On average I attend one to two movies in the theater per year, and I've never done so on opening night. Most of the garbage that passes for entertainment these days is not, in my opinion, worth ten dollars to see on a big screen, and even when I make exceptions for the few movies I actually really care about, I've never understood the hype or urgency to attend the earliest possible screening. As Rat pointed out in "Pearls Before Swine", "The movie will still be here tomorrow." However, my friend and neighbor somehow secured tickets to see "The Rise of Skywalker" this Friday evening so why not? It's as good a time as any. The fact that he just bought these opening night tickets a week or so ago might not bode well for the level of enthusiasm about this movie, but maybe he just killed people for them and I'm better off not prying too deeply.
It's probably inevitable that my enthusiasm is nowhere near the level of twelve-year-old me exploding with anticipation to see "Revenge of the Sith", which as far as I or most people knew was going to definitely be the last Star Wars movie ever. Disney isn't trying to pretend that this new one is the last one, but they are claiming it's the end of the episodical Skywalker saga and thus it's supplanted "Revenge of the Sith" in that regard. But I don't feel the same excitement. I've had mixed feelings about these newer films, except for "Rogue One" which blew me away, from the moment Poe delivered his first awkward line of dialogue in "The Force Awakens" and I realized from the tittering in the audience that it was supposed to be funny. I try really hard to like them but, except for "Rogue One" which blew me away, they've never quite felt entirely like Star Wars to me. More like Guardians of the Galaxy or something.
And that's probably inevitable. It's probably akin to how people who grew up with only the original trilogy felt about the prequels, which were quite different from what came before. Arguments still rage about whether the prequels are objectively inferior to the originals, or have just been unfairly held to a higher standard by grouchy middle-aged people viewing the originals through nostalgia glasses. I've come to the conclusion that both are true. George Lucas was lucky with the original trilogy to have many talented collaborators who compensated for his shortcomings in scripting, editing and so forth, and by the time the prequels rolled around he no longer depended on them because he was rich and famous and nobody would argue with him about anything. But even so, the prequels have many strengths and they don't have a monopoly on the series' flaws by any means. It will probably take another decade or so of hindsight to decide whether I can embrace the new ones without reservation, except for "Rogue One" which blew me away.
I want to embrace them without reservation. If I do, I will have more opportunities for happiness than the people who hate them, just as I currently do with the prequels. I can say this much right now - and this is a no-brainer given the advance of technology, but still, they're the most visually stunning of any batch of Star Wars movies so far. The cinematography and the near-flawless marriage of practical and digital effects looks light-years better than the practical fakeness of the originals or the digital fakeness of the prequels. The paucity of familiar aliens from the first six movies bugs me and makes them not feel like Star Wars, but the new ones look amazing. It fascinates me that the vast majority of them are costumes and puppets, yet far more advanced, sophisticated and realistic ones than anything George Lucas had at his disposal in 1977. And they look amazing. I already said that but I'm not going to revise it. And of course, as I've said two or three times on this blog before, having more female and non-white characters addresses what was Star Wars' biggest flaw (not sarcasm) and, frankly, also looks great.
Tacking on a third trilogy after the other two had already established a sufficient self-contained story arc seemed unnecessary. On top of that it was clumsily handled, with "The Force Awakens" requiring you to read supplementary materials to figure out just what the heck happened since "Return of the Jedi", e.g. why does the Empire still exist but with a different name, what's the relationship between the First Order and the New Republic, what's the relationship between the New Republic and the Resistance, why should we care about that unnamed planet we just saw for the first time three seconds before the third Death Star blew it up, and like that. But the prequels weren't entirely cohesive with the originals either. Watching the first six movies through leaves some plot holes and unanswered questions. And now J.J. Abrams has had the chance to rectify that for good, to draw all nine Skywalker saga films into one satisfying conclusion and tie it up with a neat little bow, and that's exactly what he claims to have attempted to have done. If he succeeded, this movie is going to be fricking amazeballs for more than just the space battle with twenty billion ships.
Also, Palpatine and Lando and Wedge are back. If Disney thinks I'll play right into their money-grubbing hands just because they so blatantly attempt to exploit my nostalgia like that, they are absolutely right.
I was just talking with someone the other night about "Splinter of the Mind's Eye", the first Star Wars Expanded Universe novel ever written, which has a special place in my heart for how its influence helped to shape my own novel. It was written as a potential low-budget sequel if the original movie flopped, meaning for example that it has no space battle and virtually all takes place on one planet where the fog would have saved a lot of money on sets. And I've given some thought since that conversation to how history could have played out differently. If the original movie had flopped, we would have gotten this on screen instead of "The Empire Strikes Back", and then probably nothing else. Maybe both movies would have been all but forgotten, or maybe they would have become cult classics. Hollywood would have attempted to remake them at least once at some point during its "almost complete lack of original ideas" phase that shows no signs of dissipating anytime soon.
Now I quite like "Splinter of the Mind's Eye" and it would make an interesting movie in its own right, but I and the world at large are so blessed by how much more we got instead - movies, TV shows, novels, comic books, and video games from now until the extinction of the human race. By the time "Revenge of the Sith" rolled around I had reluctantly come to terms with the then-understood fact that George Lucas' rumored Episodes VII, VIII, and IX weren't going to happen and this movie was really the end. I think that helped to make it as special as it was. But now those movies exist after all. Where once there was nothing, there is now something, and I think that something is better than nothing even if it isn't what it could have been and what I might have chosen. Even the two-hour mediocrity-fest of "Solo" was better than nothing. Even the Holiday Special is better than nothing. Clearly I need professional help.
On an unrelated note, today marks five years since my finest moment of any kind ever. I really don't know why I bother to go on living anymore knowing that I'll never do anything to equal or surpass this achievement. I guess just to annoy people.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.