It Ain’t 1993 Anymore.
In the last week or so two big trailers were released, the first being Jurassic World and the second being Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Both of them have been met with rapturous applause from the geek-o-sphere, and I guess this is to be expected. Both the Jurassic Park and Star Wars franchises have lain dormant for a while (cinematically at least) after less than stellar offerings. In the interim, George Lucas sold Star Wars to Disney and people apparently started giving a shit about Jurassic Park again. Not sure why, but that’s not for me to judge.
To say that I am excited about a new Star Wars movie is a bit of an overstatement. I have a healthy curiosity about it (mainly due to J.J. Abrams involvement and the returning Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford), but I’m not thirteen anymore. The idea of new Star Wars movies lost most of their luster after the abysmal Phantom Menace. Perhaps the original trilogy was more than enough and anything beyond that is really just for super fans, of which I do not count myself. The new teaser is nice enough but I can’t help but say under my breath, ‘why should anyone care?’
Jurassic World is even worse. Jurassic Park is a good movie, but not a great one. It had above average special effects and decent performances, but it came out six months before Schindler’s List. If there’s one movie released by Steven Spielberg in 1993 worth celebrating, Jurassic Park ain’t it. With the likelihood of Schindler’s List sequels very small however, Jurassic Park was the obvious choice for a franchise. Two forgettable sequels limped into theaters in the ensuing decade and no one could have cared less when they were done. Nostalgia’s a hell of a thing though, so somebody decided to dust off the bad idea pile this year and make the world suffer through another one. At least Jurassic World has flavor of the moment Chris Pratt, computer effects that make the original from 21 years ago look fresh again, and a scene where Pratt rides a motorcycle while dinosaurs jog beside him. And that dear readers, is how you make a summer blockbuster.
What bothers me about both of these trailers, and the reaction to both of them from fans, is how much no one cares about new ideas. When J.J. Abrams made Super 8 a few years ago, people talked about how much it felt like he was ripping off Spielberg. It was a fair critique; the movie very much felt like something Spielberg (who was also a producer on the film) would have made in the 70’s or 80’s. What those people seemed to overlook was the fact that Super 8 was good. Throwback or not it was still an original film that was well made and fun, which is more than I can say for claptrap like Man of Steel, Thor, Iron Man 3, etc. It’s as if the dork patrol doesn’t want anything in their heads that hasn’t been there for thirty years (at least), still bitch about it the whole time they watch it, but will then buy the forty different director’s cut iterations released in the ensuing ten years. I am sick of fanboys and I am sick of franchises.
That’s what bugs me about Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Will they be well-made? Probably. Will they be watchable? Probably. Will they be good? Maybe. Should they have been made? Not really.
The chance of either of these movies adding anything truly worthwhile to the existing mythology of the universes these characters inhabit is slim to none. Both of them (particularly Star Wars) will exist to make a fan base happy and to be just interesting enough to possibly gain some younger fans along the way. That’s all. They will break no new ground and they will be treading a well-worn path of increasing mediocrity that will continue for many years to come, particularly with the insane Star Wars release schedule planned by Disney.
Now don’t get me wrong; franchises can be reinvigorated. J.J. Abrams has proven this himself with the two Star Trek films he has done, and James Bond, my favorite film franchise, re-launched completely with Daniel Craig as Bond. The difference in both of those cases though, is that they started fresh. They both have nods to the previous series (Leonard Nimoy’s Spock in Star Trek and Judi Dench’s M in Bond), but they both exist in their own world and both jettisoned the previous continuity. This allowed the filmmakers to do what they wanted to with the characters and (most) fans were pleased with the results.
Contrast this with the Star Wars prequels which told a story everyone already knew the end to; mysteries were needlessly explained, characters were introduced that were less engaging than the ones in the original movies, and plot points were changed out of convenience to get known characters into the story. Fans hated this. Of course they turned out in droves none the less, still bought the 800 different home video versions, and now thanks to all of this “love” there will now be a new Star Wars movie every year until people stop caring (which by my count will be right around the time the Justice League movie comes out, so probably only like three years).
The ebb and flow of modern dweebdom can be traced by the horrifying popularity of The Big Bang Theory (the show, not the actual theory). The first time I heard about this turd was around 2009 and it was a cult hit. A couple of friends of mine told me it was really funny and that I should check it out. It was about dorks and shit they said, and they were right. It was definitely about shit; big steaming piles of it.
Fast forward 5 years and it is the number one show on television. Now, stop and think about that; The Big Bang Theory, a show that is loved by nerds but also lampoons them, is the number one show in the United States. Nerds have come into their own by laughing at their own bullying by a corporate machine that could give two shits about them, much like Disney and Universal could care less if Star Wars or Jurassic World are any count. Does this mean that the person who takes a nerds lunch money is, at the end of the day, the nerd themselves?
Possibly, but as long as that shit has a director’s cut, it’s all good.
Until next time…