“I hate corporations and I’m not happy that they have taken over the film business but on the same hand I find myself being the head of a corporation. There’s a certain irony there.”
– George Lucas
It was probably 110 degrees over the 4th of July weekend, 1977 in Kansas City, Missouri, my birthplace and old home town. My mother finally took me and my Grandmother, (yes, Grandmother…I was an only child, as was my mom, so, we were an odd running crew), to see the highly publicized and anticipated new science fiction flick, “Star Wars.” Oh, it was all the rage back then. The only theater in all of Kansas City showing it, just three weeks after release, was in Overland Park, Kansas, nearly an hour from our house, which was way north of the river by the airport. We arrived at the theater, and stood in line for an hour to buy tickets only to learn that most of the days’ showings were sold out. We managed to get tickets to the matinee, and just had to kill some time.
Not being very smart about it, we went to a local In-A-Tub Taco joint, (if you are in the area of KC, MO, it is a must, find one and get at least “four hot,” that is all you will have to tell them), and upon our return to the theater, found that there were not three seats together. We could be accommodated sitting as singles in the first two rows of the theater. (Maybe our readership was alive in 1977, but then again, maybe not. If you were, and were also a member of the moviegoing public, you would know how ridiculously useless the first two rows in an olde-tyme movie house were.) Looking at the movie screen from there was like trying to read a postage stamp off of the 30th floor of a skyscraper.
So, we eventually settle in and the movie starts playing. No kidding, half-way into the cantina scene, the fire alarm in the theater starts going off. “Fire!” in a crowded theater no less! Not to make light of this situation given recent events, and the theater craziness we have almost come to expect somewhere in the world, but in those days, it was a big deal. We evacuated the theater, (did I say it was 110 degrees), and were congregated onto the hot asphalt by the good folks at the local ciné. After 20 minutes, well, it was decided it was a false alarm, and we were corralled back into the theater…only to discover that the projectionist left the frickin’ movie running! No shit. We missed 20 minutes of the movie. Solo shooting Greedo? Lots of other shit. Yeah, missed it.
Despite the tale of woe, I fell in love with a movie and an idea. The idea of a trilogy of movies, that’s right, two more movies to come, about a cast of characters I loved, and a movie unlike anything else ever seen before by 9 year old boys. With no internet, we were puzzled when the opening credits rolled on “Episode IV: A New Hope.” After the run of the first three, news finally came of the making of the prequels. I had mixed feelings at that time, it having been so long in the waiting.
At 30 years old, The Phantom Menace was so much time wasted, waiting in line, sitting through the 136 minutes, anticipating something cool to have been done with the story that so captured our imaginings so many years before. I was upset because, at 30, I still had great love for the original movies. I saw them as I remembered them in my mind’s eye. They are somewhat hard to go back and watch now, either re-edited or original. But, the story is still there. Watching them again, they do not feel like they were made for 10 year olds. However, that is how I felt watching Episodes I – III, like they were just not made for my generation.
Do not even get me started on the paper thin plot lines, the horrible beyond description dialogue and character development. Half of the characters you wanted to see killed in horrific ways, but slowly, and those were the good guys for the most part. It gave one the sense that the movies were made for merchandising, profiteering and aggrandization of an egomaniac that had hungered for some attention for so long that he was willing to put out three garbage films just to “do it his way.”
We all have heard the news that Lucas cashed in yet again on the property he created as a fledgling filmmaker. $4.05 billion. $2.025 billion in cash. The rest, stock in Disney. (It is obviously only going to go up). This on top of what he has already wrung out of the movies, the rereleases, special editions, etc. Not to mention the fact that his namesake studio also had licensing rights to other properties, games, toys, etc. He does not need the money, but Disney apparently was not done gobbling up intellectual property after swallowing Marvel whole. It needed the gran-pappy of them all, Star Wars.
Done and done. Why? Well, a cynical old fart like myself would offer up an obvious answer: $. But, maybe I should reserve judgment. Like it or not, Disney and Marvel have figured out the model for rolling out franchises like theme parks and beanie babies, and, color me “fan-boy,” but they have been doing it right. Avengers was a pretty good movie. The tie-ins with the other supe movies, clever and timely. The talent they have cast, brilliant. Directors? All of them doing yeoman’s duty.
News of a possible string of “side movie projects,” some of them helmed by the likes of Zach Snyder, with subject matter like the origin stories of Han Solo and Boba Fett….ok, now you got my attention. JJ Abrams directing Episode VII? Alright, logging on to my Fandango app now to see about getting advance tickets….
The only thing I am somewhat suspicious of is news Lucas is still lurking around in the Bantha grass as a “creative consultant.” He has not created anything “creative” in decades. My hope is that his title is tribute only to the guy who drove the Star Destroyer into the wall. I know the new movies will be good. Look who they have in charge of them. Huge corporations. Let the commerce begin.