A thing happened this week which, if you read certain hyperbolic sources, “Cracked the internet in half.” Said cracking wasn’t due to a cyber-terrorist attack or particularly rampant virus, but in response to the release of an 88 second (I know this, because every article in the build up was very specific about it) teaser trailer for a film that isn’t due to be released for just over a full calendar year. As a species, we’ll have been on a road trip round the sun and back before our asses even hit the seats to see this thing. I’m talking of course about the teaser trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens: Colons Are Cool. Admittedly, I may have added that last part. Maybe. The film is so shrouded in secrecy, who knows. And, just to reassure, the internet isn’t cleft in twain just yet. It seems these days there’s always something new every week threatening to rend the structural integrity of an intangible concept, but we dodged a blaster-burst again.
Cool, decadent and refreshing and ideal for getting around Tatooine
In that 88 seconds, we see 11 shots. Yes, I counted them myself, just to make sure I wasn’t making it up. A sweaty young man in a stormtrooper outfit stands up in the desert. A beeping football rolls through the desert. A spunky young woman rides a giant Magnum ice cream across the desert. The Millennium Falcon, the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs, loops-the-loop and is strafed by TIE Fighters. Spoilers – it happens in the desert. The Sahara must have great tax incentives. There’s also some shots of stormtroopers and a dude with a nifty hilted lightsabre that take place at night because shooting in the desert must be a warm affair and everyone needs to cool down.
Some people got excited to religious-zealot levels of positivity, declaring it the best film made in the history of putting things in celluloid. On the flipside, some people got angry. Some people poured scorn over it in such vociferous quantities it threatened to extinguish the world’s supply of good will, and some called for the heads of the filmmakers to be severed and displayed in public for crimes against their childhood and cinematic purity.
A friend, a big fan of Star Wars, sent me said trailer (after I’d already watched it, naturally) without comment. I asked his verdict. His response was: “That little football droid is crap. This is going to be terrible.” So in 88 seconds and 11 shots, he knew this movie was beyond hope, and a likely-throwaway shot of a world-building droid scurrying about was enough to illustrate the film would likely have no plot, pathos, standout moments, or anything worth going for it. This is in a trailer where we see arguably the most iconic ship in science fiction history fly for the first time in thirty years, and fly like we’ve never seen it fly before, thanks to the great work of today’s modern VFX artists. Not even that wonderful image was enough to melt even an ounce of the icy cynicism crusted round a heart that once would thunder for the things he supposedly loves. Incidentally, this is the same person who, after being so disappointed by the sequel to a seminal sci-fi action movie classic, boycotted the original Matrix movie as terrible and refused to ever watch it again, as if it wasn’t its own independent work. Some people are never happy unless they’re miserable.
What did I ever do to you?
This is happening everywhere now. What was once the domain of the angry fanboy and fangirl fretting over what Wolverine’s costume looks like is as mainstream as the parade of new big screen book adaptations or TV shows about sexy vampires doing sexy vampire things.
It happened not so long back, and happens every time a new image, rumour, or sliver of new footage appears, for the behemoth that is Fifty Shades Of Grey. Swathes of the mummyporn community cried foul at casting, at locations, at the clothing, at the stance and expressions of the actors in publicity shots, while others devoted the kind of love reserved for newborn babies at the same flimsy material. I’ve seen whole blog posts devoted to hastily-snapped pictures of an elevator in a hotel where the characters get all frisky. The guy playing the spanking businessman was either the devil or the second coming, just that scraggly Geordie bloke from Pacific Rim had been not two weeks before. How soon we do forget.
FSOG lovers, meet the comic book nerds. You’re the same now. Dress it up all you want, but complaining about the style and cut of a chap’s tie is identical to bemoaning the length of Batman’s cape.
The entertainment hype machine and the instantaneous nature of media consumption has become such that over-analysing and taking staunch standpoints for one side or another as fast as the things appear is becoming the norm. Scratch that. Has become the norm. We’re defining our happiness through the media we consume; lashing out when it’s not as we envision it in our minds and hearts, or decrying anybody who doesn’t adore every last frame as ignoble heathens. Scornful cynicism and blind love are two sides of the same, endlessly spinning coin.
I’ve been both, in my time. I’ve defended dreck and railed against mediocrity using my own disappointment as a weapon to bludgeon the dissenters – and I’ve done it before and after seeing whatever the hell it was that got me so positively passionate or negatively narked. I’ve been both enough, and I’ve seen enough of the end results to know, either way, it’s so rarely worth it. The great things will endure in your heart long after their time in the limelight has passed, and the disappointments will, hopefully, be eclipsed by the good. Man Of Steel made me spit bile, but I still love the idea of Superman.
The thrust of this piece isn’t ‘Don’t love and don’t hate’, because passion is a wonderful thing. It’s merely a message of ‘wait and see’ and ‘let it go.’ I’m resisting the urge to sing that song which, despite never having seen the film, I seem to know every lyric of by osmosis.
As a writer, thinking that someone would write off an entire novel based on a single paragraph is disheartening. It may not be for you, sure, but being so vocally against or in support of it based on such tiny pickings ahead of time doesn’t do anybody any good. The hype train just keeps rolling. Likewise, hanging onto the things you despise and trawling through their failings merely perpetuates the cynicism that pervades the cultural landscape like a crawling red weed (not all my pop-culture references are so bang up to date).
So, I watched Star Wars trailer, and I took a step back for a moment. I love that there’s going to be new stories told in that galaxy far, far away. I expect I’m going to love some of it, dislike some of it, be passionate and indifferent side by side. But what I have now, in this moment, is the hope, that wonderful, nostalgic hope, of a great story, well told, using elements that make me giddy.
The Falcon flies again, and my heart might just fly with it.