Thursday, December 17, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

December 16, 2015, London Odeon

Last night my son and I had the distinct honor to attend the European premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in London.  Most of the cast were there along with George Lucas and the film's director J. J. Abrams.  Robert Iger, Disney's Chairman was there to kick things off.  Disney's stock price has ticked up as the positive reviews are rolling in.

Inspiration for Lucas
Here is the history of Star Wars in one paragraph.  The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung ripped off world mythology.  Joseph Campbell ripped off Jung.  George Lucas ripped off Campbell to make the original Star Wars.  And now Disney and J. J. Abrams are ripping off Lucas to make The Force Awakens.  In 2015 we have the Hero with a Thousand Merchandising Options.

Star Wars has a long association with World War II history.  Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi) was a Royal Navy reservist who piloted landing craft ashore during the 1943 invasion of Sicily.  The late Christopher Lee (Count Dooku) served with distinction in the SOE that was charged with "setting Europe ablaze" by Churchill (For more on the SOE see  The Imperial stormtroopers have clear links to the Nazi SS troops.  The laser guns of the Millennium Falcon are clearly an homage to the gunners that served aboard Allied bombing aircraft of the Second World War such as B-17s and B-29s.  In The Force Awakens the First Order is garbed in the garish reds and black colors of the Third Reich.

Commander K and Bomber memorial, UK
Star Wars represents a clash of good versus evil.  The rebel alliance fights a war against a patently fascist empire.

But on closer examination there is an ambivalence at the heart of Star Wars.  Darth Vader is really Annikin Skywalker.  And Carl Jung, the Ursprung of Star Wars, admired the overt myth-making propensity of the Nazi regime.  Lucas, an American raised on serial adventures, sought to make an anti-fascist myth that would not be simply a cartoon characterization of the struggle of good versus evil.
Grass Valley Death Star Switcher
George Lucas made the first Star Wars movie for an astonishing $10 million.  The controls of the Death Star were a Grass Valley production switcher that was in use with TV stations during the 1970s.  This was economical and also, perhaps, an expression of Lucas' attitude toward the television industry.
Star Wars invades Tunisia
Lucas was also, in a sense, an American Invader.  In the Tunisia chapter of our work, America Invades, we noted, "Americans brought war of a different kind in 1976 to Tunisia again when George Lucas filmed parts of Episode IV: A New Hope in Tunisia. Star Wars would return to film parts of Episodes I and II in the Tunisian desert as well."

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
will be a fan favorite for those who loved the original three episodes of Star Wars (IV, V a VI).  Its characters, style sheet and much of the plot are lifted straight from the first Star Wars film.  In spite of a new Director and some younger ingenue cast members, this is not really a film that breaks much new ground.  Go see the new Star Wars to escape back to 1977.

I won't be ruining anything if I tell you that the best line in the film belongs to Luke Skywalker!  Mark Hamill even named his daughter Leia.

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