The Last Sci-Fi Blog: 'Star Wars' Discontent and Other Things You've Heard Before

The Last Sci-Fi Blog: 'Star Wars' Discontent and Other Things You've Heard Before

Feb 02, 2012

The Sci-Fi News: RoboCop Remake Gets a Writer, John Carter Displays Some Designs and Guy Pearce Gets his Snake Plissken On in Lockout

Have we all come to terms with the fact that RoboCop is being remade? I know it's tough, but it's going to happen whether you like it or not, so wipe away those angry tears, stand tall and accept it like a man. The news today is that this remake has a writer attached: Nick Schenk, whose only previous feature credit is Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino. That name may not inspire immediate confidence (mainly because he wrote Gran Torino), but hey…we've accepted it, right? In any case, this will be the Hollywood debut of Jose Padilha, whose Elite Squad films are violent, insane tributes to fascism, which pretty much makes him a wonderful choice for a new RoboCop.

Is John Carter really only a month away from release? With all due respect to director Andrew Stanton (whose work with Pixar has been uniformly incredible), it's looking more and more obvious that Disney is ashamed of this film. Not because it's bad (and it may be, but I certainly hope it isn't), but because they obviously have no idea how to market it or what to do with it. Shortening John Carter of Mars to John Carter already told us that, actually. I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best, but this release is looking to be a total non-event. In the meantime, here's some concept art from the film, much of which is gorgeous.

I'd be lying it I said I wasn't looking forward to Lockout, but I'd also be lying if I said John Carpenter shouldn't call his lawyer. In what's essentially Escape From New York in space, Guy Pearce plays "the best there is," a "loose cannon" who is "the one man" (trifecta!) to rescue the president's daughter when she's held hostage on a dangerous maximum security prison orbiting the planet. If the new trailer is any indication, Lockout looks like a modern update on the kind of sleazy sci-fi action film that would've been quietly pumped out in the '80s only to gain a cult following on VHS. That's a compliment.

The Sci-Fi Discussion: Who is Star Wars For Anymore?

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I haven't watched any Star Wars film since January of 2009. Intentionally. For many science fiction plans, I'm sure this sounds like blasphemy. How could I not revisit one of the most famous and beloved film series of all time? The answer is pretty simple, actually: I love Star Wars with all of my heart and I was slowly realizing that I was about to start hating it.

Like Star Trek, Back to the Future and every James Bond film, Star Wars was a vital component of my childhood, a series that entered my regular rotation and never left. As I grew up, I began to explore other films, but at least once every few months I'd break out the VHS trilogy set (the original cuts, appropriately advertised as being available "one last time") and take a spin through this dense, remarkable universe. The fact that these films aged well and held up with each passing year justifies the heaps of praise that have been thrown at them over the decades. The original Star Wars trilogy remains a remarkable accomplishment and there's no getting around that.

I don't need to go over the crushing disappointment of the prequels here because it's been covered ad nauseum for nearly 13 years now. There's nothing I can add to the conversation, but I sympathize with everyone who found themselves disappointed and jaded by the often ruthless experience of watching those things in a theater. I also don't need to talk about the special editions of the original films and the original cuts being transformed into a special feature disk with one of the worst transfers ever put on DVD. Surely I also don't need to talk about the toys, the video games, the TV shows and the Volkswagen commercials, each of them overextending the universe to its breaking point and/or diluting the power of once iconic imagery. I'm just going to assume that we're all on the same page. I'm trying my hardest to not indulge in fanboy whining, I swear.

It wasn't just one thing that made me start hating Star Wars. It was dozens. And it didn't happen overnight. It happened slowly, over years, and then one day, I saw someone wearing a Star Wars t-shirt and thought to myself: "Man, Star Wars is dumb." The moment I heard myself thinking these words, I knew I had a problem. There was no way I was going to go through life hating Star Wars. I like it too damn much. That was when I made a decision: I was going to avoid Star Wars for one decade, from 2009 to 2019. I was going to live without it for a decade and return older, hopefully wiser and possibly less cynical about the whole thing. I firmly expect that my next viewing of Star Wars will be magical again.

There are a few exceptions. I can't always avoid seeing people play Star Wars games. I can't ignore every clip of the animated series that pops in in my peripheral. Heck, there was no way I wasn't going to ride the refurbished Star Tours when I was last at Disney World (Verdict: it's spectacular and feels like the kind of Star Wars I have a fondness for). Finally, while you won't find me anywhere near a theater showing the 3D re-release of The Phantom Menace, I was definitely not going to ignore a trailer that was earning the derision of the entire internet. Just in case you have haven't seen it:

I get it. As our editor-in-chief points out, George Lucas is trying to sell a new generation, those born since 1999, on a film that most film geeks dislike. That commercial was not intended for you or for me, but for your six year old nephew who loves The Clone Wars and wonders why Yoda doesn't do any flipping and fighting in The Empire Strikes Back.

However, this trailer rubs me in a wrong way not because of its intended audience, but because of how it trivializes the Star Wars saga. When I was a kid watching Star Wars, I fell in love because the films didn't talk down to me. They presented me with a large, living universe filled with morally gray characters who were constantly betraying each other or hacking off limbs with laser swords. It was educational and it wasn't friendly. It was perfect for kids by being simple enough to follow and complex enough to keep us guessing (which is why it has aged so well). I hate the idea of new Star Wars fans seeing these films as a joke and this trailer shows that Lucas doesn't understand the real appeal of Star Wars to every kid with a plastic lightsaber.

For most kids, this is their first epic. It's their first truly dramatic fictional experience…and it's being robbed of that power.

So, if you don't see me writing about Star Wars all that often, it's mainly because I don't have anything new to offer. It's also because I'm avoiding it for another seven years.

Categories: Features, Sci-Fi
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