Star Wars

Peter Suderman on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Hollywood's Love of Cinematic Nostalgia

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It looks like a lot of you saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens over the weekend.

The movie broke all sorts of box office records, including biggest single day ever (about $120.5 million, versus $91 million for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2), and biggest domestic opening weekend ever (about $238 million, compared to Jurassic World's $208 million). It's possible, though far from certain, that it could eventually overtake Avatar as the biggest box office hit of all time (not adjusting for inflation). Those numbers could turn out to be even higher after everything is accounted for.

Even Disney, the studio behind the film, is saying that it's bigger than expected.

For my part, however, I found the movie itself to be a little smaller than expected—too heavy on nostalgia, and too narrowly drawn from the existing Star Wars universe. In a column for Vox this week, I look at The Force Awakens' nostalgia factor, and the broader cinematic nostalgia that seems to have taken hold in Hollywood recently. Here's how it starts:

Those with fond memories of the original Star Wars—which to some degree includes just about everyone who loves movies—will find much to like about The Force Awakens, the latest entry in the series.

Beyond the inclusion of most of the core cast of the original film, the movie is replete with references to the first Star Wars film and its two sequels, from subtly rhyming images and stylistic choices (the movie was shot on real film rather than digital) to locations that mirror the original sets and the very structure of the plot itself.

Indeed, as many others have already pointed outThe Force Awakens is practically a beat-by-beat reworking of the original, complete with a third-act X-Wing trench run, a planet-killing superweapon used to destroy a peaceful society, and a diminutive droid carrying secret plans to help the hero Rebels fight what's left of the Empire. Even the movie's newest, freshest element—its trio of appealing young leads—feels like a mix-and-match creation built from the various personality traits of the original characters.

Read the whole thing here

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  1. And it truly begins. Everyone starts off singing its praises, then quickly every flaw is identified and the movie is declared worst movie ever.

    1. the movie was shot on real filmrather than digital

      What are the odds it’ll be released on LaserDisc?

    2. I started out with a “eh…an OK action flick” and there I shall stay.

      Abrams cannot tell a story – so we have to wait for the next movie to figure out WTF happened between VI and VII.

    3. It must be like a new AAA title game being released on Steam. The Witcher 3 comes to mind. That was a hoot.

      I’m so excited, only 100 hours left to release!

      Game of the year already, huh? And it’s not even released yet!

      Wow, still downloading. 50G? Come on, I want to play!

      WTF? THE GRAPHICS HAVE BEEN DOWNGRADED!

      I can’t even run this!

      Worst game ever!

      I want a refund!

      1. Thanks for reminding me that is about a given that XCOM 2 is going to suck.

        1. Fuck. Yup.

        2. It looks pretty good. I’m not willing to pay $60 to try it though.

          The game that I’m really looking forward to is Far Cry Primal. That looks pretty awesome. I want a sabertooth as a pet.

  2. Another Star Wars post! This is just what we needed.

    Let me guess, donation to the Reason Foundation by George Lucas or JJ Abrams?

      1. Han murdered Fist?

  3. Oh, did a new Star Wars movie come out?

    1. Just another fan-fic, although they got some original actors like Ash vs. Evil Dead

    2. Starring Lou Reed

  4. Those with fond memories of the original Illiad ? which to some degree includes just about everyone who loves epic poetry ? will find much to like about The Aeneid, the latest entry in the series.

    Beyond the inclusion of most of the core cast of the original epic, the poem is replete with references to the first Homeric epic and its sequel, from subtly rhyming images and stylistic choices (the manuscript was written on real vellum) to locations that mirror the original and the very structure of the plot itself.

    Indeed, as many others have already pointed out, The Aeneid is practically a beat-by-beat reworking of the original, complete with a third-book Trojan Horse run, a cyclops that fought Odysseus cameo, and single combat between the champions of two nations. Even the poem’s newest, freshest element ? its trio of appealing young leads, Aeneas, Dido, and Lavinia ? feels like a mix-and-match creation built from the various personality traits of the original characters.

    1. Uhh, Isn’t the Aeneid more like a mashup of both Homeric works? There is definitely a “protagonist wanders the Med and screws hot chicks” part to the Aeneid. Whoch is definitely from the Odyssey.

      1. the poem is replete with references to the first Homeric epic and its sequel,

        Never doubt P. Sudermanus.

    2. *standing ovation*

      HM, I would buy you a drink, right now, for that, if I could.

      1. We need to set up a bitcoin-like bar tab service.

        1. I would in favor of Swiss buying you a drink just for having this great idea.

          1. I would be in favor of Swiss buying you a drink. Or two. Or three. Make it three.

    3. Actually, that’s pretty accurate. Can we borrow a paragraph from Gillespie to bitch about shoehorning pro-Augustian policies into the work, as well as a bold statement about Punic Wars being blowback for Rome’s original sin vs Dido?

  5. Chappie is the greatest sci-fi movie of all time. Only Serenity is even close. Star Wars? Bah, ok for little kids.

    They should make a film of A Fire Upon the Deep. Try that is.

    1. “Chappie don’t wanna do the heist!”

      I expected to hate that movie, but found it weirdly entertaining.

      1. I’m serious about liking it that much. District 9 was pretty good also. Elysium was ok, might have been better, but fucking Matt Damon.

        1. I’ve seen District 9 a couple times. The first time I thought it was just meh. Then I watched it again just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything but still found it meh.

          I recently picked up a used copy of Dark City which I also wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be based on the hype. I’ll see how it fares after a second viewing.

