Star Wars: A Writer’s View
The Force can’t be resisted. ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is the fastest-grossing film in history because it needed to be; the studio had to release high box office figures to jump-start a vast array of movie sequels and spin-offs that will power spending for years to come. Press editors around the world have told their writers to come up with a new angle on it; hence an article in The Guardian about the film’s knock-on effect on location tourism in the UK (part was filmed in Puzzle Wood in the Forest of Dean). That’s just showbiz.
SWTFA fits perfectly into this year’s big entertainment trend of greatest hits retrofits, and punches up its nostalgic, crowd-pleasing beats more perfectly than any other package. It does away with the bad elements George Lucas introduced into the prequels – horrible puppet-filled clutter and boring, pompous exposition scenes – and tells its stripped-back story well. And it has pleased fans simply by not screwing anything up. But what it doesn’t do is introduce one single fresh or original idea – every scene, every line of dialogue, is traceable back to an earlier one, or even a carbon copy.
Does that matter that the script is basically just a charming collage? After all, this is a kid-friendly pop culture space opera, not Shakespeare. It’s a very enjoyable romp with charming leads and friendly faces, but it would have been nice to be surprised by something.
A couple of years ago I went to an exhibition of future technology divided into two halves. The first part looked at the history of computers, and the second speculated where we might go next. Virtually everyone was in the first half, pointing to early consoles and delightedly saying, ‘I had one of those’. We’re naturally nostalgic. The theory is that in unsettled times we always look back.
Thinking positively, this helps provide a solid base from which we can look forward. Perhaps that’s what SWTFA is up to, and if so, more power to the franchise. After all, it was initially created to let Lucas look back to old Flash Gordon serials, but funnily enough Lucas had already looked forward earlier in his career with the SF movie ‘THX 1138’.
Maybe future films will branch out into brave new territory. But with this level of financial firepower and the concomitant need to make money surrounding it, there’s not much room for taking risks.