Tagged: George Lucas

Marc Alan Fishman: Injustice 2 and The Hype Machine

The very first movie trailer debuted in November, 1913. It showed backstage rehearsal footage of an upcoming production of the musical The Pleasure Seekers. The actual play itself debuted the same month.

In contrast, today you can catch the sneak peak to the first look of the first cut of the promotional trailer of any given movie upwards of a full year before the actual film is released. How starved for content is our culture?

Think now, how literally days into pre-production of a given franchise the hype machine starts a’rollin’. When George Lucas and his menagerie sneezed a bit too loud, Entertainment Weekly and any other number of film blogs lit the net on fire. Speculation then is answered by some unseen specter of a source, second-handed, to an iffy-looking kid with a smartphone. And soon enough, Donald Glover is pitching to be young Lando.

Smash cut to the actual release of the story a year later. Smash cut again when Glover is doing his first costume fitting. Maybe he’ll Instagram his name on a garment bag. It’ll be picked up on TMZ, the AP, AICN, and Perez Hilton — if he’s still a thing. You know, just enough to keep the future film top of mind.

Marketing is an art and a science. Hype is the currency. Hype parlays demand into action. Or so marketing companies want to tell you – ask Edgar Wright how Scott Pilgrim turned out for him when you have a chance.

And it’s not just movies that are guilty of this sin. The day I wrote this very article, the teaser to the full trailer for the upcoming Injustice 2 video game crawled across my Facebook feed. And boy howdy, it worked. Before the predictable (but oh-so-glorious) cut scene footage shown over some narration completed, I was furiously calculating the cost to upgrade my Xbox. When the teaser-to-the-trailer ended, the release date in May whizzed across the screen. I looked over at my second browser window – with open tabs at Amazon, eBay, WalMart, and Best Buy – and I stared off into the middle distance in shame.

The fact is, these days products are bought and sold long before they are ever completed. Pilot season in TV land churns out show after show. Only those with enough hype to garner attention from advertisers ever see the light of day. And even then, if the hype train doesn’t keep chugging down the tracks, the show flies off the rails leaving hundreds of actors and production crew scrambling to do it all again. Maybe with a different script next time.

But who am I to judge? My company’s Kickstarter campaign – itself a bit of a hype machine if you think hard on it – was essentially drumming interest up in a project we’d still not completed inking before we were promoting the crap out of the finished product. Smash cut to over a year later, and only now am I flatting one-half of the book while I finish other pages as they drizzle in. And while I’d be tempted to share my half-completed work on our Facebook page, I’ve relegated it to our “seen by at least four people weekly” Facebook Live show.

The broad question is: When have we reached the event horizon? I think we’re already there. With the ubiquitous nature of technology allowing us to capture content being created live as it’s being fretted over, marketing and promotion is half-button push away. In a world where virality is as important at times as the actual quality of the product, hype is now deeply rooted into the very fabric of creation.

And because of it, Wing Commander made nearly half its lifetime gross its opening weekend. It was a bomb of a film and a financial failure. But it had The Phantom Menace trailer attached to it. We all know how that hype played out.

John Ostrander: Progressions


“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” — Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

I never took the above quote very seriously. I liked it, it stuck with me, but I had always thought it was just George Lucas pop-pseudo vaguely Buddhisty philosophy.

Now… I’m not so sure.

Now I think I’m seeing it all around me in the wake of Donald Trump’s election this past week. Now it reverberates in me. There’s a lot of fear out there and some of it led to Trump’s winning. That has led to a lot of anger and there is also a lot of hate going around right now, on all sides of the political spectrum.

And I think it will lead to suffering.

The “dark side,” however, is not Lucas’s dark side of the Force. It is a dark side of our country, of us. It’s always there. It’s always been there.

We’re such an odd mixture. We pride ourselves on freedom, freedom for all, but blacks were denied that freedom and it was enshrined in the Constitution where they were defined as only 3/5ths of a person. Women weren’t even mentioned in the document until 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified and even today they don’t have equal rights in many cases.

The attitude towards Native Americans, to paraphrase General Phillip Sheridan, was that the only good Indian was a dead Indian. Our wretched track record on treaties only confirms the attitude behind such a statement. It can still be seen in the protest to the pipeline in North Dakota. And this doesn’t even begin to cover the attitude towards Latinos, Asians and the LGBTQ community among others.

