With about a month to go until a certain franchise about battles in space releases its latest installment, the Disney hype machine has been in overdrive. Casual moviegoers are being inundated by a flood of marketing geared at making sure that butts will be filling seats in December.
As for me, I’m kind of wary given my skepticism of certain revealed elements of the plot and the memories of disappointment associated with the prequels. Let’s go into the latter element for the sake of this post.
I can still recall the major hype leading up to The Phantom Menace, and just how excited seemingly everyone was. There was nothing quite like it. You had nerds and normal people alike open to waiting in line weeks before the movie came out. Mad Magazine was able to dedicate an entire issue to the phenomenon that was Star Wars Mania around the time of the film’s release. You kids who were too young (or not even born yet) might not remember, but it didn’t feel like a movie release so much as an event. Take the hype you see for any product’s release nowadays, and multiply it by a factor of insanity. This was all the more amazing given that the Internet was not nearly as prominent as a means of mass communication as it is today. Kids might think that today’s blockbusters are huge, but if they think that, then it’s clear that they were not around for the original release of TPM. As big as this new movie looks to be, it just doesn’t quite match the madness of 1999. And how could it?
TPM was, like the new movie, released quite a while after the previous film: 16 years, in fact. To know that the iconic cash cow franchise was releasing a new installment after all that time was too amazing to describe for anyone who was a fan of the original trilogy. There was so much excitement as people were willing to wait in line for so long and among such crowded masses that you would have thought that TPM was going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. There was no way it could have met the hype even if it was as good as the unedited version of The Magnificent Ambersons. Even then however, we all hoped that it would at least be on the level of the previous films.
So just like everyone else, I waited in line despite the fact that doing so at the local theater was akin to waiting in line at Disneyland at peak hours. Like everyone else, I was caught up in the frenzy that was the anticipation for a new Star Wars film. And like everyone else, what I got out of it was The Phantom Menace.
Now I sit here with a lot less anticipation and a little wariness. I’ve been burned before. As with many other fans of the originals, I still recall the sting of disappointment that was TPM. I still remember the disappointing follow-ups, but even then, they were merely the cherry on a shit sundae. To think that people had waited 16 years for TPM. No movie could possibly hope to disappoint as many people and as many expectations so harshly. Yeah, Age of Ultron and The Dark Knight Rises* were letdowns, but they didn’t have nearly as high a series of expectations, as huge a pairing of hopes and dreams, associated with them.
But who knows, maybe Abrams will find a way to make a worthy successor to the originals. But until then, I just can’t buy into the hype.
P.S. I might just have done a very bad thing. Yesterday, I caught my mom, who, while not a fan of the franchise, still was into it enough that my childhood included watching (and re-watching) VHS copies of the original movies (and I’m not talking about the 1997 re-release with its edits), watching all sorts of documentaries and fan films pertaining to the franchise on YouTube. She even went as far as to watch the Christmas Special!
Seeing that she appeared to be in the mood for anything Star Wars, I recommended that she check out Red Letter Media’s Plinkett Reviews. After the fact, I wonder what I have done.
* It’s telling that the best thing to come out of the latter film was Baneposting.