Star Wars is bigger than every man, woman, and child on Earth, and that’s a good thing.
If you’re reading this, I am, incidentally, assuming you are a Star Wars fan. No, I don’t mean to imply that you are putting the finishing touches on your Count Dooku costume, that your wedding was wookie themed, or even that you have a lightsaber hanging over your fireplace across from your wampa-skin rug. What I mean is that you like Star Wars, you’re likely to see the new movie, and you’ve probably seen a number of the previous movies (I’d say “all”, but I haven’t seen that animated one myself, and I’m a stickler for technicalities). Big Bang Theory characterization aside, it is entirely possible to be a fan of something, like Star Wars, and not emblazon your life with a thousand metaphorical (or literal) Death Star tattoos. So, again, given you are reading what is predominantly a video game blog, I’m going to go ahead and guess that you like Star Wars. Probably a pretty safe bet.
That said, I myself am a fan of Star Wars, but not a fanatic for Star Wars. This is not to disparage anyone who is fanatical for the Force. We’re definitely dealing with a glass houses thing here; it would be downright disingenuous for me to mock anyone’s collection of Storm Troopers when I’m writing this in the shadow of a rather ominous Galactus toy, and, while I’ve never dressed as a Jedi, I’m pretty sure there’s a few photos of me floating around with a rather intricate Pokémon costume. Star Wars has never exactly been my thing, but that is likely not the fault of the series or its fandom, just that there’s only so much room in my heart for space battles in far off galaxies, and Voltron has already combined to fill that position.
All that is just preamble so I can say this not as a fan (or fanatic), but as someone who claims to pay attention to culture: Star Wars is now a religion. And that’s still a good thing.
Nobody wants to hear this, but I’m going to say that if you were born after the release of the original trilogy, you’re going to live to see a remake of Star Wars IV. You’re going to see Luke Skywalker played by someone other than Mark Hamill. You’re going to see a C-3PO and R2-D2 that are updated for “modern audiences”. This isn’t a matter of “if”, it’s “when”. If this sounds crazy to you, consider that they’re casting a “Young Han Solo” as we speak, and that’s a hop, skip, and jump away from, “you love the character, not the actor, right? Prove your love.”
And, yes, it will be a shameless cash grab. Yes, they’re going to remake Star Wars IV for the same reason they’re remaking Final Fantasy 7 as a multi-part “series”: everyone already knows that you care about the original trilogy more than any tale of rebellious Bothans or Darth Vader’s childhood racing career, so why bother with all the fat, let’s get right to that juicy, juicy steak. You’ve been begging for something that made you feel like you were watching A New Hope for the first time for decades, so, ya know, here’s A New Hope, new, again, for the first time. John Williams Jr. is set to compose the score.
Cash grab or not, though, this is how myths work. Consider Hercules, Gilgamesh, or even Batman. There are stories of Hercules dying and ascending to godhood, there are tales of Gilgamesh off and committing non-Humbaba related deeds, and we’ve all heard about the time Batman became an old man and started ranting about whores way too much… but that’s not what people want. Okay, yeah, there are always people who want the whole story, the story of how Superman one day retires, or the tale of what happens after the Odyssey, but look at the stories that are told over and over again. The average man on the street probably can’t name a single one of ‘em, but he’ll know that Hercules was known for twelve labors. Your momma might not know a thing about Batman, but she knows he fights the Joker over and over again. And, heck, Final Fantasy’s Gilgamesh and Enkidu may have next to nothing to do with their original portrayal, but that’s the nature of myth, that the general thought remains, and a hero searching eternally for something is more powerful than what some tablets (stone, not digital) ever claimed Gilgamesh actually did. There is a reason every damn Spider-Man story goes back to the Uncle Ben well, and ignores that time Peter Parker killed Mary Jane with radioactive sperm.
For all its profit mongering and copyright hoarding, Disney Corp knows what to do with a myth. Everyone always whines about Disney’s “straight to video” oeuvre, like Beauty and the Beast and Christmas, or Cinderella 3 (a movie that contains an unusual amount of time travel), and the general sentiment is that these movies are crass exploitations of brands that should remain unsullied with pointless sequels far beyond the scope of their initial creators. So… which creators are we talking about here? The people that made Disney movies back in the late 1900s, or the original authors who wrote this stuff down centuries ago, or even the storytellers who first pioneered the downtrodden girls who turn out to be princesses and raging beasts that are just cursed little boys archetypes? Disney has taken these tales and codified them, to the point that the idea of a “Beast” that looks nothing like 1991’s version seems foreign, and the concept of seven dwarfs without descriptive names is just bizarre. It’s not like there haven’t been a thousand productions, shows, and books about “Beauty and the Beast”, but one company has, for better or worse, made it theirs, and that’s what Americans of all ages believe in.
