Is there a pilot that looks like me? That’s what it really boils down to, that was the magic of the first one…. right? You can throw all the CGI and special effects you want at the screen but if the story doesn’t have the magic it just doesn’t fly. That’s my take.
Harry Potter had it. The tragic tale of a boy who lost both his parents. Then to make things even worse he is stuck living with intolerable in laws that make him sleep under the stairs. But what’s that you say…he has magical powers, he’s a wizard? Every kid dreams of having some untapped super power that just appears out of nowhere one day. Heck I still stare at the TV and concentrate to see if I can change the channel. You just don’t know when your powers might show up.
Star Wars had Luke Skywalker. Just from his name he should have known he was destined for greater things but instead he was stuck on some desert planet with his in-laws and even though he knew there was something calling him his uncle wanted him to forget all that Jedi nonsense and stay to help out on the farm. You can’t tell me you haven’t felt like that before. From making the bed to mowing the yard, kids are always stuck doing what the adults think they should do, not off riding my BMX bike because you know I am going to make it big some day, jeez Mom! But then fate appeared in the form of two droids and away we go. Luke’s dilemma is the one we all face in our late teens, chase your destiny or stay home to tend the farm. Come to think of it Clark Kent had the same problem but that is a different story. In 1977 Luke chose his destiny and every man from 5 to 50 was hooked.
That is the making of a good movie, Lucas was determined to make Star Wars great. He had the unsuspecting hero but then decided to kick it up a notch by introducing a young princess who also happens to be the female hero of our story which is unthinkable in the late 70’s. And not only that, she is independent and possibly a Jedi as well.
A strong hero or heroine or both, that keeps kids dressing up like your characters spending their parents money on the action figures and all things branded but Lucas took it to another level. He had a X-wing fighter, the elite of the elite, that looked like me. Yet another layer to the magic, I like to think of it as the everyman magic.
Sure I’ll go see Mission Impossible 12 but there will always be just a hair of resentment while I do it because there is only one Tom Cruise and only he can run like that at 50. Sure there are people in the movie that look like me but they are hot dog vendors or garbage men. No offense to those professions but if I am going to a movie and you want me to love it, make me an X-wing Fighter.
There are some limitations. I probably won’t pass for a secret service agent with a chip on his shoulder that dispatches bad guys without breaking a sweat but I could be the guy that takes a bullet for the President. I don’t want the lead; I just want to know I am in there. And not just an extra in the buffet line at the restaurant, actually part of the plot. In Lucas’ future world there are normal guys just like me fighting for the rebel alliance; it makes me kind of happy just saying it.
That is where the prequel lost me. The story just wasn’t as compelling. I didn’t feel for the characters and their struggles…. everyone was just too damn pretty. I can’t say if Lucas knew this formula the first time around and forgot or if it was just dumb luck. The Force Awakens this time without Lucas at the helm but hopefully whoever is yelling cut remembers those layers of magic. Because I know when I shell out $40 to take my son to the newest installment I want both of us to walk out thinking, ‘The future is going to be such an awesome place.”