It is fear – fear of the Others, the ones not like Us, the ones from Another Tribe. It is the consequence of the zero-sum mentality; for the Others to have more, I will have less. Equality, parity, means I will lose. Whites, and white males especially, are told they are privileged. I know that the first time I heard that, my response as a white male was that I wasn’t privileged. I had little money, little power, and my existence was precarious. I felt I wasn’t privileged; I was barely surviving.

I did learn better. The privilege that I had was that I had more opportunities, even if they didn’t always come through. I wouldn’t be followed when I went to a store because of my skin color; I didn’t face a glass ceiling or made less money for the same work because of my sex or that I was assumed to be inherently disordered because of my sexual orientation. I wasn’t threatened with deportation because of my nationality or regarded with suspicion because of my religion. All because I was born a Christian white male.

However, many people who are barely making it fear that for someone else to get more they must have less and they are barely existing as it is. Politicians and media exploit that for their own purposes. That fear leads to anger, that anger leads to hate, that hate leads to suffering. That’s the progression, that’s real, that’s going on right now whether you’re liberal or conservative. We all are going to suffer, this country is going to suffer, and I honestly don’t know if we’re going to survive as a people or a country. I really don’t know.

If there is a way to escape this progression? Marvin Gaye hit it with his song What’s Going On.

Mother, mother

There’s too many of you crying

Brother, brother, brother

There’s far too many of you dying

You know we’ve got to find a way

To bring some lovin’ here today, eheh

Father, father

We don’t need to escalate

You see, war is not the answer

For only love can conquer hate

You know we’ve got to find a way

To bring some lovin’ here today, oh oh oh

Picket lines and picket signs

Don’t punish me with brutality

Talk to me, so you can see

Oh, what’s going on

What’s going on

Yeah, what’s going on

Ah, what’s going on

On the one side, those of us who voted for Hillary Clinton have to see that not every Donald Trump supporter is a bigot, a xenophobe, a misogynist. They have some valid concerns and some real fears and they feel those concerns were not being heard. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Yes, there is plenty of racism and bigotry and plain out hate in the Trump campaign but we have to sort those out and listen to the real concerns.

Those who voted for Trump have to listen, too, to the very real fears and concerns of our side. From what we’ve seen, from what we’ve heard, we see a despot in the making. That’s not just paranoia; the comparisons are apt and are there to be seen. We fear the loss of so much that is important to us – equal rights, the right of every woman to choose, the right to live in this country. We don’t feel we can wait and see what Trump does; we know what he has said and how he has behaved. There is real and valid fears and that leads to anger and that will lead to hate and that will lead to suffering.

What breaks the progression? Martin Luther King Jr said it better than I can.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.

“So it goes.

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Those great philosophers, Bill and Ted, summed it up quite nicely: Be excellent to one another.

Party on, dudes.



Dennis O’Neil: Why Fix What Ain’t Broken?

keep-calm-if-it-ain-t-broken-don-t-fix-it.jpgA naked old man squatting near a small fire on a barren hillside, surrounded by children who listen as the old man’s voice enters the stillness…

A scene from a time near the beginning of storytelling as a communal activity, or hear the end, a time when myth and religion finally reunite, or a time before their sundering.

Here’s a few words from George Lucas, of Star Wars fame: “Mythology is a performance piece that gets acted out over hundreds of years before it actually becomes embedded in clay on a tablet or is put down on a piece of paper to be codified as a fixed thing. But originally it was performed for a group of people in a way in which the psychological feedback would tell the narrator which way to go. Mythology was created out of what emotionally worked as a story.”

And stories, you may not be astonished to learn, are the direct descendants of mythology or, if you care to change your angle a bit, stories are mythology. So, before theater and high-speed printing and radio and movies and television and, yes, comic books – before all the (as Steven King calls them) story delivery systems that cram our lives, performer and audience breathed the same air, exchanged responses, and in a sense, co-created the story.

