Thoughts, hopefully deepening ones, arrive at my brain in layers.
My initial reaction to “Star Wars The Force Awakens”:
Skillful. Savvy. Successful. And safe.
New characters, yes. But intermixed with the old and beloved, combined with recognizable touchstones from the franchise’s fondly remembered iconography. Most importantly, not a sui generis storyline, but a narrative which at its core is grounded in the rediscovery of the series’ original centerpiece, Luke Skywalker.
No, wait. First, a hopefully brief disclaimer. I say “hopefully” because I have not written it yet. And having now made it longer by explaining my hope that I can make it shorter. Sorry. Move on, Earlo. And limit your verbiage.
I enjoyed the original Star Wars enormously, from its soaring John Williams theme music and its diagonally scrolling introductory blah-blah. I then saw the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, in which, during its climactic light saber duel, Darth Vader lops off Luke Skywalker’s hand, which was unpleasant but imaginable.
In the following scene, Luke is almost casually reunited with his hand, which, in my world, insults the generally accepted rules of credibility. At that point I said, “Check please” and I abandoned the Star Wars opus for what I believed would be forever. If they can so easily reattach a hand, went my thinking, they can do anything. And if they can do anything, the bond of trust between me and the filmmakers has been irreparably severed. Unlike the hand they so easily stuck back on.
“Rocky” bellowed he did not want a rematch, and I did not return for the five subsequent rematches. I can’t help it. That is simply the way I am.
Abandoning my integrity, I attended Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which I saw in Hawaii, because… Google what was playing in Hawaiian theaters in late December and you will understand my dilemma.
Layer Two (of my reaction to Star Wars: The Force Awakens):
What flashed to mind was the image of a fullback taking the hand-off, wrapping both arms tightly around the ball to avoid a costly fumble, powering his way into the end zone for the score.
The “football” in this context is the mega-bucks Star Wars investment and its hallowed legacy. The fullback’s careful handling of the ball is the producers’ risk-averse strategy making the movie. The analogous “score”: The billion dollars in worldwide box office grosses, and still counting.
Layer Three: (Which came to me last night, before tackling this post.)
The approach the producers applied to Star Wars: The Force Awakens – the dutiful respect for tradition, the aversion to “re-inventing the wheel”, the story’s “baby steps” evolution assiduously combining the old with the new, the proprietary concern, the artisanal professionalism and the deliberate thoughtfulness in the film’s execution…
That is the essence of traditional conservatism.
(In contrast to the current “We hate everybody that isn’t us” conservatism.)
The end result suggests they did pretty well with that brand of conservatism.
Is it possible that philosophy is ready for a comeback?