Friday, August 15, 2008

Beware the dark side!

Today is the opening for the new animated StarWars film, Clone Wars. I have a feeling it’s going to be a bitter pill for Lucasfilm Ltd. to swallow since not only will it not open in the number one spot (gasp!) but worse yet, it’s going to be poorly received by fanboys across the galaxy.

I had an opportunity to see a sneak preview last week and can report, from the perspective of a rabid and self professed StarWars geek that it’s a 90 minute video game that you don’t even get to play. It’s not good. It’s not bad. I actually left the theater feeling kind of indifferent to tell the truth.

The problem with having made three of the most iconic and far reaching movies in the entire history of cinema is that you can’t go back there again and again without drawing comparison to those films. George Lucas found that out quickly enough when he made this prequel trilogy. He’s been taking flak over Jar-Jar Binks character ever since, along with a lot of other criticism.

Some of it is warranted, of course, and other bits are not. People go to see a new StarWars movie desperately wanting to feel the way they did back in the late 70’s and early 80’s when we saw them all for the first time, and therein lies the problem.

Lucas’ original three StarWars movies were made for kids. Adults loved them as well, but the movies were made for kids—and the part of the movies we all love to this day is how watching them brings out the kid in each of us, it takes us back to a better time and place and captures our imagination in a galaxy far, far away.

Lucas has made all of his new StarWars enterprises geared for kids as well, the problem with that is that the fans who felt he owed them something are no longer kids. The part of these fans who accepted quirky droids and furry ewoks was unwilling to accept a flop eared freak with a speech impediment—a character clearly aimed at getting laughs from the kiddies in the audience.

Part of the problem there is the separation between the OT (original trilogy for those of you who should know better but don’t) and the prequels, and specifically, what happened during that time to keep your average StarWars fan nut sated. Lucas allowed the galaxy of science fiction writers and graphic novelists to carry on his vision from the end of Jedi forward, which has come to be known as the Extended Universe.

These adaptations to the StarWars formula grew with the original audience. Many are dark and sexy and intense. While some do hold true to Lucas’ original form of combining high paced action with tender, cute and funny moments, most of them just focus on the dark side of things, if you will.

StarWars fans were kept with whetted appetite by badass villains and hard edged heroes. They endured in their obsession with an increasingly edgy, decidedly deeper, darker and more adult StarWars universe.

StarWars fans perception of the “formula” was drastically changed by the time the newer movies had opened and their opinions reflected that change. I’ll be curious to see their reaction to this new cartoon. I’m curious to see if they’ll grant Lucas a little more leeway in that medium? I suspect not, but remain hopeful.

As I said, it’s a cartoon, and again, though the action is great, it’s aimed at a young audience—not the hardened, jaded fanboys who seem to think that Boba Fett should be in every scene killing everyone who crosses his badass path.

There is a character that is sure to annoy them and will. The plot isn’t of typical StarWars depth and only a couple of the voices are done by the actors who played the actual characters in the movies. There will be plenty to whine about, I can assure you. But for what it is, I suppose it’s fine.

It wasn’t made for me or anyone of my generation.

And who knows what the future holds for the StarWars universe? This cartoon will be segued into a weekly television cartoon show, or perhaps a series of cartoon movies. And there is a live action television series in the works that purportedly will revolve around the life of famed bounty hunter and fan favorite Boba Fett.

Will Lucas offer his older fans a treat in this series and get darker and edgier along with them? Will he remain true to his formula and vision? I’d guess the latter and I can hardly blame him. His feisty fans will claim he’s sold out, given into being a corporation instead of a revolutionary film maker. But perhaps, it wasn’t Lucas who turned to the dark side, perhaps it’s the fans who have grown jaded and cynical.

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