We may be in the process of recreating that dynamic. When I crept into the professional writing dodge, 50-plus years ago, we had feedback from our readers, in the forms of snail mail (the only kind of mail to which we had access) and, eventually, sales figures. But these responses were too slow – in the case of sales figures, way too slow – to affect our whats and our hows. By the time were were reading somebody’s angry denunciation of the hero’s new purple boots, we were working on stuff that wouldn’t be in print for months and there was nothing we could do about those damn boots except change them back and that would take additional time…

Sales figures? Look for reliable ones in about nine months.

Now, however, social media have changed the game. A reader can be complaining about those boots within hours of their debut and maybe the creative team can get them fixed before the next issue. Alternately, the team can bask in praise because, well, doggone it, those boots have made a difference!

All good, right?

Okay, maybe not all. Sometimes people don’t know what they want until someone shows it to them and if the team’s work is entirely dictated by cheers and boos, they might either be afraid of changing something that seems to be finding favor, thus inviting stagnation, or giving a fair chance to stuff yet to find its audience. Or maybe a creator’s Next Great Idea never gets out of the notebook because…heck, what we’re doing is working fine and why fix what ain’t broken?

As for those kids gathered near the fire…maybe they’re entranced by the old man’s story. Or maybe they’re just enjoying the warmth of the fire.


Dennis O’Neil: The Times They Are…


So where are we and how’d we get here? An easy one to answer: we’re in the first week of 2016 – that’s SIXteen and don’t forget it when you write your next check. That’s the where and you can add a “when” to it. How’d we get here? Short answer: Continued breathing.

It’s not exactly tradition, but it is a widely practiced custom, to get in a reminiscent mood and look back at the twelve months just passed and comment on them. So here we go, peering into the rear view mirror, and…

Not a lot to see. For us, it was a quiet year, maybe the quietest in decades. Not much travel, not much shooting off my mouth in public. We stuck pretty close to Nyack, and we could do worse; nice town, Nyack, which is probably why we’re still here. The year before last – that’d be 2014 – was a monster, and so a placid stretch may have been in order. We are, after all, no spring chickens.

We lost some people because that’s what happens. We can’t change that, but we can remember and grieve,

The 2015 pop culture scene was pretty chipper. I did nothing as a participant, but I don’t mind sitting in the audience, especially since our local 21-plex has installed luxury seating. There were the usual spate of profitable movies crowned, as I write this, by the new Star Wars flick which has earned, thus far, a billion and a half dollars – that’s billion with a B – and I wonder which country SW’s creator, George Lucas, will decide to buy. (George: we had a good time in Argentina. Just a suggestion.)

On the tube, we had a classic yin-yang situation in the two female heroes who made their video debuts: Supergirl (= bright and cheerful = sunny yang.) Jessica Jones (= dark and grim = shadowy yin.) This is okay. It’s a big venue, with plenty of room for everyone.

The rest of the comics-derived heroes seem to be doing all right, and there’s another posse of them heading our way. I have to admit I never expected to see Hawkgirl on a tv screen but hey, Shiera, welcome to my living room and next time, bring your husband Carter along (unless in the television continuity you aren’t married, in which case Carter can come as your boyfriend. Always happy to greet boyfriends, especially if they have wings. And are you guys still from the planet Thanagar?)

By the way, I’m aware that she’s sometimes known as HawkWOMAN; either name is fine with me.

But what’s this? Somehow, we have crept out of 2015 and into 2016, morphed from reminescers to anticipators or even prophets, and that’s not us. Prophecy is a game for either con men or industrial strength optimists and this former spring chicken, being neither, will pass. Just let my brain soften a bit and maybe I’ll try it.

Marc Alan Fishman: No Star Wars for Old Men


I know, I know, I know. Two Star Wars articles from ole’ Fish in the same number of weeks. He must be off his meds! Well, I was perfectly content to drone on this week about Jessica Jones, or really phone in my column with some generic platitudes of geekery for the new year ya’ll are celebrating here on this, the second day of 2016. But nay, I must dust off my hatespew bomber jacket and launch a complete snark to nerd strike like I haven’t had to do in the longest of times. Strap in – this is gonna be one Sith of a ride.

