The End of Star Wars Image

Believe me, I’m test case zero for this material. In the summer of 1977, my sister and I were taken to the (now demolished) Century dome at the old Century theaters complex in San Jose, CA. We were captured by robots. And Princesses. And mythology. We were handed a new version of the oldest subject matter in the world and it worked like a charm, a magic portal that led us into a whole new world that, for decades, Sci-Fi writers already had their finger on, the collective pulse of a nation ready for such a thing to manifest in such a hugely influential way. It may be difficult to understand for someone born after 1990 or someone who considers mixed martial arts the apex of popular culture, but there was a time when there was so little magical, world-changing content available that we stood in lines that wrapped around blocks for hours just to see the one ‘space’ movie a year that was released. In the long summers we would wait day after day for the postman to arrive and only then finding out if we’d received the latest issue of Bantha Tracks, the fan club newsletter (yes, I still have all my old issues). George Lucas’ ability to recontextualize and reframe ancient stories like the hero’s journey through a cinematic lens was testament not only to his vision but to the times that they were born out of. The 70s for kids was a wasteland. People like to use words like cultural landscape today, but in 1977 there literally wasn’t one. We lived in a world largely unknown to the titans of industry, unavailable to the adult masters of the universe. It was real, uncaptured magic. We raced through our neighborhoods in privacy and excitement. But no more.

“We know the pattern: watch six months of trailers leading up to the event, see the movie, watch that new Disney show, retell the Adam Driver story you read in Variety, stay in the loop, we can talk about this s**t forever…”

Today, we are watched over and monitored by machines of loving grace. Benevolent, Palpatine-like overlords that can grant our every wish, our every desire. There is nothing we may ever want nor need in this reality that the machine will not provide. It is all knowing, all encompassing, all powerful. We are aggregate. Ours was the first generation to be offered up, test cases all; coarse material that taught the masters how to capitalize on the dreams and desires of youth, how to build their pillars of doom. It’s sometimes seems impossible to stop. Honestly ask yourself, which is easier to imagine: the end of capitalism, or the end of the world? We live on the Death Star, and as proof I offer you this fact: in 2017, over fifty thousand people spent one hundred dollars on lightsabers that can’t even kill someone.

We love to swim in our own nostalgia, our experiences and knowledge form the backbone of all our friendships and discourses. But here we’ve become totally okay with a generation who was taught that wearing Obey or Black Sabbath shirts isn’t ironic, they’re not even sure what any of it means. Who cares who Black Sabbath is, anyway? The shirt looks cool, isn’t that enough? We know the pattern: watch six months of trailers leading up to the event, see the movie, watch that new Disney show, retell the Adam Driver story you read in Variety, stay in the loop, we can talk about this s**t forever. I’m just saying that, as an adult who was more influenced by Star Wars than anyone I’ve ever known, it’s time to put down the lightsabers. Walk outside. Get on a bus. Go see the world. Turn away from the machine. Star Wars will always be my all-time favorite film, hands down. It set me on a course that changed my life, in the best of all possible ways. Like Frank Zappa said, we was born to have adventures. But that was a long time ago. And when you go see The Rise of Skywalker, which you must, do something different afterwards. Walk away from it all, if only for an afternoon. I’m sure we’ll all have a lot to talk about.

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  1. Post-Punk Monk says:

    This caught my eye. I was 14 when Star Wars hit. I found out about it because I read Time Magazine every week in the junior high library. I was a sci-fi fan, so I was primed. But it took me until August to see the thing since my parents didn’t go to movies; that was what TV was for. When I saw it, I was most impressed by the effects which were a paradigm shift, and honestly, by the industrial design inside the Death Star. I was too old to play with the toys, but I scratch built a crude X-Wing from wood since I couldn’t wait for the model kits. Once the kits arrived, I built them, bought the comic books, and got Joe Johnston’s sketchbook. I went that far into the merch thing.

    When ESB came out three years later, I was in high school, and we left school that day and went to the theater to see in in huge 70 MM. Twice. Yep, it was the goods. One of my friends saw it and loved it but had not seen “Star Wars.” I was incredulous. “You’ve got to see ‘Star Wars!'” I bought the two “Art Of Star Wars” volumes since I was a budding graphic designer. My friends talked about SW for months, and every month or for at least a year, my friend would call up and say “wanna see ‘Empire?'” And off we’d go for our fix. I still built the models. I scratch built a really good Y-wing this time.

    Three years later we were in college. ROJ came out and we saw it on the day of opening again. Talk about wind leaving the sales! Some of it was down to plotting and direction. Some of it was down to maturation. The effects were better than ever. I still chuckle at that motion-control porn shot where dozens of T.I.E. fighters were thrown at the camera P.O.V. But that didn’t seem to matter too much. We only saw this one once as opposed to the dozen or more times we paid for ESB tickets. I bought the new models but sat on them for years. When I did make them around 1985 or so my modeling skills had gone way up, but my enthusiasm went way down. The A/B/Y-wing I stopped halfway through doing putty on the Speeder Bike trooper. A line was crossed.

    By the late 80s I bought the widescreen CBS-FOX laserdiscs but all of the garbage mattes looked like hell from the interpositive used to master from, so I never enjoyed watching them. I got the THX laserdisc box in the early 90s. It wasn’t cheap. I had hoped that they had cleaned up the garbage mattes but no, they were still visible. I think I watched that box once when my wife was finally going past “Star Wars” in her viewing. By that time, if I ran across someone who hadn’t seen “Star Wars” I’d admonish them not to bother. I wish it had ended there.

    The re-release full of gratuitous effects that destroyed the framing came out in 1997. We went with an older friend in his 40s to see the first one. That totally didn’t work! As much as I still had fond memories of ESB I sat out the other two re-releases. Then the prequel dropped in 1999 and we went with the same couple as in 1997 and that was even worse. It all ended there. I grew up a geek, sure, but I apparently moved on without really intending to. I had stopped reading comics by the time I was 30. Even the cool, non genre alternative comics had lost their allure.

    After Tim Burton’s “Batman,” the modern superhero genre slowly took flight to the point where it’s the event horizon of the motion picture industry itself! I have to say that I feel for what Scorsese is saying. I’ve not seen any superhero film past the horrifying 3rd Batman film with Val Kilmer in the role. Personally, I cannot fathom the women at my work in their 60s who will watch Marvel movies. I’m not rigid. I have seen a few science fiction films in the last 20 years that I thought were honest successes in the genre; “Gattaca” and “Arrival” for certain, but any film that has visuals and effects as its calling card just leaves me dead cold. For the last half of my life, I’m hungry for political and emotional truth, and I’ve learned that genre film is not where to find it. I encourage anyone to just drop “Star Wars” if it feels like a perfunctory experience to you. Your mind is trying to tell you something.

  2. Macrae Peeples says:

    I read this whole article with a lump in my throat. Because, as an adult I remember all of this, and as a parent, I see the difference. Yes, my kids still get excited for months, but they also have so much filler, ie the cartoons, the Mandalorian, the MERCHANDISE (holy hell the MERCHANDISE and cross marketing is outrageous). It is so important to remember to adventure, but this is a great reminder. It’s so easy to walk out of the theater and continue on with the GRIND that this world delivers day in and out. But yes, as parents it is so important for us to put in that extra effort and adventure with our kids. Great read.

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