Saturday, December 30, 2017

Discussion and a Mild Rant: Movie Franchises and the Star Wars Mess

Hi! First, I haven't seen Star Wars: The Latest, yet, and I have no plans to [we will get to that]. But I want to talk about it a bit.
  Full warning: I rant, I got whisky for Christmas, and it is late.


  Movie franchises are not rare. Don't think so? In 1936 Deanna Durbin saved Universal Studios from bankruptcy and launched a film franchise when she starred in Three Smart Girls. It launched a small franchise. There are five Karate Kid movies. There are six Highlander films. Four films in the Stepfather series. 200 Harry Potter movies (none of which are any good). For mercy's sake, Cat People is a 4 film franchise!

  Here's the thing - in all franchises you eventually have a few that suck. For every Dr. No you get an Octopussy and a Die Another Day. For every Rocky you get a Rocky IV, V, and a Creed. For every Robocop you get every other Robocop movie ever. And for the love of all that is good and beautiful, the Police Academy franchise has a total of seven movies, which is evidence that Hollywood deserves to be paved over.

  Star Wars is on its, what? tenth movie? Of course it sucks! Hell, if the James Bond franchise has stuff like Moonraker in its catalog there is no freakin' way Star Wars is going to dodge the bullet!

  The thing that gets me? The amount of ink being spilled over the fact that a Star Wars movie sucks.

  On one side you have people who are swearing up and down that the movie can't suck for reasons. One the other you have people swearing that the fact that it sucks is proof that a cabal of evil ideologues have conquered society.
  They're both loopy.

  When Beastmaster 2:Through the Portal of Time (a real movie, folks, and not the last in the franchise!) was released no one lamented that the West had fallen and no one claimed that the portrayal of a strong, independent woman (Sarah Douglas as Lyranna, a fine actress wasted) who lived by her own rules was redefining society, either. Scanners III: The Takeover features a powerful, independent woman who makes her own rules and yet - no great shouting from anyone about it.

  "But Rick!" I hear, "Star Wars was an iconic film the defined a generation!"
  To which I say,
  "Meh."

  Star Wars was a popular movie, sure, and the initial sequels didn't suck that hard
  All you "The Empire Strikes Back is the greatest thing EVAR!" people need to get a grip and realize that ewoks plus C3PO plus goofy Han mean that Empire's great victory was it didn't suck that hard. Because it wasn't that good. Really.
  Here is something I have to tell all of the people so upset on both sides. To the people that think Holdo is emasculating real men. To the folks that think the only reason people hate a lousy movie is sexism.

  Star Wars is not the history of a real place; Star Wars is a media franchise designed to vacuum money out of your bank account. Luke Skywalker isn't real, so if the writer' s of a film screw up the characterization it is no more important to Reality than the fact that Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead changed the characterization of Mike. The collapse of the Star Wars film franchise will mean no more to the geopolitical situation of the modern world than the end of Charlie Chaplin's Tramp series or the collapse of the Predator series.

  Or look at it another way.
  The first novel in the Barsoom series, A Princess of Mars (serialized in 1916, printed as a book in 1917), invented the planetary romance genre. It became wildly popular. In 1928 the 6th novel in the Barsoom series was released and another of the many imitations on the planetary romance genre, Buck Rogers, was also released.
  Although nominally set on Earthy Buck is arguably (and admittedly) a planetary romance with a post-apocalyptic twist and was amazingly popular. Buck, an homage to John Carter, spawned a ton of imitators. One of them, released in 1934, was Flash Gordon. Flash became rather popular, too, and the character later became part of a popular film serials.
  Years later a guy that grew up loving the Flash Gordon serials wanted to remake them but couldn't get the license. He created his own rip-off of Flash and his then-wife tweaked it into Star Wars. After it made a ton of money other companies bought it and are trying to milk it for money.

  Or, shortly, Star Wars began as a pastiche of a rip-off of an homage to a book written in 1916. The first movie was so derivative that even the way scenes faded to a new scene was just duplicated from films that, when they were new, were considered so bad that they were only ever part of children's matinees.
  The new Star Wars sucks? It is based on movies that really sucked that were based on third generation junk! Thinking this is either Proof We've Evolved or The End of the West is like being really excited or really upset that the girl from home room's cosplay costume of Power Girl has her cape all wrong.
  Is it incorrect? Sure. Is it a stupid mistake? Yup. Will it have an impact on the status of Russian relations with Asia?
  Hell no.

  "But Rick!" I hear, "the Culture War!"
  Kids, pick the freakin' hill you die on. Remember the Matrix films? At the time the first one came out there was a fair amount of heat about the first film and commentary on society, politics, religion, society, gender relations - all sorts of stuff. When the lousy sequels came out the reaction wasn't cheering or horror it was,
  "Oh. Never mind."
  Much healthier.

  And now my drink is done, I'm tired, and I am going to bed.