I didn’t want to get caught up in all the mega hype over the new Star Wars movie. When I first started hearing about it I honestly didn’t care all that much. But then the hype machine did its job and it became all I heard about on social media. And people started talking to me about it, assuming I was excited and had a lot to say on the subject.
People have always pegged me as a big Star Wars nerd, but my level of fandom is pretty average compared to the insanely devoted followers out there. Maybe it’s because I played a big Star Wars fan in a high school movie and the follow up movie also had some allusions to the space opera. Maybe it’s just geek culture profiling and they assume since I’m into comics I’m into all the popular nerdy stuff. I don’t know, but for a lot of people I seem to be the Star Wars guy in their lives.
So everyone assumed I was stoked, and as the onslaught kept coming I actually found myself getting excited. So I took my seven year old son to see the movie on the Sunday of the opening weekend. And I loved. The Force Awakens is a lot of fun, and does a great job of capturing what I enjoyed about the old movies while making it feel modern.
My son had also gotten caught up in all the hype, despite never seeing any of the previous movies. So I did my best to tell him the stories. I wanted to show them to him, but they weren’t available for free on any streaming and weren’t on TV. Yeah, I’m a pretty cheap guy. I think Disney greed made sure you have to pay to see them. And they were pretty expensive everywhere I found them. So I just talked about them.
I pretty much grew up on the original trilogy, and I remember it being on TV a lot. So much that it wasn’t a big deal to see it, and it might be on in the middle of the day. I might not even stop channel surfing when it was on since it was on all the time. My grandparents also had a vhs box set that I could watch whenever I wanted. I also remember being exposed to a lot of Star Wars at a pretty early age while watching Muppet Babies. They must have had some deal, because I remember seeing a lot of footage from Star Wars and Indiana Jones mixed into those cartoons, and they muppets dressing like the characters and acting out the stories.
I’m not sure how many years it had been since I’d seen the movies, but as I described them to my son and saw the new movie my nostalgia grew. I also wanted to make sure my son got a chance to see them. So finally I caved in and bought the the blu ray/dvd combo pack of two box set trilogies when I found a decent deal on Amazon for $35 bucks each, and decided we were having a New Year’s Eve/Day marathon.
My son was excited, my three year old daughter was excited (“Star Wars movie!” she would shout every time she saw something Star Wars related, which is basically all the time these days.) and my wife made fun of me. So how did it go? Here’s some thoughts and observations.
I don’t get to binge watch things as much as a lot of people seem to, since I have two demanding kids, a full time job, and my time consuming “hobby” of drawing comics. So it was a little odd just to sit around watching something for so long. And I had to make sure there were pause breaks and long enough breaks between movies to accommodate everyone.
While my wife initially made fun of the idea of watching the movies and told me she thought they were boring, they ended up drawing her in, and she watched most of them with me. She got pretty interested in the story, and was weirdly anticipating the Ewoks (I think because she thinks they’re cute). Little did she know how long she’d have to wait to see them!
My son remained pretty interested throughout, though he got distracted and played with a lot of toys, and fell asleep a few times. He was also the biggest proponent for lengthy breaks between each movie. He’s got too many things to do to start one right after the other! He is ready to go see The Force Awakens again.
My daughter was pretty into Episode 1, but I think they lost her after that. She spent most of the time streaming other things on my iPhone or falling asleep. It was funny to see how the beginning of each movie sucked her in. That opening crawl blasting that amazing score grabbed her attention every time. And I’ve got to say it got me pumped up every time as well.
I debated even buying the prequel trilogy since it was such a let down when I saw it in theaters. I was in high school when it came out and had some friends who saw the Phantom Menace at the first midnight screening. It was a short half day of school for whatever reason, and as soon as it ended I did something I’ve almost never done in my life, went to the movie theater by myself. And what a disappointment the movie turned out to be!
I also debated what order to watch the movies in. I’ve never sat down to watch them all before, so I wasn’t sure how it would hold up if I went in story order versus release date order. But my son is a real stickler for chronological story order. If a prequel comes out like Monster’s University or Minions then that is the default part one. So we started with the prequels.
How was it watching the dreaded prequels? Not as horrible as I thought. Removed from all the hype and just viewed as part of the story, and getting to kind of see them through my kids’ eyes, they were pretty fun. The action seemed to keep us all invested.
