Weekly Thoughts 12
Sincerity in an Age of Irony
The Star Wars teaser was released last week and if it was any indication of how the film will turn out it looks to be a step in the right direction for the series.
The universally detested prequels were released starting in 1999, looking back now this seems to be the most ill-timed period for these films to be released. This was the rise of the internet era, a time where technology quickly changed and shifted the way that we interact as well as the way we discuss things. With the internet came a rise in snark, irony, and viral capacities.
Star Wars as a series is perhaps as sincere as they come, sure there are some parts that are straight up cool–the light saber duels, Vader’s voice, the Millennium Falcon–but there are a lot of things you have to accept in order to fully commit to the series. The first film hinges on the Rebel Alliance exploiting the weaknesses of the Death Star by X-Wings attacking one spot which inexplicably can destroy the whole thing (see, this sentence alone shows that there is no real way to talk about this film without sounding utterly and sincerely ridiculous). Another part of the first film features a tense scene where the characters wonder whether they will be squished to death in a garbage compacter. One of the series’ most beloved characters is a silly little alien who phrases things backwards for no real explained reason. Even the series shocking twist–that evil villain Darth Vader is in fact Luke’s father–feels a little dumb when you think about it. Really? His father? Good one.
If these films had been released in the internet age, perhaps they too might have been ridiculed. After all, the type of nerd who first got into Star Wars, obsessing over each character’s details and backstories is probably the cynical commenter who sits at home spewing hate on message boards all over the net today.
The new films followed this same format, George Lucas gave us new alien characters, more lightsaber duels, and cool racing ships, but instead of falling in love with them we laughed and cringed. And I mean, these were bad, there’s no denying that, but perhaps the time period had more to do with it than the actual creations themselves. The over the top sincerity required to accept the Jar Jar Binks storyline was nowhere to be found on the internet as it had once been found with Yoda. The Gungans and pod racers didn’t make the impact that was expected. Sure, most of the time they were over the top charicatures more focused on being children’s toys than anything that would hold up at all in the viewers imagination. Yes the CGI and the script were also pretty bad, but these might have been ignorable if the film had not been released into this climate.
This new Star Wars seems to have fixed these problems–or is at least attempting to scale down what the prequels were so guilty of 15 years ago. It’s subtle and smaller scaled when it needs to be. The changes in costume and design are small. The majority of the shots shown are on the simplest planet of them all–Tatooine–the sand covered desert where it all began. Where the teaser does go sincere is in the most heart tugging moments of our nostalgia–X-Wing pilots, the Millennium Falcon, John Williams’ classic score.
Our generation has grown up a little bit, we’re more accepting of sincerity, especially when it’s not shoved down our throats. From the teaser Disney and Abrams seem to be aiming for a Star Wars that fits this generation (it is even progressive in its choice to show a black actor and a female character in its first two shots–something all Star Wars movies have lacked over the years).
I’m still skeptical, we’ve all been burned by reboots enough to warrant suspicion, but for two minutes last week the Star Wars universe was something I was excited to reenter into again.