Full disclosure: I wrote this a few months ago but it was in
my notebook and I forgot about it. So here it is, all typed up.
I’ve refrained from writing about Star Wars even though I’ve
had a lot of thoughts about the new film (and about the others). Every second
person has written a reflective essay about how much Star Wars means to them
and mine wouldn’t be any different – but here it is anyway. It really is one of
those films that, if it hits you at the right moment in your life, has an
Like most people I can’t remember first watching the films.
They’ve always just been a part of my life. We had the original film on well-watched
VHS and I grew up in the age of the prequels, which are of course not good but
certainly not pure garbage. And they’re infinitely better if you first see them
as a ten year old.
The influences George Lucas drew upon for the original Star
Wars are well known – the monomyth, Kurosowa, Flash Gordon and so on – but they
are sometimes spoken about as if he just stole ideas, as if it was plagiarism
pure and simple. The magic of Star Wars isn’t in the ideas but how all the
influences mixed together, creating something new. Lucas carried the spirit of
adventure more than anything. Someone else using the same antecedents wouldn’t
have created such a powerful combination. If you’re going to steal, steal from
the best, make it fresh and do it well.
The very first thing you see in Star Wars is the disclaimer
“A long time ago in a galaxy far far away….” This is another secret to the
films, and a reason why the prequels don’t gel quite as well. They really do
seem like other worlds we are watching on screen. I have never once questioned
Hoth or Endor or Tattooine as worlds, as real places where adventures happen.
And the soundscape blows my mind whenever I think about it.
What does a blaster or lightsaber sound like? Well like they do. They just do.
Someone designed it but how could they? You don’t have to design a door slam,
you just know how it sounds. And so too the hum of a lightsaber or even the
look of the X-Wing or Millennium Falcon. They just exist. I was never
introduced to the films because they just are.
So I could go on forever. My overall point is that Star Wars
isn’t just a film (or seven). It is a cultural phenomenon and a new release
film is a cultural event. So no review is objective. For most people it’s like
trying to be objective about your kids or your sporting team. You can hardly
step back far enough to assess it fairly and any reaction is only instinctual.
In your gut you either like or you don’t and you’re not sure why. You either
overlook the flaws or you hate it to death. This explains the overwhelming
praise of the original trilogy and the contempt of the prequels. Either it was
the Broncos best game ever or they should all be taken out and shot.
So I could try to review The Force Awakens but it wouldn’t be
fair. I just liked it. It was an adventure again; more than anything, the Star
Wars spirit was alive. I know that it has flaws but they don’t matter because I
liked it. If I hated it, those flaws would be important. But they’re not.
There are a lot of cultural properties important to me,
intrinsic even. Batman. The Smiths. Harry Potter. The Brisbane Broncos.
Breaking Bad. Doctor Who. So much more. But in a lot of ways, Star Wars was the
first and the most important.
I’ve wondered whether I would want to work on any of these
properties, as a writer of filmmaker. I mean if Disney offered me my own Star
Wars film I don’t think I’d really say no. But I’ve just established that I
can’t think about the objectively. So how would that work? I suppose, though,
I’m not objective about any of my own ideas anyway. Would I know how to make a
good Star Wars film because I know what Star Wars is as a fan? Or would I just
be making big budget fan fiction?
It’s all so unlikely but fun to think about. It would be
harder to George Lucas and have your baby taken away from you. I can’t even
contemplate how he feels. But at least people are watching and engaging his
ideas. I don’t know, I don’t hate him. Sure the prequels are poor but he’s
still the guy who made Star Wars. His ideas created pop culture history. That’s
just crazy to think about. Powerful.
When I was little I wanted to be Luke Skywalker, or Han or
maybe Obi-Wan. But somewhere along the way I realised I really wanted to be
George Lucas instead. That’s the real power. Creator of worlds, childhoods.
Unfortunately it’s just as hard to become a Jedi Master as it
is a successful filmmaker. But if it were easy and fun it wouldn’t be
rewarding. And what is rewarding is always worthwhile. I’m not a professional
quote maker but you get what I mean.