My Thoughts on The Force Awakens

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When it was first announced in October of 2012 that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion and that Star Wars Episode VII was on its way for 2015, I wrote the following:

Star Wars isn’t about the setting for me. Its power for me is the power of the mythic story and characters. With the original story arc complete and the back story told, I find it hard to get excited about something that will almost certainly wind up being derivative or if original, something that could have just as well been told outside of the Star Wars setting. It’s the difference between a story that is broken up and told episodically versus a story that gets an uncalled for sequel. I’m open to being proven wrong though.

Despite this initially reserved greeting to the announcement of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, I warmed up to the idea when early reports indicated that George Lucas had sold Disney story treatments for Episodes VII, VIII, and IX that would serve as a basis for the new films. If anyone had good ideas about how to continue the story in an authentic manner, it was him. My cautious optimism for the films gave over to mounting anticipation until by the time that the The Force Awaken‘s first teaser trailer arrived on Black Friday of 2014, my excitement soared, and I began counting down the days until the new film’s arrival.

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A Brief History of Prequel Bashing or Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Star Wars Prequel Posters

As the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens draws near, we find ourselves in the midst of an enormous wave of Star Wars enthusiasm unrivaled since the release of 1999’s Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. That film like the forthcoming entry heralded the return of the Star Wars Saga to movie theaters after more than a decade of absence. But unlike The Force Awakens which will bring back familiar characters from the original trilogy and continue where 1983’s Return of the Jedi left the story, the prequel trilogy had the challenge of introducing an almost entirely new set of characters in unfamiliar settings while telling a different sort of story than the one that it was setting up. Despite initially being well-received by audiences world-wide and proving to have strong legs that produced record box office totals, by the time that its sequel Attack of the Clones debuted in 2002, The Phantom Menace had fallen into disfavor in the eyes of conventional wisdom. Now, a decade since the release of Revenge of the Sith, the Star Wars prequel trilogy is commonly the object of disparaging remarks and often dismissed as a failure when in fact, I would argue that these three films taken together instead constitute the saga’s artistic zenith. The Star Wars prequels are unfairly maligned, under appreciated films whose charms and greatness have been eclipsed in the public conversation by a vocal minority of myopic, overzealous armchair critics hyper-focused on real and imagined flaws in the films whose reach, voice, and influence have been excessively amplified by the echo chamber of Internet forums and the subsequent online media frenzy of gossipy entertainment media. Continue reading →