They were still not great movies, and the flaws were still pretty glaring, but they were not as awful as I remembered them. I will say that watching them all at once really made the plot holes obvious when connecting them to the original trilogy.
Obi Wan and Yoda’s talks with Luke about the past didn’t really jive that well with what I had just seen. And if they want to hide Luke and Leia from Vader that was a pretty stupid way to do it. Luke kept his last name and lived on his home planet with his step brother, while Leia was raised as one of the most famous people in the universe! And Obi Wan Kenobi also “hid” on Vader’s home planet, and his big disguise was changing his name to Ben Kenobi? While Vader with all his force powers couldn’t sense any of them?
Yeah, plot wise things break down a lot. And I really never understood some of the story concerning Luke and the force to begin with. But whatever. I don’t think that story was ever Star Wars big selling point. It’s the visuals and sounds. They are spectacle movies. So how was it jumping from the advanced spectacles of the prequels to the ancient effects of the originals?
In a way it was really jarring and noticeable, but it was also pretty easy to move past that and just enjoy them. One of my biggest issues with the prequels is that the don’t look or feel like Star Wars. They don’t seem to take place in the same universe as the originals. They have a completely different visual language. And that really jumps out at you if you watch them in order.
A funny thing I noticed was that I was really excited to get to the original trilogy, but once I got there and the initial nostalgia of seeing those (mostly) original visuals wore off it kind of dragged. Maybe it’s because the prequels always have a lot going on, or I’m used to more modern movie sensibilities, or the fact that I had seen the originals so many times growing up, but it felt like a very noticeable drop in energy that I was not expecting.
I was really disappointed to find out that my original trilogy movies were actually special editions that George Lucas altered. I remember seeing some (maybe all of these) when they were released in theaters in the 90s and being excited about the updates. It seemed like such a cool idea. I was wrong. And a brief internet search will show you how obsessed Lucas has been with messing with his original movies. And he really did it with the Blu Ray release, even adding things to retcon and tie them to the prequels.
A lot of the changes were really noticeable, especially the visual ones, and took me out of the movies. A lot of the CGI is really bad and doesn’t match the rest of the movie at all. It’s trying to mix the almost video game like aesthetic of the prequels with the more gritty DIY effects of the originals, and it looks horrible. And none of it really added anything to the story or my enjoyment. They seemed like there were just there because Lucas enjoyed playing with effects and adding things. And if you do look up a list of changes it really is startling to see how much was altered that you may not notice, including dialogue.
Yeah, so that was not good. And doing a little more research it looks like it is hard to even find the original versions.
Here’s a quote from George Lucas discussing special editions.
There will only be one. And it won’t be what I would call the ‘rough cut,’ it’ll be the ‘final cut.’ The other one will be some sort of interesting artifact that people will look at and say, ‘There was an earlier draft of this.’ The same thing happens with plays and earlier drafts of books. In essence, films never get finished, they get abandoned. At some point, you’re dragged off the picture kicking and screaming while somebody says, ‘Okay, it’s done.’ That isn’t really the way it should work. Occasionally, [you can] go back and get your cut of the video out there, which I did on both American Graffiti and THX-1138; that’s the place where it will live forever. So what ends up being important in my mind is what the DVD version is going to look like, because that’s what everybody is going to remember. The other versions will disappear. Even the 35 million tapes of Star Wars out there won’t last more than 30 or 40 years. A hundred years from now, the only version of the movie that anyone will remember will be the DVD version [of the Special Edition], and you’ll be able to project it on a 20′ by 40′ screen with perfect quality. I think it’s the director’s prerogative, not the studio’s to go back and reinvent a movie.
So I guess it’s a good thing Disney owns it all now and Lucas can’t keep updating them.
Overall how did I enjoy watching all the movies again? It was fun. I did get sleepy and bored a couple of times (especially when both my kids were sleeping on my lap), but for the most part I was into it. It’s not something I’ll probably do again, but I enjoyed it. I would like to get a hold of the original versions and watch those again some time.
Am I ready for a new Star Wars movie from Disney each year, including spin offs and prequels? They reportedly already have five more planned. Meh. It’s probably going to oversaturate the market and lead to a drop in quality and the movies not feeling special. But I expect Disney to milk their 4 billion dollar investment for everything it’s worth. I’ll see you at Star Wars land!