Thursday, May 24, 2018

Anticipating Solo

In 1977 action-adventure film was still a rare experience. An action-adventure space opera, and even more, a youth-oriented, fairy tale-mythic action-adventure space opera, was unprecedented in major feature film. And this was combined with the invention of a computer-controlled camera that, by enabling an unexampled level of precision and flexibility in effects work, revolutionized it by permitting a density, a quality, a quantity of such work such as had never been attempted before.

And audiences loved it.

In the 1990s they still loved it. But it was no longer novel. And it was no longer unique, in a field increasingly crowded with action movies constantly upping the ante in regard to the scale and technical sophistication of the spectacle. In fairness, Lucas did strive for originality with the next trilogy. By making them prequels, by investing so heavily in building up his universe, not least with his then-revolutionary, lavish use of CGI, he did undeniably create something different. However, the different is not necessarily appealing, and becaue it was inconsistent with the earlier films, and did admittedly afford a kind of experience that not everyone loved (to put it mildly, given the vehemence of the purists), it did not go over nearly so well.

The most recent films have been nowhere near so ambitious, redoing what went before to such a degree that it can look like fan fiction (as Episode VII did), or simply a smugly obnoxious postmodernist "subversion" of what the films have been doing (as Episode VIII did, and paid for it with a forty percent cut in the box office take). In either case, Star Wars is at best one of a growing number of franchises offering this entertainment, with more or less competence. (If you want the fuller take on this, and much else on the saga's origins, influence and general place in cinematic and pop cultural history, you can get it in Star Wars in Context.)

The brand name remains strong in spite of that, but the reality is still that a Star Wars movie is likely to be increasingly judged on that level, the way, for example, the Bond films have (as their highly variable grosses over the years show).

For the moment the outlook for Solo looks very promising, a nine figure opening weekend at just the North American box office a certainty, with some regarding the weekend as even more promising than it seemed to be a few weeks ago. Still, how the riskiest movie of the relaunched franchise (for its alternative narrative approach, for coming out so soon after its predecessor, and a disappointing predecessor at that) is something we will only find out when it happens.

In the next few weeks.

Book Sale
5/18/18
Now on Google Books . . . (Star Wars in Context: Second Edition)
5/6/18
Some of What I've Been Up to Lately (NYRSF, SSRN, Star Wars in Context: Second Edition)
5/3/18
Just Out . . . The End of Science Fiction?
11/30/16
Just Out . . . (The Many Lives and Deaths of James Bond, 2nd edition)
11/12/15
Just Out. . . (James Bond's Evolution)
10/10/15
Just Out . . . (The Forgotten James Bond)
9/24/15
Just Out: After the New Wave: Science Fiction Today
7/27/15
Preview Cyberpunk, Steampunk and Wizardry
7/9/15

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