Star Wars And The Nostalgia-Based Films



Coming out of The Force Awakens I decided to put down not a review, but a post laying out whether or not the movie is anything more than a nostalgia bomb. I laid out my fears previously, and honestly, a few hours after the fact, I’m still not sure it did enough to escape that fate.

A lot of people might say a pure fan service nostalgia bomb is what the audience needs, but I for one walked into a new Star Wars movie to see the universe taken to new places. To be frank, Force Awakens mostly felt like a setup for what could be interesting new places in the next two movies. If you’ve already read some of the reviews, a lot of them seem to criticize it for being a bit too much like A New Hope.

I’m not saying movies need to be 100 percent new. We’ve had examples of “nostalgia movies” all year: Mad Max: Fury RoadCreedTerminator Genisys, and Jurassic World. I just think Mad Max and Creed handled the decades-later revival motif with a bit more tact than Force Awakens did.

As a matter of fact, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace had the same general plot as A New Hope, but was a lot more subtle about it. One of the smart things George Lucas did with the prequel trilogy was plan it out as a twist on the flow of the original trilogy. I wouldn’t be mad if these new movies did the same thing — it would just be another link in the whole ring theory idea. Repeating A New Hope’s styling as a mythological odyssey is probably something Force Awakens had to do, and it does it pretty well. It’s just that Disney and J.J. Abrams couldn’t resist winking at the fans in the audience through so much of the movie in a way Phantom Menace never did. I agree with reviews saying the repeated imagery was a bit too much on the nose. Originally I didn’t even want the older actors to return but eventually saw some potential with the idea of Luke Skywalker swapping roles.

Back to the other nostalgia movies of 2015, Mad Max brought back its main character and imagery, but applied them to a whole new plot, and Creed more or less repeated the plot of the first Rocky but with a new image and subtler nods to the past. Jurassic World on the other hand felt like it relied a bit too much on the brand name (which ironically is what the theme of Creed was all about). I personally put Force Awakens between Jurassic World and the former two movies in this regard.

Still, what Force Awakens did got positive reactions from the audience, and people will defend the need for Force Awakens to regain goodwill for the franchise. I just feel like it did that in a bit of a cheap way. You can go either way on that I guess.

In any case, the new characters and the scenes with them were by far the most interesting part of Force Awakens.  New villain Kylo Ren might be what impressed me the most — he manages to be more than a cheap Darth Vader knock-off, bringing his own presence to the movie. It feels like this trilogy is going to be just as much a journey for him as it will be for the other new characters.

My ultimate question concerning Force Awakens and these other nostalgia movies is: how will they weather the passage of time? Dumping nostalgia on fans is ultimately about short-term gratification. It’s the unique aspects and sense of newness that let a movie be remembered 20 or 30 years on. Right now I feel like Force Awakens is going to be remembered more as part of a set than its own hit movie, even more so than the individual original trilogy movies.


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