In less than a week, Disney will release first Star Wars movie in my lifetime that WON’T be a disappointment. At least, that’s what I desperately want to believe. But what if I’m wrong ? What if the Force Awakens doesn’t live up to our expectations ?
How could “The Force Awakens” be bad?
At this point, it’s pretty unthinkable that the Force Awakens could be less than a good movie. It has so many good things going for it. Our lead characters are a Stormtrooper and a Junkrat, we get to see X-wings and TIE fighters face off again, we get practical effects, and we get to see what happened to the characters from the original trilogy.
But then again, I remember anticipating another film focused on Jedi at the height of their power, and seeing what George Lucas would to to push the envelope with CG the way he did with practical effects for the original trilogy. I went crazy when I saw that double sided lightsaber for the first time. There was a time when Jar-Jar Binks was on the cover of Rolling Stone. Read their article on him.
Star Wars presents us with a whole galaxy of possibility, and that includes the possibility that people will hate it.
How could it go wrong?
Well, I haven’t seen the movie yet. Maybe Han will stare at a crystal skull for five whole minutes and figure out how the defeat the enemy, Rey could turn evil in the third act with the words “From my perspective..”, Finn could get killed in the first act because he had the misfortune to be Black and a Stormtrooper. Kylo Ren could unmask himself as Jaxxon, giving the Expanded Universe fans a moment of “Hey, they acknowledged us !” while everyone else in the cinema groans.
I mean, it could be that it spends half of its run time re-hashing moments from the original trilogy in a way that makes everyone groan. If Han gets killed by Greedo, with his last words being “Should’ve shot first”, it might get a laugh, but will most probably set off a riot.
The Hype Gleam
Let’s say that the worst happens, and it turns out to be bad. You come home to your lovely BB-8 toy, your Finn lunch box, your half finished Captain Phasma cosplay, and what will go through your head ? Will you break down the moment you see Kylo Ren on your oranges ?
Actually, the reverse will probably happen. The genius of Force Awakens marketing is how it has already helped build our relationship to the characters before we’ve even seen them in context. Before we’ve seen them in action on screen. When we go into the cinema, we’ll WANT to love them.
Which means that there is a lot that we’ll be prepared to excuse. If BB-8 ejects out of an X-wing mid flight leaving Poe Dameron to die , we’d want to excuse that kind of behaviour. We’d rationalise it, figure out a way to ensure that our original opinion of BB-8 was correct, that he was a brave plucky droid like R2 D2.
The Force Awakens could get even get brownie points for simply not being the prequels. It might be terrible, but by simply not being as terrible as half of the Star Wars movies, it will still leave a lot of happy people in movie theatres.
But the gleam of hype doesn’t always last. It isn’t enough to make up for a truly terrible movie. It certainly wasn’t enough for “The Phantom Menace”.
What if the Force Awakens is good ?
The unique circumstances that brought us the prequels don’t exist anymore. JJ Abrams doesn’t have free reign over The Force Awakens. He doesn’t own Lucasfilm, or Disney. The films he worked on without Lindelof involvement were pretty okay. If it does go wrong, then the studios will point out that Abrams won’t be a part of the next film, and let him eat all of the blame.
But if it does go right, if it is as good as it looks, then surely everything will change. JJ Abrams will be hailed as geek Jesus, and everyone will love the movie.
Except, that isn’t how it works. Even if you have the best experience of your life in the cinema, and the euphoria has only amplified with each re-watch, you might find that people still hate the movie.
Why would people hate it if it turns out to be good ?
Everybody’s movie experience is subjective. We are all different, and we all have different expectations of what we want from a Star Wars movie. Even if most people enjoy the film, there will be some that won’t.
Some people might not be happy with how the characters from the original trilogy are treated. Others might want to see more of the new characters. Some will be pissed that the movie didn’t live up to the headcanon they came up with after seeing the trailer for the first time.
Or they heard a rumour about what the film was going to be about, got excited and ultimately disappointed when it didn’t happen. Maybe they walked out the cinema and realised that the Force Awakens didn’t retroactively erase Jar Jar Binks from existence.
Maybe there will be some legitimate flaw in the movie that doesn’t register with most people, but hits them especially hard, and completely takes them out of the experience. Some people will hate the movie. We won’t know why until it’s released. Until those credits start rolling, you don’t know whether that one individual who hates the movie is YOU.