OK so for the most part, I’m going to try and explain why I just stopped loving Star Wars like I used to. And believe me when I say I used to; I’ve probably spent more than the GDP of Timor Leste on merchandise over the years.
As tempting as it would be to foam the mouth and hate on George Lucas, I’ll try and keep it confined to analysis (but don’t worry, there will be a few dick jokes).
I grew up watching Star Wars. As someone born in 1979, it was one of three cornerstones of my childhood entertainment. The other two were the Superman films starring Christopher Reeve, and the Masters of the Universe cartoon.
My dad, bless him, taped Star Wars from Channel 10 when the overlay text confirming the station was a stodgy, thick yellow text and semi-readable logo. I vividly recall the message that the film was being “simulcast” on the FM 104.9 (Triple M) network. Dad had even paused the tape to ensure we didn’t get any ads.
For Empire and Jedi, he borrowed the neighbor’s VCR to tape copies of the tape.
This was the unaltered, pure as fuck version of Star Wars. It was goddam perfect, and you could thankfully get it again on DVD in 2007. Like any great work of art, it’s best if you don’t go back and tinker with it. Trust us on this, George.
In 1992, at a bookstore with my mother, I discovered that a “sequel” trilogy was planned in book format. It’s hard to conceive but before Star Wars novels became a lucrative market, pumping out mind-fuckingly awful fiction to an audience seemingly incapable to being discerning (or breaking the addiction), Bantam and Lucasfilm decided to write a sequel or sorts to the film. Penned by space opera veteran Timothy Zahn, this has become the only Star Wars books I’d ever re-read. Hell, they are better than the fucking prequels.
I’m taking you on this journey because it’s important to understand how long I lived with this franchise; but also, because I literally was riding the crest as it happened. I read all the books I could, played the computer and cough role-playing games (much <3, WEG), collected the merch… and yes, saw Episode 1 more than once on opening day in May 1999.
The other loves in my life, from a fiction standpoint, are James Bond and Indiana Jones. I’ve already touched on Indy, and with Bond – believe me when I say I could start and not stop talking about Bond. Total Bond expert. I still enjoy both as much as I did when I discovered them in 1987/88.
So where did it go wrong? Well, I don’t think many people would honestly disagree that Star Wars lost some of its magic. It’s natural, and if you could read the next bit in Don Draper’s voice it’ll sound much, much better:
Star Wars seduced us. It was a hint of a world or worlds unknown; unlike ours, but familiar enough that we felt we belonged. And seduction only works when you know nothing about what is seducing you. Take away the mystery, and you take away the glittering allure of the unknown and the risks and dangers associated with it.
End Draper voice.
As soon as we learned stormtroopers were all cloned Kiwis (not enough to steal our jobs, eh, you have to steal the Empire’s jobs too?!); that Boba Fett wasn’t an Eastwardian “man without a name” style badass but a super stormtrooper clone, and that Darth Vader’s tragic fall amounts to a bad day of particularly petulant whining, you’ve pulled back the curtain too far. Suddenly, instead of an ageless beauty you see now, in the light, a face heavily made up and not as appealing as it once was.
It’s a refrain we’ve heard before from some quarter, and it has divided fans; “the prequels ruined Star Wars”. To be accurate, I’d submit that the prequels ruined it by explaining too much and delivering too little. I could go further into how the fall of Vader was unconvincing and failed to elicit the intended sympathetic response, but I’m sure someone’s done a more eloquent and reasoned take on it. All I’d say is that when the fall of Arthas Menethil in Warcraft III is a better version of the Vader legend, something is not right.
(Don’t look at me like that! The Lich King is a perfect analogy for the Dark Lord of the Sith.)
The problem for me is that I can’t un-know what I know, and with the relentless over-saturation of the Star Wars brand I can’t have time to forget and consequently rediscover.
There are of course other reasons. Over-saturation is one – there’s the books, the games, the Clone Wars series (which had flashes of brilliance). But on reflection, the over-saturation adds depth to the universe and explains things, which ties into the seduction angle.
Arguing the films aren’t as good just doesn’t cut it. Star Wars is excellent but not as good as Empire; and Jedi’s not as good as either of those two but I still enjoy(ed) it. No, the curtain was pulled back too far and what I saw I did not like.
What? Of course I’ll go see Episode VII on opening night.