With the tidal wave of good movies we’ve had this summer already, it’s easy to forget that there actually is another “Star Wars” movie coming — albeit an animated one. And yet the excitement and anticipation level clearly is not what it has been for all the previous live-action installments — this one does not even have the traditional May release date.
I myself have not even decided whether I will bother to see it, and there was once a time when that would have been unthinkable.
I’m talking about “Clone Wars,” which I suppose is “Episode 2.5.” The whole idea seems rather anticlimactic and unnecessary, since we know by now how all the major plot points of the saga turned out. If people are really that into the off-screen moments of “Star Wars,” wouldn’t one of those many video games, with all their advanced graphics and images, provide that fix?
Still, what’s remarkable is that this is nevertheless a “Star Wars” film without a great deal of excitement or buzz. Is Lucas testing the waters for both his planned live-action TV show and maybe the possibility of further live-action films, even though he has insisted there won’t be any more films? I’ve been trying to figure out what this movie’s reason for existing is.
Once, a “Star Wars” movie used to be a special event. There was always the three-year wait in between each one. I remember how frustrating that was after “The Empire Strikes Back,” and how summer 1983 could not arrive fast enough. Then, we had that long stretch without any “Star Wars” at all.
And then, there were signs that the whole thing was starting to turn into a marketing behemoth. The line of books, which began strongly with that trilogy by Timothy Zahn but then ultimately sunk to the level of all those zillions of “Star Trek” paperback novels. The “special editions.” The anticipation of the new prequel trilogy and then the letdown when those films did not seem to tap into the magic that we remembered from childhood.
It seemed like things were becoming a little too much by-the-numbers, like it was now more about getting a product out to a certain audience. And that’s a shame, when you consider the original film really was breathtaking in what it did for the medium and was even nominated for Best Picture. Sometimes I actually wish the original stood alone, with no sequels or prequels.
We’ve seen by now that both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are both capable of producing duds, and that a number of new young filmmakers are beginning to fill the niche that they once monopolized during all those great summers of the 1970s and 1980s. It is interesting that both Lucas and Spielberg seem to have had their own cinematic “midlife crises” by trying to return to the francises that defined them in their youth, and had those attempts either fail or at least be less satisfying than intended.
With “Star Wars,” we’re now getting to the point of beating a dead horse. Frankly, it probably should have been only a single trilogy, but what’s done is done. But this is a franchise whose time is now past. Better to remember it at its best than to try to keep resurrecting it to the point of diminishing returns.