Revisiting New York’s 1977 Critique of Star Wars

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Star Wars’ fans are a Force all their own in Baltimore.

LOS ANGELES — Harrison Ford has offered no meaningful advice to his young co-stars in Star Wars: The Force Awakens because everyone’s burst into stardom is so different. “I’m not going to tell them how to navigate this personal space,” the wily Hollywood veteran tells a Star Wars press conference. “But they’re in for a big ride, and they know it, I think. In 2015, people across the world are divided over gun control, terrorism, immigration, and whether the term “Christmas” should come with a trigger warning.It’s not uncommon to be teased by my co-workers for not having seen most movies, but when our managing editor announced in a meeting that I had never seen “Star Wars,” jaws dropped. In “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” we find out Anakin Skywalker and his mother are human slaves on the desert world of Tatooine–but visiting Jedi warriors don’t lift a finger (or a lightsaber) to try to end slavery on the planet.

Abrams, a director who’s already breathed welcome new life into what had been a stalling “Star Trek” franchise, star warriors the world over have been awaiting this latest chapter (the seventh, for those counting) in the continuing saga of the Force and all those affected by it. He then hooks up with the heroine Rey — who is played by 23-year-old Daisy Ridley — and ends up in the orbit of Han Solo, with Ford reprising his most famous role. Throughout the series, and in the latest installment, intelligent robots are treated as property–but the enslavement of thinking beings doesn’t seem to be a pressing concern for anyone. The popularity of “The Force Awakens”– ticket pre-sales are $100 million in the US alone – arises from a desire to revisit some old friends (and meet some new ones) in a galaxy far, far away.

The nature of evil in the first three films (when I say “first three”, I mean the first three films to be made: I am not in the business of pandering to a fictional chronology) is very broad, using tropes and images from the Bible to the mafia. Yes, “Star Wars” is just a space opera, and we shouldn’t take too seriously any movie franchise that once featured a character like Jar Jar Binks. Studio Movie Grill, for example, is planning to boost its workforce by 40% through the holiday season, said Chief Executive Brian Schultz. “We started calling back all of our college students on break,” he said. But a core appeal of “Star Wars” may lie in its universal themes and inclusiveness. “There a lot of entry points into the series,” observes Alyssa Rosenberg, an obsessive “Star Wars” fan who blogs about pop culture for The Washington Post. “If you’re a teenager, Luke Skywalker may be your point of identification. At the start of 1977’s A New Hope, the political aim of the Empire is the suppression of remote systems by fear – being able to unwind local structures of central enforcement is actually a sign that the reign of terror is working well.

As for Boyega, his character sheds his impersonal Stormtrooper designation, FN-2187, and becomes known as Finn while getting involved with the Resistance in the early scenes. But many artificial intelligence experts believe that in the coming decades it’s not an outlandish proposition that thinking machines could become a reality.

One high school teaching “Star Wars” mythology is taking an entire class to see the film, said Schultz, and several companies have bought out entire screenings for tickets for their employees, including every seat in the chain’s largest 365-seat auditorium. It reminds me a little bit of George Osborne and the “northern powerhouse”, but it doesn’t really suggest Nazism, with its extermination of the other. Recent TV shows (“Humans”), movies (“Ex Machina”), comics (“Alex + Ada”) and scholarly nonfiction books (such as “The Technological Singularity” by robotics professor Murray Shanahan) have grappled with the possible moral consequences of thinking machines asserting their independence. For some, all it takes is a sound: the machine-like breathing of a Sith Lord; the ignition of a lightsaber; a TIE fighter’s booming passage; an R2 droid’s beeping; or a Wookiee’s roar. Tom Atkinson, curator of the Star Toys Museum in Linthicum (which he runs out of his house, tours by appointment), plans to show up in his Jedi robes (the same ones he wore for an MPT piece about his awesome collection of “Star Wars” toys that aired a few years back).

Dozens of theaters across the country are showing the movie around the clock on opening night — at least 36 AMC Theatres alone will be staffing early-morning screenings. The robots in the series–“droids” in “Star Wars” lingo–are portrayed to be at least as smart as humans, and they bond and form friendships with each other and with their human owners. Canada’s largest exhibitor, Cineplex Inc., added 50% more screens to its “Star Wars” footprint last week, amounting to 160 more showtimes for the movie.

It’s important to remember that it’s a movie where the three leads are a man of Hispanic descent, a black man, and a woman.” “The Force Awakens” bridges two generations of characters. I can’t even be sure if I would have read the Harry Potter books if a family friend from England hadn’t visited and showed me her copy of the Prisoner of Azkaban. The six films so far constitute a highly unusual cultural resource: you can see how concepts such as nobility, meritocracy, class, equality and dignity have changed over time, by the way they are reflected in George Lucas’s work.

For them, life doesn’t get any better than when they’re transporting themselves to the “Star Wars” universe. “You’ve been waiting your entire life, for most people, to find out what happens,” says Kellie Hendley, a preschool teacher in her mid-30s who notes that, chronologically, the last to feature this narrative was “Return of the Jedi,” which came out in 1983. But playing Finn is an extraordinary opportunity. “I’m looking to be rich, like Harrison!” Boyega says with a laugh, enjoying the joke and trying to tease Ford, who is sitting nearby. “I’m trying to have planes and do all that stuff …” One journalist asks Boyega if he is ready for “the sainthood” that comes with Star Wars success. Boyega, who made his movie debut in the excellent British sci-fi comedy Attack the Block (2011), attacks the question with a giddy combination of humility and impish humour aimed. “I don’t know if I’m ready for this whole thing,” Boyega admits. “I just know that I’m just in it — and it’s going to come out, regardless. For him, the movies’ appeal is easy to pin down. “You have good guys and you have bad guys, it’s just that simple,” he says. “For me, that’s one of the things I had originally like about ‘Star Wars.’ There are good guys and there are bad guys.

