December 24, 2015

Major Movie Season: Star Wars, The Hunger Games

Posted in Pop Culture at 12:14 pm by chavalah

Seriously, where's Luke?? No, don't tell me. :P

Seriously, where’s Luke?? No, don’t tell me. πŸ˜›

I still remember the first time I saw a Star Wars film. It was 1997, and my parents took my sister and me to The Senator Theatre in Baltimore for the release of the special editions. Before The Empire Strikes Back, they warned us, excitedly, of “a shocking reveal” coming up, and by the time Return of the Jedi rolled around, I was fully engrossed in the Skywalker family drama. I completely blame the Star Wars franchise for my family drama obsession, by the way. πŸ˜›

Looking back, I wonder if my parents would have taken me to see the films and cement my love for the science fiction and fantasy genres, if they knew that within a couple of decades, many of my closest friends I’d meet through a Harry Potter role-playing game, or I’d be carting myself off to the biggest Comic-Con in the world. πŸ˜› For a long time, I considered Star Wars to be my favorite fandom. I wrote Luke Skywalker a sonnet in high school that started “Oh Luke, thy father smote off thy hand…” The year of The Phantom Menace, I was glued to the soundtrack on my headphones. We were vacationing in the Poconos that summer, and I remember lying on the bed in our lodge, seeing nothing but wood paneling and movie plot points dancing in my head.

That’s right…I am a fan of the prequels (maybe not Attack of the Clones as much. But definitely the other two). Perhaps that’s part of the reason I slowly–not exactly fell out of love with the Star Wars fandom, but it diminished in my obsession scale. Harry Potter slowly took over, and became more far-reaching and long-lasting love affair (still holding out hope that it joins the ranks of SFF infamy, like a classical children’s literature version of Star Wars and Star Trek. You can bet your owl I’m writing my niece an acceptance letter to Hogwarts. Anywho, back to the Wars. :P)

It’s not much fun to like something that most of the rest of the fandom hates, and even throws around insulting bullshit like “George Lucas raped my childhood.” If that didn’t get to me, then it’s also the sheer disinterest of most of the cast. I had a negative reaction to Carrie Fisher’s electronic-cig smoking/alarm setting off DragonCon panel back in 2011, but in retrospect I think I didn’t respect her awesomeness enough. πŸ˜› But it’s also true that she, Harrison Ford and others aren’t bananas over the films and the effect they’ve had on their careers, what have you. They’re certainly not fans, in the way of the SFF tradition. πŸ˜› But I think that Fisher and Ford slowly got me to accept the role of actors in these blockbuster movies; I shouldn’t expect them to be fans, to understand the hype or be behind the message. It’s far more important to be on the same page with writers, directors, executive producers, if not the fan base.

Part of the reason I liked the prequels was that they were still undeniably Lucas’s vision. With The Force Awakens with Disney as the main backer, we’re officially moving into franchise territory. I know people whine about Ewoks or Jar Jar Binks being fodder for toys and money-making, but what do you call making movies just because they’re popular? Will they become as soulless as many comic book films, with their crazy, warping timelines and re-boots and shallow story arcs?

The prequels, for all of the shitty dialogue and demystification of the Force with the midi-chlorians, at least had a message. I’m gonna be totally unpopular and say that they were more realistic and thoughtful than the Cold War originals, with all of the “rah, rah, good fights evil” (though in proceeding years, there has been attention paid to innocents who might have died on the Death Star, or even whether Luke was “radicalized.”) But within the actual canon of the prequels, we see how corruption often comes from within. And sure, NPR, maybe Lucas was a bit wishy washy with political structures. πŸ˜› But Niel DeGrasse Tyson apparently tweeted out all of the scientific inaccuracies of the new film; you can’t say that it’s physically impossible for Queen Amidala to call a vote for no confidence in Chancellor Valorum. πŸ˜› /geek out

