Okay, so the new Star Wars movie is out… and I’m sick of hearing about it. It’s headline news on the BBC! What’s with that? It’s a film. The public broadcasting network of the UK is hyping a film for Disney! Gah!
So, I have this love/hate relationship with Star Wars. I was twelve when the first movie was released (which is called Star Wars, not Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, just for the record). It blew me away. I read the novelisation, I collected models and figures, and I stood in the huge line outside my local cinema (with my long-suffering mother) to see it. We scraped in: they had to close the doors as the theatre was full and we were about the last people in. I had never had to stand in a queue to get into a cinema before. I won’t say that my love of sci-fi came from Star Wars, because I had to go see it because I was already into the genre and this was really the only genre movie there was. It did start the modern Hollywood love affair with effects movies (I won’t say sci-fi, because there’s relatively little of that made these days).
But… The Empire Strikes Back was cool, but far too much of a middle movie. Return of the Jedi was overly repetitive, and while I didn’t hate the Ewoks I was starting to get irritated with the commercialism. I have never sat through all of the “first three episodes.” I just wasn’t interested, and I refused to give George Lucas any more of my money since he didn’t seem to care about anything else and he was trashing my childhood.
On top of that, my tastes changed. Star Wars is space opera and I was gravitating toward grittier stuff. When Alien came out I wasn’t allowed to go see it: too young, but I was in university when Aliens hit the cinemas. I saw Aliens three times in a week. (As an aside, that was fascinating. The jump-scare with the face-hugger in the tank made me jump, twice. The third time it was like I leaned forward as the entire audience went up and back around me. Surreal.) And I started seeing the flaws in my old love. The clichés started looking a bit too clichéd. I still think Star Wars stands up, even after all this time, but I don’t hold it quite as high on the list of great sci-fi movies as most fans do. I don’t even have a copy of it in my collection.
The Force Awakens is reawakening my interest. Or it was until the level of hype began to make me wish I lived on Mars (maybe Venus: it’s warm there this time of year). For one thing, it’s not Lucas. J. J. Abrams has a spotty career as far as my enjoyment of his work is concerned. I’m glad I never got into Lost. I liked Fringe until it got weird (I know that seems redundant, but it’s not). Super 8 was weak, but I’ve enjoyed the new Star Trek movies and I have high hopes that the new Star Wars may well be worth some attention. But, damn, it’s going to have to be something truly fantastic to live up to expectations.
What I hope (no, it’s not an entirely new hope) is that this is going to mark the start of a new burst of proper sci-fi films. Along with Guardians of the Galaxy (which is also a space opera and one I really enjoyed), The Force Awakens may be a sign that Hollywood is going to produce some quality sci-fi rather than relying on horror set in space and teen fantasy. If that’s the result of this… awesome!