It’s December 10th in the Year of our Lord 2019. In ten days the last of the new Star Wars movies comes out in theaters. Between its upcoming release and The Mandalorian birthing a deluge of Baby Yoda posts social media is overrun with Star Wars conversations so I wanted to remind everyone that no matter what, the new Star Wars will be disappointing. Why? Because Star Wars is, and always was, for children, and as an adult it will never live up to your imagined expectations, because … say it with me, Star Wars is for children.
What made the original Star Wars great is also what keeps it from replicating that magic. There is nowhere to go with a property that is aimed at children.
Unlike a lot of science fiction fans Star Wars was never my favorite. I saw all the movies on VHS growing up, went to Disneyland and rode Star Tours, played all of those awesome SNES games, and even owned the TIE simulator PC game. I went to the theaters excited about Phantom Menace, came out disappointed, and moved on, that was the last SW I bothered with. I was never a hardcore fan. I never had action figures, lunchboxes, lightsabers, or any intense emotional connection to the franchise. I enjoyed it as a kid and always looked back fondly on the movies, but I never obsessed over it.
The other night my wife decided to give The Mandalorian a try. She’s the movie and television fan in our family, I usually sit around and read while she watches Netflix or Prime shows unless it’s something that really interests me. But, The Mandalorian caught my attention and we ended up watching all of the available episodes. It’s a fun, awkwardly paced, light science fiction adventure show. Most of all, it’s a kid show put out by Disney, a company whose primary market is children.
When we finished the last available episode we decided to watch Episode IV: A New Hope. I can’t remember the last time I took the time to watch it and my wife barely remembered the plot. Luckily Disney+ has all of the Star Wars movies. Unluckily it only has the edited versions with the garish CGI additions. But, nonetheless we started watching it and I was excited. I even decided to re-watch the whole series, maybe all of it, and try to write about them.
Sadly, like a lot of things from the past, I should have let this movie live fondly in my memories. It’s a good movie, if you ignore the CGI vandalism Lucas vomited onto his own work, but it’s a movie made for 12-year old boys and I’m a 36-year old father. The acting, the plot, it’s rather cringe. In my mind’s eye I remember Vader and the Empire being menacing. On screen the acting is stilted and the whole thing comes off campy. Luke is dweeby, Han is campy, and Fisher is a poor actress. I got sleepy and sadly gave up a bit after they left on the Millennium Falcon and never had the urge to continue.
The detailed Star Wars sci-fi epic that I imagined doesn’t exist anywhere but in my memories. But that’s ok. Star Wars was a kid’s movie, it’s a great kid’s movie, and will always be a great kid’s movie. I outgrew it not the other way around and I believe a lot of the anger, disappointment, and failed expectations of the new material comes from adults that have forgotten how campy, cheesy, and childish the original movies are.
Back in 1999 when The Phantom Menace came out I was in High School. I remember all of the hype, significantly heavy and impressive in an era before social media. Anyone else remember the Star Wars pogs at Taco Bell? Either way, we went to the theater as a family, and of course, like most people I was disappointed in it. It was childish, stupid, filled with dumb CGI characters like Jar Jar and those dumb droids. It felt like a kids movie and my snobby high school self was into serious stuff like punk rock and Tolstoy. My brother, who is 10 years younger than me absolutely loved it. Why? Because it was a movie made for him. Even the main character, Anakin, was his age. Because Star Wars is for kids.
So, if you go watch the new Star Wars in theaters, or bother with The Mandalorian, take a minute to remember that it’s not for you. It’s for children.