Friends have to put a movie on while I’m there with them in order for me to watch big-name hits, and nobody has ever insisted I watch “Star Wars” until now. The conscious diversity of these characters is partly a response to the perceived racism of the “Star Wars” prequels. “The Phantom Menace” included black actor Samuel L. Once the editors picked their jaws up from the conference room table, I was given an assignment: watch all six movies in less than two weeks and write about it.

If you want to take the time to do it, you can do it; but the ones that really want to do it are the ones who are into that kind of thing.” This he was able conveniently to ignore later on, when the theme of lineage had become so strong as to be defining. Strength, in the beginning, is inextricably linked with higher feeling, sensitivity, empathy – “stretch out your feelings”, Obi-Wan tells Luke Skywalker, as if concentration were its own superpower. Han Solo is shown as a contrast, but he isn’t a person of lower birth so much as of lesser mind – essentially conveyed by his cupidity, and his lack of ambition for anything other than money. One impressive thing is how Boyega refuses to turn his casting into a race issue, with his black African heritage. “I don’t really care about the black Stormtrooper stuff.

The Jedi ideology is meritocratic: anyone can be a higher being, though this will be self-selecting to a degree, since only higher beings are going to work at it. And, of course, I will always love Ewan McGregor as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi.” —Annelle Tayao-Juego Disclaimer: Comments do not represent the views of Last year, I was in the wedding party of one of my members.” (And no, he wasn’t in costume, “although I did have a small light saber in one of my pockets.”) “Star Wars” is far from the oldest movie franchise. Boyega and Mexican-Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o feels proactive during a time of widespread conversations about gender and race in the workplace, politics, and culture. And it has an undertone and a message of courage, of friendship and loyalty.” That said, Boyega has been teased about his race, and his casting, by none other than Samuel L.

Jackson, who played Jedi Master Mace Windu in George Lucas’ prequel trilogy. “I was at a party,” Boyega recalls, “and someone behind me tapped me on the shoulder and (said): ‘Yo, black Jedi!’ I turned around and it was Samuel Jackson. But no film series has been more successful than “Star Wars” — all told, the six movies (and their reissues/special editions) have brought in over $2.2 billion at the U.S. box office, according to Box Office Mojo, while the total franchise value (including merchandising, licensing and other sources of revenue) has been estimated at $37 billion. It’s a natural progression for a character whom, one imagines, could command Han Solo to wash up the dishes in the Millennium Falcon. “She’s a feminist icon,” says Sarah Seltzer, an editor-at-large at Flavorwire who frequently writes about feminism. “I went online yesterday to look for feminist odes to Princess Leia. In a widely read 2015 essay, Jennifer Lawrence revealed her first-hand experience of the gender pay gap in Hollywood and how difficult it is for men in the industry to accept assertive women. Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently opened an investigation into alleged Hollywood discrimination against female directors.

And so the Force is now an amoral physical property, whereas previously it was a mental property – thought itself, the source of empathy and therefore, arguably, the source of morality. By Attack of the Clones, three years later in 2002, the Jedi have a kind of UN blue helmets mandate – “You must realise there aren’t enough Jedi to protect the Republic. I get distracted easily (read: I’m a social media producer by day who can’t stop checking Facebook and Twitter when I’m home at night), so I had to rewind a lot. Two decades on, a sad adaptation to a new reality had taken place, where the living incarnation of all that is noble – the Jedi – are critically limited by the rather limp and indecisive democracy that governs them. You could say this was simply a plot exigency, since why would so many key players move to the dark side, if the side of light weren’t just a tiny bit dysfunctional?

But I think it’s actually rather an acute reflection of the post-ideological politics of the 21st century: egalitarian values are vaunted but equality is not pursued, since the essence of modernity is that it is post‑historical, directionless, has nowhere left to go. Undermined by the inconsistency, the culture cannot confidently express itself, and fixates instead upon enemies who are bound to be stronger because they know who they are. Even though its principals were white (with the honorable exception of Billy Dee Williams), the tale of Darth Vader’s redemption spoke to the human condition. The classic Jedi response to subservience can be seen in the contrast between Luke’s first meeting with C-3PO – “I see, Sir”; “You can call me Luke”; “I see, Sir Luke,”; “No, just Luke” – and Qui-Gon Jinn meeting Jar Jar Binks: “Mesa your humble servant”; “That won’t be necessary”. He has no reason not to be, since at this point he is just an indifferent farmer, but it still foreshadows his knight-personality, which is more of a jiu jitsu, strength-through-attentiveness affair than a born-to-rule act of self-assertion.

People are not irredeemably lost to one side.” “One thing I noticed watching ‘The Force Awakens,’ is how often the characters hug each other,” says Ms. The fussiness of the R2-D2/C-3PO relationship makes them the most three-dimensional characters of the lot; portraying them as beings with the same feelings as humans but fewer rights invites the viewer to reconsider how hierarchies were formed and commonalities established. But borrowing the cliches of a slave portrayal, and draping them over a character who is basically a bit thick, lacks the sophistication that one associates with Lucas.

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