25 May 2018

Red Cup: A Star Wars Story

That joke's been done, actually by legitimate corporate interests now, but there's nothing that can top it.

Let's start this preview out right - I've been disinterested in Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) since it was announced. And I'm this guy. I don't want to sit here and just rag on corporations making money, because that's like getting angry at a dog for having fur. But it is worthwhile to explore a little bit of the disconnect here.

Maybe Chewie can do more than eat Porgs this time
Tracing it back to its earliest origin, there were a lot of dumb ideas bandied about with Disney's Star Wars acquisition and the early concept that they're going to churn out these movies forever. I'm a little iconoclastic in saying that not all Star Wars, even the originals were necessarily holy precious works of art, but they've doubtlessly influenced a lot more people than most works of art, which is in itself significant to acknowledge. While an expansive storytelling empire is not new to Star Wars at all, making a shitload of crappy to forgettable movies is.

So therein lies the first difference we need to get past and understand. Are Yoda and Boba Fett prequels really a disservice to the brand than if they were in comic or book form? Star Wars' Expanded Universe (now Legends) obsessively explored just about every nook and cranny of these characters lives and filled out lore from thousands of years in the past (first story taking place in 25,793 BBY apparently) to about 130 years or so after the original movies take place. That's a solid span of history to explore.

And that's the first reason I sort of didn't care about seeing young Yoda or young Han Solo - like, it's never fun to flesh out characters with mysterious backgrounds. We already know everything about their characters that we need to, elucidating every off-handed comment is a trite exercise. In a way similar to how Rogue One (2016) seemed to spin an entire movie out of an inconsistency made in a jokey space adventure from the 70s, Solo also will apparently deal with rectifying Harrison Ford's infamous Kessel Run line where he measures distance, not time by bragging in how few parsecs it took him. This is the only reason I know what a parsec is.

But it's also not necessary. It's not getting at why these films were popular - the relatable characters in a mere pocket of an extensive and lived-in universe. Instead it's obsessive in a redundant nerd kind of way. Of course, that's surely not the only inspiration for these films and it's kind of reductive for me to say so - because in fact, a movie about young Ponda Baba could be amazing. The point I think, is that Baba: A Star Wars Story can still go anywhere. We can guess what we're getting with Solo. Imperial Academy drop-out. Sabacc. Falcon. Chewie. Kessel Run. Maybe dumping some cargo for Jabba. With Rogue One, even though it was somewhat derivative and ultimately kind of a mess, we got a look into the lives and ideology of some people in this universe we'd never seen before. The first hump to get over with Solo is the fact it already feels repetitive.

There are also production troubles, but I don't really care about that. Every movie ever has production troubles and reshoots. I do think that a Ron Howard movie is far less interesting than a Phil Lord and Chris Miller movie, but I'd never say Ron was a poor director. Plus we did get this out of it. Either way, though, it does kind of reek of meddling in order to create a safer product, which isn't altogether awful, but for sure a whole lot less interesting. And less interesting filmmaking sucks. Well, most of the time.

This is all very superficial stuff, though. There's got to be something else preventing me from liking this thing. Maybe it was the trailer that was so full of predictable shit that Red Letter Media predicted it to a dime. It's this crux of pandering where even edginess (maybe the more apt word is "quippiness?") is predictable. As I sit and reflect on the Disney Star Wars with a few years and films now under our belt, it's also safe to say that there is something that just feels continuously disappointing.

The Force Awakens (2015) was a true event, which was really cool to experience. But to a ridiculous fault it felt like it was made out of fear of upsetting a virulent nerdy fanbase. Rogue One felt so good while watching it but when you sit down and examine it, nothing makes sense until the admittedly brilliant last act. And I loved The Last Jedi (2017), which switched things back so far from The Force Awakens that it was met with equal vitriol. There's no pleasing us. We all have our own little Star Wars head canon now and it's extremely difficult to make anything we perceive as good.

Of course, most people just like Han Solo. That's not really accurate actually - most people like Harrison Ford. I'm not sure a Solo movie can work without him and Alden Ehrenreich never felt like the right fit. I mean, his biggest role so far, in the Coen Bros' Hail, Caesar! (2016) landed so well precisely because he's a terrible, miscast, uncharismatic actor. The total opposite of Harrison Ford. There are two issues with this assumption - 1) concluding that that's a bad thing or he NEEDS to emulate Harrison Ford (see the first sentence of this paragraph as to why I think this is important) and 2) That's an awful harsh judgment to make without seeing the movie. Of course, that's also the vibe I get going in which makes me feel like it's not worth my time to see this thing.

And maybe I am just getting a little jaded and a film needs to really strike the right chord for me to get off my ass and see it in theaters these days. There are not many traditional tentpoles I'm interested in this summer. It's rough. I'm clearly not the only one who feels this way, since no one apparently goes to the movies or watches television anymore.

So pumped for the prequel movie to explain...whatever
the hell that thing to the left is
I do think that while saturation doesn't necessarily devalues the Star Wars brand any more than extended comics and novels did, the effect that we can now pick and choose makes things a little more precise. I'm not into Solo, and that's fine, the next one will come along. I super wasn't into Dark Empire II but definitely into the Thrawn Trilogy. Joruus C'Baoth = the Original Daddy. Maybe that's perfectly fine.

It's kind of like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018). I was super into Jurassic World (2015) and gave it a great review, but this new film doesn't appear to be pushing the franchise in any interesting direction. Neither is Solo, which I think is probably the biggest drag. Screw everything I said about Ehrenreich or fatigue or nerd anger or market saturation. Why would you see this film other than the fact that it's about Han Solo? What are you going to gain from it? What story are they even telling and why is it important? Ultimately the best I can come up with is that I want to see Donald "This is America" Glover as Lando, but I'm confident in YouTubing "Solo - all Lando Scenes" in three months. There's just no other compelling reason. Tarzan and Lone Ranger movies aren't inherently bad, but they can't gain seats just from name recognition. It's a total lack of freshness that's incredibly disappointing.

What do you think? Do you agree?

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