Disney is going to make Star Wars something that is never ending. And that’s still a good thing.
Star Wars is a lot of things to a lot of people, but that’s what myths are. Back in elementary school, we’re told that myths were simply stories created by frightened primitives attempting to explain the world around them. Thunder and Lightning aren’t scary, they’re just Zeus bowling. The volcano is erupting because we haven’t sacrificed nearly enough virgins. The sun travels through the sky because it is chased by an all-devouring pink ball that is envious of its fireball ability. But the greatest myth told to children is that myths were the be all and end all of explanations for earlier societies, as if an unwavering belief in the gods was all it ever took to placate the masses. Obviously, I don’t have the inside scoop on any archeologists, but, call me crazy, I no more trust that every last Grecian believed in Helios ferrying the sun around than people today believe every truck is secretly a robot in disguise. Myths, more than anything, are entertainment, and always have been. The finer myths, the ones that really do move from generation to generation, those myths possess some truth, some explanation for the world, but you’ll get the same satisfying morality from Oedipus or Luke’s dysfunctional relationships.
And, really, that’s why Star Wars can become a myth that will go on forever. Hero’s Journey, Western, Samurai Flick, Flash Gordon; wherever you want to place its origins, the original Star Wars is many things to many people because it is many things. Star Wars drew from many, many different sources for its final product, and the melting pot of themes and characters got a strew going that can appeal to practically anyone. We’ve got a whiny farm boy that turns out to be the savior of the universe for all you kids that scribble emo poetry on your Livejournal, there’s the cool jock that is just too good for all this played by a guy who is convinced he’s too good for all this, and a pretty pretty princess that is incidentally a blood-thirsty murderess/sex symbol for a generation. And on the other side of the aisle there is maybe the most iconic, menacing bad guy in the history of cinema, Grand Moff Tarkin, and also some dude wearing his finest funeral cape and a spray-painted samurai helmet. And then there’s Emperor Palpatine, the guy who had to be super-duper evil to stand over Vader’s generally evil, so that way when Vader flips at the final hour, there’s this old man that nobody feels bad about giving the ol’ shaft. So if you want to like the bad guys, feel free, because there’s a worse guy.
Star Wars, original Star Wars, is filled with amazing characters and worlds (a whole universe, let’s say) that are simultaneously lovingly defined and just vague enough to be anything to anybody. There’s a couple of “absolute rules” for each character, but beyond stuff like Chewie wouldn’t eat Leia, you can take these folks and stick them in any situation. Han can be a young thief, smarmy smuggler, or reluctant mentor, and it works, because he’s Han Solo. And if it doesn’t work? Who cares, we’ll keep the stories that we do like, and cut out the chafe during the next reboot.
That’s the other thing about myths: their canonicity is forever in flux. Sorry, person who has to write the latest Guide to the Star Wars Universe, but your work might be for naught in a few short years. We’ve already seen it once with Star Wars, when all the voices of the Expanded Universe were suddenly silenced as Goofy steamrolled into town. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ever read those stories again, simply that they’re not the “answer” they once were. Bad news for nerds: there is no end for Star Wars, there’s barely a future beyond Vader’s death, and that’s all there ever be. Episode 7, 8, 9? They’ll continue the story, but if nobody likes them, or someone just wants to tell a new story in thirty years, they’ll be taken out with the trash like that time Chewbacca took a moon to the face. Oh, we need Chewie again for another story? Erm… that never happened… he’s… he’s up and he’s cool and dating a woman named Mara Jade, or something. It won’t happen immediately, but our children, and our children’s children will be complaining about the latest holonovel featuring the stupid seventh iteration of stupid C-3P0, and why can’t they just go back to the human-shaped version of the character, he was so much funnier before he had six tentacles!
Star Wars will never have a consistent canon again. And that’s a good thing.
And you know why this is all a good thing? Because we’re all going to die.
