Force Awakens just a “lazy, soft-reboot” of original Star Wars flicks

What is Star Wars?  Certainly a cultural icon, a hegemon of the American film industry, and as box office receipts indicate, world pop culture.

When it was released in 1977, Star Wars  opened in a total of 32 theaters, as compared to The Force Awakens being released in over 30,000 screens worldwide.

The original release turned out to be a surprise box office success, despite hesitation and pessimism from the studio and director George Lucas.

It would go on to spawn two sequels and  beginning in 1999, three prequels were released, bringing the Star Wars saga ‘full circle’.

In interviews during the press circuit in advance of Revenge of the Sith, Mr. Lucas stated that he had no intention of making another segment, let alone a movie on the latter end of the series.

Yet when he sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012 for $4 billion, he must have realized that they would try to make money on the deal and soon after the new owners announced plans for another trilogy.

This brings us to the more than two-year hype over The Force Awakens, which in its first week alone has shattered box office records and “met expectations.”

It would be naïve to suggest that there was not a commercial interest in the release of the Star Wars films, though the release of Return of the Jedi showed an obvious attempt in the form of the Ewoks to cater to a younger audience.

One might ask why Mr. Lucas would sabotage the moral character of his movies with such an obvious pandering attempt and the simple answer is that he owns the international merchandising rights to Star Wars, or at least his company Lucasfilm does.

During the filming of Star Wars in 1977, he negotiated with 20th Century Fox and in exchange for half of his salary, he was given the rights to distribute and sell branded items across the world.

As business deals go, this was on par with the Louisiana Purchase, in the category of  massively one-sided deals.

This became abundantly clear with the release of the prequels and the billions of dollars in merchandised goods sold to coincide with the release.

Simply from a narrative perspective, anything after the original trilogy is unnecessary; the major conflicts are resolved and the characters have all fulfilled their respective arcs.   An argument could also be made that Mr. Lucas had no intention of making prequels as he also believed the series to be complete and from a monetary perspective, he was set for life.

So where was the pressure to make the movies coming from?   This is where the fans come in.

Star Wars has some very devoted fans and many people are still seemingly invested in the storyline and wanted ‘closure’.

They pressured Mr. Lucas to make the prequels, something I am sure they regret.   The Force Awakens in addition to the prequels has noticeable “winking nods,” self-aware moments which are an inside joke between the movies and its fans.

Despite being funny originally, or when done right, it takes away from the movie and comes off as a lazy way to earn laughs or credit.  Fan service can ruin movies by allowing the outside world to enter the universe the characters live in.

What is The Force Awakens if not a cash grab only made to satisfy fans with little regard to quality?

It certainly is a competent film in the capable hands of J.J. Abrams who does a good job with what he is given and should be lauded for his use of practical effects over CGI as well as inserting fresh, new characters with the older, established ones.

Although it does a good job of staying away from the flat, lifeless prequels, it doesn’t have the emotional connection that the original Star Wars films had.

They had spirit, were made not purely as a consumer product but as a story of the struggle between good and evil.  Most of all, they resonated with an audience who didn’t go to seek closure but to open their horizons to something new.

All the new film does is serve as just another lazy ‘soft reboot’ to exploit an audience who, as Jurassic World proved, will pay money to see whatever a studio puts in front of them with a familiar name to a classic from the later 20th century.