It was a retelling of the stories that I'd always heard about with knights with metal swords and plate armor and in stone castles, but now it was in space. Now it had spaceships and laser swords and the Force. The beauty of Star Wars isn't just that it breaks down the barriers between fantasy and science fiction, but that it does it so effortlessly, that it evokes a complete galaxy that is so much bigger than what we see on screen.
It wasn't until later until I fully understood the other genres that were mixed into Star Wars, the Western gunslinger, the evil space Nazis, the semi-bastardized Eastern Philosophy. Star Wars is the height of remix culture, back when remix culture tried to hide its references just a little bit.
The Clone Wars tv show (now available on US Netflix) is something I've been watching a lot of in the past week, because it's an easy way to get Star Wars feelings. I hope, hope, hope that Disney take it into account for their next five billion Star Wars movies. Not because it's particularly good. (Quality-wise, I think it's what the prequels wanted to be, fun and a little cheesy.) But because it embraces the fact that the Star Wars universe is huge. There are episodes that are political thrillers. There are some episodes that are gritty noir mysteries in Blade Runner-esque cities. There are episodes that are non-stop action and fight scenes. There's even some scifi horror thrown in for good measure. There are paranoia-filled bottle episodes about figuring out who amongst our clone troopers is a traitor. There's episodes solely devoted to the dynamics and ethics of an army made of up clones. The show is willing to cycle between various protagonists, switching them out as the story demands it. Not all of these episodes are great, per se, since this is still a kids' cartoon forced into 15-30 minute chunks. But they all fit in a way that even Community never quite managed to pull off. That's kind of amazing if you sit and think about it.
I think there's always been a tension in the Star Wars universe, which is the fact that it's fundamentally a simple story for kids that still captures adult imaginations, and so much of the extended universe (and so much of it retconned, sigh) is about adult fans trying to carve out adult stories and adult complexity out of the simplicity of that farm boy myth. The world is big enough to support it, of course, but there's always this push at the boundaries, to see what hides in the dark places that the kids' stuff can't see. Star Trek, for all its earnestness and occasional naiveté and appeal to all ages, has always been about speaking to adults. Star Wars is a different beast. And it's thrilling, joyous, to see all the different things Star Wars can be.
Hell, even the prequels, for all their faults, wanted desperately to be a Shakespearean/Greek tragedy mixed with a war film mixed with a political thriller mixed with a wuxia martial arts extravaganza. It's not successful, but it's definitely 100% Star Wars in its ambitions.
In some ways, that's the disappointment of The Force Awakens for me. It doesn't need to be an adult movie. It doesn't need to have adult themes. The problem is that it's too content to be the same thing that Star Wars has already. It's too afraid to dream of new types of planets or new types of threats. It's not willing to break down the barriers in my mind. It's a mediocre cover of a perfectly good original song.
Still, things like The Clone Wars give me hope that The Force Awakens doesn't even matter in the long run. The MCU is willing to be all sorts of different things at the same time. Let's hope the Star Wars universe gets to be that as well.
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