Nostalgia As The Most Important Special Effect

Responding to the megaviral new teaser for the upcoming Star Wars sequel (seen parodied above), Ian Crouch reflects on George Lucas’ mixed legacy with the franchise, as well was what we might expect now that other creative forces have the reins:

Lucas, having created the “Star Wars” movies, committed the great sin in his prequels (“The Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones,” and “Revenge of the Sith”) of not being much interested in re-creating the original trilogy. He gave up the spit-and-glue aesthetic of those films, whose clunky reminders of real-world physical realities were a key to their charm, in order to explore the early limits of digital filmmaking. Matters such as characterization or narrative (never mind acting) got lost along the way. It turned out that Lucas didn’t have much to say beyond the fact that he had new ways to say things. What resulted were technical marvels and boring, soulless movies. And then Lucas, perhaps chastised by the mass revolt against his new creations or else no longer interested in prolonging the space opera that built his career and maybe, in its way, derailed it, sold “Star Wars” to Disney, in 2012. Even in its low moments, “Star Wars” has been a cash cow, and Disney has promised not only a new trilogy but stand-alone spinoff movies as well. We’re about to get a lot of a galaxy far, far away—and whatever sanctity the franchise possessed in the eyes of its fans will ultimately get sequelled and prequelled out of us in the end.

But it hasn’t happened yet. In [J.J.] Abrams, Disney has chosen not only a director for its new movie but a dedicated librarian of a particular version of the franchise, a curator of the sights and sounds of his own childhood at the movies. (Abrams has performed something similar with his “Star Trek” reboots; here, he is attempting a rehabilitation, if not a resuscitation.) The teaser is less a preview of a movie than an assurance of Abrams’s bona fides as a fan, and his commitment to righting the wrongs of the prequels. By getting the details right, he has shown himself to be a trustworthy protector of the best parts of the original “Star Wars” movies. As to whether or not he has a new story to tell: wait til next year.