        2. Elysium had the most retarded “villainous” plot devices ever. Seriously, if these medical machines are so awesome and evidently use infinite power from somewhere then what possible reason would the richie riches have of hoarding them? Hell, make a better, healthier work force to make you even richie richier.

          Stupid ass collectivist claptrap movie.

          1. Yep. I stopped watching Elementary for the same reason (drink). Idiotic plots based on left wing views of corporations that make on rational sense.

    2. Or your namesake.

      “What the hell did I just watch?”

    3. I liked “A Deepness in the Sky” a bit more, though that could do with HBO 12 episode series type treatment.

  6. “Hollywood’s love for cinematic nostalgia” is a nice way of saying “Hollywood’s deficit of creativity and unwillingness to take risks”.

    1. Its fucking Disney. They’ve been making the same movie and calling it something else since Snow White. Granted, in Aladdin they switched up the genders.

  7. The problem with SWTFA is that is a re-imagining of A New Hope, and most of us have already seen that.

  8. I’m going to see it and I’m going to like it. I don’t care what any uppity auteur says.

    1. You just simmer down there, buster. You’re going to see it, and leave feeling hurt, underwhelmed, empty and betrayed.. and you’re gonna be thankful. You can’t cheat fate…

      1. Doubt it, I thought the prequels were decent.

  9. You know what’s pathetic?

    Writing article after article about the nth instance of a crummy, poorly plotted movie within a crummy, poorly plotted fantasy movie series.

    Can you imagine how ridiculous it would appear if writers all over the country wrote millions of words using “Guardians of the Galaxy” as a way of illustrating their various hobby horses?

    Well this is even more ridiculous. It’s a Star Wars movie! It’s been boring since 1985!

    They should be getting far more shit than the guys who own the Rocky franchise, who do make movies that are decent in their own right instead of cruising on laurels earned 30+ years ago.

    It’s not that I am begrudging those of you who chose to waste your money on Star Wars instead of wasting it on something less stupid, like a Chipotle meal. It’s just sad that so many people are wasting time writing forgettable articles that try to hammer a square point into the round hole that is a awful movie. The exercise crowds out good articles that would have been worth reading but weren’t written because writers are trying to explain how Biggs Darklighter’s romance with General Grievious’s daughter was really an allegory for the treatment of transgender infants under Obamacare.

    1. instead of wasting it on something less stupid, like a Chipotle meal

      Playa bait? Can Star Wars cause the bloody flux?

      Biggs Darklighter’s romance with General Grievious’s daughter was really an allegory for the treatment of transgender infants under Obamacare.

      It…it was?! BRILLIANT! Get this man a column, STAT!

  10. The original trilogy were rather small stories told against the backdrop of a much larger story the issues of which were minimally alluded to do as to set up the context. These stories became beloved pop culture.

    The prequel trilogy attempted to tell the larger story and were regarded as visually impressive failures at best.

    Maybe getting back to the style of the orginal movies is the best for a series that is just supposed to be fun.

  11. Ok, so I took the family to see TFA on Saturday. Kids loved it. JJ Abrams learned some good lessons from the awful prequels. But, I do agree with most of the criticism.
    Its funny though. All of the critiques that refer to the lack of information about the politics, and history after Ep VI, or knowledge of the Republic’s capitol (which is the system that the First Order destroyed) is valid. However, exactly the same things were said about Ep IV. So, not only did JJ Abrams copy the original Star Wars, he kept both the strengths AND weaknesses. (Except for Kylo Ren, I REALLY don’t think he is much of a dark Jedi based on his lightsaber duels).

    1. The other thing is that when [SPOILER] happened, it certainly didn’t strike me as emotional enough. I think John Williams swung and missed on that part, though he did a decent job the rest of the way incorporating the old themes with new music.

    2. The references to stuff in Star Wars felt like a part of bigger, coherent universe (using Republic, Senate, Empire and Governors helps give historical context at least), that you don’t learn about because people living in-universe don’t need it explained (except for what Jedi are, which gives it a bit of Dark Ages peasant being told about when Legions marched).

      New stuff is just sort of there, but doesn’t inspire curiosity, just irritation. Doesn’t help that he makes the universe so stupidly small, which I should have expected after his Star Trek reboot.

      Except for Kylo Ren, I REALLY don’t think he is much of a dark Jedi based on his lightsaber duels

      I love First Order because they are so petty, incompetent and backbiting (they’re goddamn Spaceballs). Yup, Ren is less of a Jedi than Luke was at the end of New Hope, because he is too impatient to train properly, but it doesn’t matter because he can just bully people with raw strength. Until he runs into someone he can’t.
      I wasn’t a big fan of the movie, but hopefully he’ll ditch the old stuff and go with new characters from now on – I really want to see more of them.

      1. Chick was good, dude was good, pilot was … a little to not good. Han Solo rocks, IT”S A TRAP! (god did I want Akbar to say that so badly), Chewie awesome BUT i expected him to at least hug Leia after stuff. I like BB and of course R2D2 is awesome. Anthony Daniels HAD ONE JOB, and he did it perfectly. Over I liked it. I think Ren sucking is part of his character. He isn’t the wunderkind Anakin was anyway.

  12. I’ve said before that I don’t have a problem with Suderman making a buck, but why the post here? How much traffic does Vox send to Reason?

  13. I’ve said before that I don’t have a problem with Suderman making a buck, but why the post here? How much traffic does Vox send to Reason?

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