Because Eric Brasure and Richard Goodness needed more to do, we’re excited to present the first episode of what hopefully is a well-received and long-lasting new semi-regular podcast spinoff series, Trekabout Presents. In this episode, they begin a 7-episode look at the Star Wars juggernaut by diving into the original 1977 version of Star Wars. What works about it? What doesn’t? Why is George Lucas so interested in slavery?
Eric’s comments on the Wars/Trek fandom ‘feud’ struck a chord. My reaction upon hearing about this ‘feud’ was a “What the hell are you talking about? It’s perfectly understandable to like both for different reasons.” Having now worked with a Star Wars fan/anti-Trek individual for the past year, despite my repeated utterances of “Dude, I like both.”, I was actually pushed further torward Trek as a whole…just to annoy him further (Yeah, not very mature, but kinda satisfying).
At this point, I’m open to the idea that “Force Awakens” might be good…but I still wish ‘Trek’ hadn’t been burned at the stake in the process to land Abrams his job.
Well if you believe Abrams, he turned down the Star Wars job initially. Which… I don’t believe, but hey.
I’m not inclined to believe that either. It makes for a good “I had this thrust upon myself” story though.
I’m surprised that you say the movie isn’t about anything. Maybe this has become such a cliché that people don’t see it anymore, but I do think the central theme is anti-imperialism. It’s an anti-imperialist/anti-colonialist fairy tale, basically, somewhere between Kurosawa and Flash Gordon. Which is exactly what the prequels are, too, with the addition of a really good depiction of how fascism can take over democracy.
I grew up with Star Wars but it wasn’t really that iconic for me (Star Trek was, though), so I’ve always been baffled by the hate for the prequels, which to me are really very much in the same spirit and style as the original – if perhaps more pulpy. But these movies were always pulpy, so… I don’t really get it. I generally don’t get, that is, how this series has become so culturally influential while at the same time most people don’t even seem to be able to see the movies in context anymore. When John Carter of Mars came out (which was a delightful adaptation of pulp material, in my opinion) people were saying it was obviously a Star Wars rip-off, when in fact it’s basically Star Wars’ grandparent.
Actually, you’re right, that is very much like a religion. Most people don’t know the first thing about their holy texts, they only know the keywords. Star Wars has become an artifact that can barely be questioned or understood, only worshipped. Ironic, though, that this particular religion’s Devil has ended up being its founder.
We haven’t watched the prequels yet but I don’t recall that the prequels are “good” at anything in particular, least of all political commentary.
I’m not saying that’s not there, but the theme of a small band of hardy rebels fighting a distant, controlling government is so commonplace in American pop culture that it’s not particularly cutting in any way. Hell, it’s our history after all. But even given that this setup is extremely common, Star Wars is quite vague about it. The Empire in Star Wars is unquestionably evil and extremely powerful, but nobody seems to like it much, and we don’t see what it actually provides for people. The point of view of the average Joe who supports the Empire and keeps it in power is never heard from–real life dictators do provide things for at least some their people and can often be quite popular with them. Which is not a problem for the original three, as the political maneuvering is beside the point. Huge, huge problem for the prequels, which turn heavily on political intrigue as written by a man who clearly doesn’t understand politics at all and doesn’t care about it either. We do have examples of how democracy crumbles and gives way to authoritarianism–Europe in the 1920s and 30s–but the prequels’ vision of it is pretty goofy and implausible compared to those.
Sorry if the previous comment sounds passive-aggressive or weird. I find the role of Star Wars in our culture, the hate for the prequels, and the obsession with the now Disneyfied franchise intensely depressing.
I don’t really get it either, which is why we wanted to do this!
As someone who as a kid liked both but had a preference for Star Trek, I am a bit surprised find myself without any enthusiasm for The Force Awakens. Perhaps it’s that the endless series of nostalgia-themed reboots of stuff have made me coldly hostile to any attempt to exploit nostalgia in any form–I didn’t even bother to see Jurassic World, for example–but I think it’s something else as well. Lucas is (or at least was) brilliant at repackaging past entertainment and putting a bunch of old ideas into a fresh new wrapper. There’s nothing “new” in Star Wars or Indiana Jones, Lucas appropriated bits and pieces from other movies and books and created a fun, pseudo-spiritual synthesis. He was ahead of his time. But at this point, that’s all that pop culture is, especially movies: bits and pieces of other stuff repackaged. So people are getting excited out of their minds to see a repackaging of a repackaging. It just seems absurd to me.
The Pensky File-
A New Hope feels a little constrained. It clearly has huge ideas about this universe, but the budget and the fact that it needs to tell a satisfying story in two hours makes it feel like a lot of compromises and unfulfilled expectations.
It’s impossible to separate the movie from the rest of them at this point, but I always wonder if A New Hope would be consider more positively or more negatively if it never had a follow up.
That’s such a hard question to answer–I think it would be (it’s a tight little homage to action-adventure serials) but maybe not quite as beloved.