So, I’ve just watched the 30 Rock finale, which was not so great, but Tina Fey and her crew gave me so much pleasure, and so many laughs, over the past seven years that I begrudge them nothing. What a great show that was.
The subject of the moment comes courtesy of Noah Millman, who comments on Ross Douthat’s analysis of the Star Wars universe, and the upcoming movies to be directed by J.J. Abrams. Ross makes a case for why Ben Affleck would have been a better director for the new Star Wars movies. It is impossible to get me to care less about a film project than these new Star Wars movies. In a passage that makes an excellent point about the difficulties facing the new director, Douthat brings to mind why I can’t imagine caring:
But fans of the original “Star Wars” trilogy should realize that the director of the next installment faces a bigger challenge than just serving as a capable custodian of a popular franchise, or enlivening a stale formula with some lens flares and sex appeal. That’s because the next movie will be released in the shadow of the epic, franchise-altering disaster of George Lucas’s prequels — a case, rare in the annals of pop culture, where a beloved story was ruthlessly and comprehensively torched, not by hackish studios chasing easy money, but by the very man who created it in the first place.
Thanks to Lucas, half of the official Star Wars story is unsalvageable dreck — but it’s canonical dreck, which means it can’t simply be shunted into an alternative timeline in the style of Abrams’ “Star Trek,” or dropped down the memory hole the way say, Joel Schumacher’s “Batman” movies were when Christopher Nolan set about making “Batman Begins.” Instead, the prequels have to be somehow formally accepted as part of the “Star Wars” story and artistically repudiated at the same time. That’s a much harder task than making a “Star Wars” sequel would have been back in 1995, before Lucas took a flamethrower to his legacy. And I can’t help thinking it might have been easier for a director who came to the project free of fanboy baggage, and who could cast a more dispassionate eye on a pop cultural mythology that too many people (myself included, before I was introduced to Jar Jar Binks) invested with far more significance than its creator’s talents could ultimately bear.
I remember the theater where I saw The Phantom Menace, and how it felt to be introduced to Jar Jar Binks. I recall thinking, “This can’t be for real. This character couldn’t possibly exist. How did this happen?” And so on. It must have been what taking the first sip of New Coke was like, back in the day. I honestly don’t remember the movie, except for Jar Jar, who was such a colossal steaming turd pile that it ruined everything from that point on. I quit caring about Star Wars after that movie, though I tried to watch the Clone Wars a couple of times, because my kids wanted me to, but it was garbage. I couldn’t tell you if Revenge Of The Sith was any good, because really, who cares?
And I say this as someone who was 10 years old when Star Wars came out, and who remembers every single thing about seeing it for the first time. It was a religious experience. The rest of the summer, when I piloted the Sears riding lawnmower around our big front yard, I was Darth Vader streaking through the galaxy in my special TIE fighter. (Yes, I was Vader, who was much cooler than Luke Skywalker). I was crazy for Star Wars.
Me:Last Three Star Wars Films::Archbishop Lefebvre:Second Vatican Council.
Anyway, though Jar Jar was the End, the trouble really started with the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. Horrible little bastards. They existed only for merchandising purposes, and showed what gruesome self-sabotage George Lucas was capable of. Frankly, if the entire series had ended after The Empire Strikes Back, the universe would have been better served. Anyway, Vader was the coolest one of them all.
Then again, I wish the Dowager Countess ran the cosmos, so what do I know…