deeper themes, sure -- but in the end it was just a bunch of actors in bad costumes pretending to shoot lasers at puppets in front of blue screens that would be painted in sometime later by the effects crew.
Fun to watch, yeah -- but in the end not really as big a deal as a lot of us were making it out to be.
As a result, normal people and Star Wars nerds alike sorta backed away from the movies, and rightfully handed them over to their kids (many of whom were getting annoyed at us hogging their lightsabers anyways). The release of the prequels followed by all the special-edition tinkering with the originals and new barrage of tie-in marketing woke a lot of us up to the schlock factor that we'd been kinda blinded to in the past.
Suddenly it seemed kinda stupid to be a 30 year old with a Darth Vader toothbrush.
Oh sure you could still have love for Darth Vader, but suddenly having a mint condition, plastic-encased, never-opened shrine to him in your office cubicle started to lose a big part of its appeal.

Those of us who had bought the videogames and secretly practiced our lightsabre tricks at home were suddenly looking at the guy who was dressing up as one of the lesser characters from the prequels at a fan convention and thinking to ourselves, "Geez -- let it go already."
And it is at that exact moment that I believe George Lucas finally achieved his victory.
George Lucas, the visionary behind the movies -- who made millions of dollars and the respect of Hollywood from their success, was also a man who had spent the better part of two decades trying to escape their shadow so he could go on to make other films. He's never publically been anything but proud of the franchise, but it's been as much of an albatross for him as it has been a success.
Simply put, the fans wouldn't let it go.
They hounded and pushed, they held conventions, they wrote crappy novels. I'll bet Lucas received millions of letters and scripts suggesting ideas to re-start the movie series. And yes, he continued to make millions on memorabilia and tie-in marketing.

I'm sure part of it was Lucas drinking the Kool-Aid and believing his own hype. But I also can't help but feel like a big part of it was payback. Cold, calculated vengeance.

He unleashed new movies with awful characters and half-finished plots, he re-saturated the market with cheap toys. He attacked where it hurt the most, giving your children cute and cuddly characters they couldn't help but love that sorta spit in the face of everything you loved about the original series when you were young. He put in fart jokes, loaded the movies with cloying child actors and computer generated comedic relief. In short, he made three modern-era Star Wars movies that were so opposed to everything that made the originals work that a lot of the fans began to look foolish for standing by and protesting their popularity, dragging us right back into the nerd ranks everytime we whined about plotholes or problems with character continuity.

It was like a girl that you were always pestering for a date pulling that move where suddenly she was all over you, talking marriage and kids and commitment and sorta freaking you out with all her intensity even though you thought that's what you'd always wanted in the first place.
But he didn't stop there. Then he went for the jugular, releasing even more movies followed by new TV shows. Things that were so cloying that suddenly it started to create a divide between you and your own kids who loved it. Now when you try to share it with them, they focus on the things you don't like.

Now you're forced to endure Star Wars with them, to the point where you maybe find yourself starting to get a little sick of the whole thing.
Much the way Lucas probably felt at some point along the way himself.
And I'd love to be the one to stand up and say to him, "Hey, bro -- sorry about all that, guess we got kinda out of hand there for a while." But really, it's too late. Dude's committed now. He's pushed all his chips in, and we're gonna just have to eat it.

My son loves R2-D2. Thinks he's the absolute coolest, followed by Yoda, General Grievous, and Jango Fett. And that's all well and good, but do you know what's it's like for me when it becomes abundantly clear that Han Solo -- the coolest guy in the entire SW universe -- doesn't really rate crap in my kids view of things?

That hurts, George. That cuts really deep.

And I don't think I'm the only one who thinks so, either.
The other day I was in Target with my son picking up a few groceries, which lead of course to browsing through the toy aisle. We weren't going to buy anything, but there's no harm in letting him look (especially with Christmas coming up).

But while he was checking out the latest Ben 10 toys, I found myself sort of absently staring at the Star Wars displays when I noticed something kind of odd.

See, for a while now they've been selling these things called Star Wars Galactic Heroes -- which are essentially playskool versions of star wars toys. Over-cartoony caricatures with fewer small parts for little kids to play with.

And in the midst of these was something called "Star Wars The Clone Wars Galactic Heroes Game Anakin Skywalker vs. Count Dooku" -- which is apparently some sort of board game based off the characters from the second prequel.

Count Dooku, as many of you probably already know was played in the movie by veteran character actor Christopher Lee, who brought with him to the role a sculpted white beard that added a sense of age and upper-crust sensibility to the character.

And like I said, these toys were intended for younger kids -- so they've rounded out their features and made the villains a little less menacing, so as not to scare their intended audience, which occasionally leads to the toys not exactly resembling the movie characters they are based off of.

But am I the only one who looks at this picture and maybe sees something (or more to the point -- someone) else?
There used to be a time when George Lucas had final say over everything that bore his license. But I can't really believe that he knew about this one. At the same time, I'm more than a little amazed that no one at Milton Bradley noticed the resemblance here that it appears some sly graphic designer found a way to sneak in there --
Unless they were in on it as well.

[Listening To:  Ice Cube"Wicked" ]

Comments

Heff said…
I'm sorry, I've never understood the whole Star Wars thing, and I even went to see it as a kid. It's just not my bag, I guess.
Werdna said…
I've played that game with my kid- Obi Wan vs Grievous. It is more fun than I thought it would be.

On the other hand Count Dooku = George Lucas.
Satorical said…
You know it took a lot for me to be over Star Wars, but I'm over it.

Ebert used the word "joyless" in his review of AOTC, and I think that nails the whole problem with the new movies.
whatigotsofar said…
Truth be told, there's really only two Star Wars movies worth watching again, Empire and Return. That first movie, really isn't all that special.

But I still think that Lucas should be reamed with one of those toy lightsabres for that second trilogy. God those movies sucked.
Hex said…
Heff -- it certainly wasn't for everyone, but it was fun for a while.

Werdna -- I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees it

Satorical -- They're forced. It's Elvis doing karate kicks in Vegas, and that's never a good look.

WIGSF -- It's almost shocking how bad they are, considering the scale of them and the pedigree of many of the people involved.
Monster said…
1) I heart rebel graphic designers. Power to the People (with Photoshop)!

2) Joseph Campbell wrote the basic outline of the whole trilogy and helped with the actual story of Eps. 4 & 5 as an experiment with film as a medium for the modern myth. He got over it and started back to work on his (sadly unfinished) masterwork before he died and wasn't around much for Return of the Jedi. Clearly, he wasn't around at all when Eps 1-3 were penned, and thus are they sad shells of things, missing the underlying resonance that allowed us to enjoy the campy first three films without shame.

This is a completely made-up, but not unsubstantiated, theory of my own design. These are not the views of 20th Century Fox or its subsidiaries.
Hex said…
Monster -- I'm with you, there was a depth of love in the creation of such silly films that there was something unique about them even in their simple style that's simply lacking in the newer versions.