The Star Wars films, like most stories about mythology, focus on individual characters. In the originals, Luke undergoes Campbell’s “hero’s journey” while Han and Leia learn to let go of their pride and come together as an endearing couple. In the prequels, Palpatine, in his slow bid for power, first manipulates Amidala and then Anakin, playing on their fears and desires. The Jedi order isn’t reduced to a couple of philosophical exiles, but is crippled by it’s own massive power. Maybe they can’t see the Sith threat because they’ve grown too arrogant. How else can you explain that horrible librarian in Attack of the Clones who sniffs “if it’s not in our database, then it doesn’t exist?” πŸ˜›

For a long time, Anakin was my favorite villain in cinema. I know some fans are disappointed that he was such a whiner, and didn’t come to be Darth Vader in a more “badass” way. But I was thrilled by the message that fear and arrogance can corrupt our intentions. Anakin just wanted to save Padme, especially haunted by the fact that he couldn’t save his mother. He was frustrated with Obi-Wan, rebelling against him as the father figure, but he loved him until the end, too. And the Jedi Order was sending some mixed messages because they weren’t quite in control, either.

The downfall of Anakin Skywalker wasn’t perfectly executed, and I suppose he’s been overtaken in my favorite “villain” category by Gale Hawthorne of The Hunger Games. I’m a bit loathe to call Gale a villain, because I think that’s way too simplistic. (I’ve unofficially devoted every “Mumford and Sons” song I hear to the character, because I’m that kind of geek. :P) But Suzanne Collins, and then the movies, explored the ways that an oppressed, disenfranchised miner could eschew empathy and when given the chance, condemn all people on “the other side” of his fight, and justify acts of extreme violence. It seems like an important character to analyze when so many angry young men, of late, are picking up guns.

Yes, The Hunger Games has superseded all to become my favorite fandom of the season. While everyone else was scampering off for the opening weekend of The Force Awakens, I went to The Mockingjay, Part 2 for the third time, now to do research for my rambly, 4,300-word book-to-movie review. πŸ˜›

I feel like, through the stories I mentioned here, I can trace my own development about the universal questions that fascinate me. I’m still tickled by the mythological escapism of the original Star Wars films and Harry Potter–a young boy in a fascinatingly-drawn world embracing his destiny as “the chosen one.” (Actually, I love The Phantom Menace for the same reason–that sense of fantastical worldbuilding set-up and the wide-eyed wonder of imagining a plucky, disenfranchised boy going on a great adventure. Doesn’t turn out so well for him in the end, but. :P) As I’ve grown up, I’ve become more haunted by this post-9/11 world, where people come in shades of grey and war seems never-ending. The Star Wars prequels were like a stepping stone for my interest in the much better executed The Hunger Games, perhaps. This wonderful essay goes into the Star Wars vs Hunger Games scenario in more detail, and I agree with all of it until the end. I believe that when Katniss is exiled to District 12, she’s able to take off her “chosen one” propaganda, deal with her trauma, and make genuine human connections again, leading to a life of hope and a modicum of peace. The most realistic, and perhaps moving, of happy endings.

So, tonight I go with my dad to see The Force Awakens (but not at The Senator, waaah. What happened to upholding tradition?!) I’m not sure what to think. I believe I’ll enjoy the film (most of my friends certainly have), but I don’t know if I can take it as seriously as I used to take this series. Maybe it would be all-together easier accept this as a fun, action-y scifi/adventure romp. Though I suppose it’s impossible to assume that my feelings about Star Wars won’t change, yet again, with this new incarnation.

Just tell me Luke is ok, all right? πŸ˜› I’ve done a pretty good job avoiding spoilers, but it’s common knowledge that he isn’t in this one so much. Has his “radicalization” in the original films now corrupted him beyond measure? πŸ˜‰ I’m just gonna imagine him as a hermit, chilling out on Degobah with R2-D2. πŸ˜› I’ll find out the truth in a couple of hours.

Happy holidays, and may the Force be with you!



  1. Fabio said,

    Happy New Year!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: