Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Les Enfants Du Lucas et Spielberg are forced to care again (A post about Star Wars? On the internet?)

"That's it! I'm through with Star Wars! I don't care anymore."

These words were spoken by a friend of mine after he went to see the Clone Wars animated movie a few summers ago. In all fairness, we were kind of asking for it.

Both of us were born in the pop cultural landscape of the 1980s, and so were part of the tail end of the group that could be described as "the children of Lucas of Spielberg" ("les enfants du Lucas et Spielberg" sounds classier). Not ardent Star Wars Fans with a capital F, know, the sort of young movie buffs who first grew to love Hollywood adventure through VHS tapes of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, and E.T.

With that bedrock of fondness, we hit adolescence during the whole prequel deal. The problems with that particular trilogy have been critiqued often and vehemently (and with great hyperbole) over the last decade, and there's really no need to go into it. But Lucas, for his part, seems fairly unfazed by the wave of negative criticism, and it's worth noting that in a recent interview, he used the Hollywood Nuremberg defense: kids like it. In fact, Lucas claimed that a whole new set of kids prefers the prequels to the originals. I'm totally willing to buy that this is true. But it may also mean that the root problem with the latest mediocre Hollywood blockbusters (including some with Spielberg's name on it) is not entirely on Hollywood's end. It's not hackery or a lost touch, but a shift in cultural tastes towards having everything bigger, louder, faster, and shinier, irregardless of content. Maybe the real monster is us.

In that broader context, it's easy to see where my friend was coming from after he left the Clones Wars, which was basically a Saturday morning cartoon that they decided to release in theaters. His desire to not care anymore was like both a rebellion against the tentpole system (which relies on the marketing clout of established franchises) and the bitter nostalgia of post-adolescents who already sound like stodgy old men when they claim that the series peaked in 1980. Indifference towards any new entries in a once-reputable franchise didn't seem like a bad idea.

The strategy of calculated indifference, though, was challenged recently. When I swung by yahoo the other day, I was caught off-guard by a front page headline--next to a slightly less disturbing one about Nic Cage going blond--announcing that a Star Wars sitcom is in the works. At first, adding a sitcom to the Star Wars canon seemed wildly off. My first thoughts were that either a) they realized that when you set a laugh track to the romantic scenes of Episode II, it attains a level of ironic poetry; or b) George Lucas had decided to dig until he hit rock bottom.

But then I found out that it would be spun off of the Robot Chicken spoofs of Star Wars--essentially free-style comic riffing--and the announcement took on a subtext other than selling out. It was an official sign that the franchise was going to embrace self-parody. Maybe that's not a bad thing. If anything, the prequel trilogies took themselves--their mythology, their love story--too seriously. I'm sure this announcement has already sent rage ricocheting around the internet, though I haven't felt like checking. I honestly have no idea how this will turn out, or if I'd give in to marketing clout and tune in out of curiosity.

It can be best not to care.