If you are reading this, you’re old enough to be able to read. If you’re old enough to be able to read, you have a whole host of preconceived notions and beliefs that will only grow more inflexible and stubborn with age. What you consider normal will, inevitably, by the time you are an old fart, be something that is holding society back. You can see it right now with centuries of outmoded gender and sexuality beliefs coming to a head with one generation saying, “who cares?” and another responding, “because!” I’m not going to claim to be immune, either. I am a Level 9 carnivore, and cannot enjoy a meal unless I am thoroughly convinced some other creature suffered before landing on my plate. I consider myself a friend to animals, and I am well aware that any given meat product is the end result of horrendous torture on individual creatures, and also an ongoing assault on the environment in general. And, still, I move my mashed potatoes around a little bit to simulate a teeny tiny hunt, because I must have that primal, delicious feeling of crunching down on prey. It’s bad for everybody involved, including myself, and I rationally know this, but you will have to pry a porterhouse out of my cold, dead hands to get me to stop. And that’s just it, the only way society as a whole ever gets anywhere is not because an entire, gigantic segment of the population decides to change their collective minds, but because the old generation eventually goes extinct, and finally the next guys can make some actual progress without having to appease grandpa.
George Lucas was 33 when Star Wars was released. While there are an overwhelming number of “older” influences on the film, A New Hope’s mere existence is a sign that Lucas was not satisfied with what came before. Star Wars was literally birthed of youthful exuberance.
The absolute core of Star Wars fandom for many people is a need to feel that same joy that could be experienced as a child. Unfortunately, that’s no more possible for fans than waking up one morning to find your childhood puppy licking your face. Don’t worry, you can still love Buster VIII like Buster The First, but you’ll never feel that exact sensation again. But while your childhood will forever be out of reach, there are a billion children out there waking up to their Buster, their Star Wars. Yes, their Star Wars could be something completely different, and we shouldn’t force our fetishes on a fresh generation, but now Disney will see Star Wars go on in perpetuity, so the possibility is there. My grandfather, a retired WWII Navy man, loved Popeye, and so did I, because Popeye is silly. I don’t even have kids, left alone grandkids, but I can tell you that if, when it’s my time to sit out on the front port in a rocking chair and rant at clouds, I can also talk with my grandkids about how cool R2-D2 is, well, I’d consider that a small price to pay for having to hear about the fact that R2-D2 rides a hoverboard and wears shades now.
Let Star Wars evolve. Don’t limit it to just what you want, and let it become something new, something different, something for the future. Let it go, let the next generation make their own memories, and let Star Wars become something more than it ever was. Let the Star Wars movie become the eternal Star Wars myth. Let yourself change, and enjoy what Star Wars can be.
And, trust me, it will be a good thing.
FGC #76 Star Wars Arcade
- System: Arcade, 32X. That’s about it.
- Number of Players: Two. Yes, one of you can be the heroic pilot, and the other a lowly droid. We serve your kind here.
- Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: I’m going to claim this is the most limited Star Wars video game in the universe, including any and all Atari releases. This is a game that, released decades after the original trilogy, covered only the absolute final act of Episode IV, and doesn’t include a single lightsaber, wookie, or even a contemptible ewok. Actually, this kinda falls into the same hole as its 32X brother, Kolibri: it’s a fun enough game, but it feels wildly limited, like an early Nintendo game tried to play at being quadruple the bits. I think this game does have the same number of stages as Donkey Kong…
- And you’re no good at it, are you? Okay, that’s also true. Head’s up, if you ever need someone to aid you in a dog fight, I’m probably not your guy, because it seems like the only time I’m ever good in this genre is Star Fox. How does Nintendo do it?
- So, basically, you found the shortest Star Wars game available so you could rant about the films? Guilty. Though, in my defense, I did claim this could happen in the FAQ.
- Did you know? If you took all the Star Wars trivia on Earth, wrote it all down, and piled it end to end, it would reach as far as the moon. Wait a minute, that’s no moon!
- Would I play again: I barely played this the first time. If it wasn’t for limited credits (a tradition that I will forever be thankful for ending), you could probably finish this entire game from start to finish in like 45 minutes. And, yes, I mean “you’ve never played the game before” start. Poor choice of a launch game for the 32X, though not a bad tech demo.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… the best Star Wars game that was ever produced to close out Star Wars week. What’s the name of the game? Well, you’ll have to pop back in on Friday to find out. Please look forward to it!