George Lucas came out to Charlie Rose’s Hulu series to declare that Disney – the “…white slavers that takes these things” – has shat the bed on his magnum opus, Star Wars. Yes, you read that clearly, Maz Kanata. Lucas believes that J.J. Abrams and Mickey are guilty of warping the intended vision of franchise with their “retro movie”. Per Georgie:

“They looked at the stories, and they said, ‘We want to make something for the fans’… They decided they didn’t want to use those stories, they decided they were going to do their own thing. They weren’t that keen to have me involved anyway.”

Let’s make it clear before I take my gloves off – Lucas is at peace with the sale of Star Wars. Per the interview (and others both at the original sale of the franchise and multiple since) he proclaimed his desire to move on. All he wanted to do then with Rose… was take a teeny tiny shit in the corner of the room before he left the house for good. Note that he has since redacted the “white slavers” phrase, so no hard feelings, right?

Well, maybe there weren’t any before. But now, I’m seeing red as well as Kylo Ren does in his daydreams.

It’s clear from the interview that Lucas is still very much in love with Episodes I, II, and III. His desire is still to stretch the boundaries of CGI in film. To explore new planets, new ships, and new aliens. This far surpasses any desire for good story, good performance, or good filmmaking. In his mind – per the childish retort – Abrams’ film is somehow pastiche or homage at best. That by starting from the perspective that the fans should be catered to, Episode VII is somehow a lesser product.

Of course, George Lucas is entitled to his opinion. Rare that I’d dare say this without jest behind it, but truly, his opinion is just wrong.

Beyond the overly syrupy glorification that was my column last week, I’m fairly certain most everyone has left the theater renewed in their love for that galaxy far, far away. And with a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so too, would the critics agree. It also doesn’t hurt that at the time of writing this article, the flick has grossed $1,200,000,000 – not counting any of the tie-in merchandising and futures to come. Are we all just blind? No, we’re not.

What grinds my gears to a screeching halt is the “have your cake and eat it too” attitude being presented. George Lucas walked away with four billion galactic credits with the sale of his epic franchise. And with it, should have gone his right to say anything short of a wookie moan of utter pleasure. Episode I, II, and III were a cacophony of wooden acting over thin plotting with a greasy sheen of CGI gloss so thick the 2-D prints came with a Z-axis. That here, in the wake of near global cheer over the apology that was The Force Awakens, we learn that deep down, George had his fingers crossed the whole time. Not that it matters. I think one of the better parts of this interview dropping has been my Facebook feed choked with support for the new film – and the expansion of the Star Wars brand now firmly in the hands of artisans who will bring back the spirit of collaboration that made the original trilogy the success it was in the first place.

This leads me down the path towards the bigger question of creator rights. Simply put: how well can we truly part with our creations? In the face of a big fat paycheck, can we look the other way as our brainchildren become the pawns of a new master? And regardless of whether our intellectual property is handled well, or becomes 2015’s Fantastic Four, are we allowed to publicly offer a cold shoulder and a smirk? If the blaster were held to my temple, I’d quickly say no. The check cleared, and with it any right to be involved in the conversation any longer. Especially if with that deal came the feeling that there were no “keen” feelings to share with one another once the ink was dry.

George Lucas now is akin to Anakin Skywalker. He is too worried about his own ego and power – sounding less like a Jedi master, and more like an immature child complaining about the feeling of sand in his shorts.

Mindy Newell: May The Force Be With Us


Hans Solo: C’mon, baby, don’t let me down. • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Five days and counting down.

Unless you live in France, where all new movies must open on Wednesdays. Or unless you live in the United Kingdom, where it premieres on Thursday, December 17. Or unless you live in Bayonne, NJ, where my local theater, Franks Cinema, is starting showings also on Thursday at 7 P.M. Which is weird because I haven’t seen anything, either on television or on the web, about the U.S. release date being moved up by one day.

Not that I’m complaining.

Of course I’m talking about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams’ newest baby, which he “adopted” from George Lucas when Disney bought Lucasfilm. To tell you the truth, I’m very nervous about the film, the saga having been tainted by the prequel trilogyalthough Return of the Sith was somewhat saved by the final light saber duel between Obi-Wan and Annakin. Still, Lawrence Kasdan is part of the writing team, and he is responsible, along with the late Leigh Brackett, for what I consider the best of the Star Wars saga, The Empire Strikes Back.

Aside: Once upon a time I sent Marvel editor Louise Simonson a story treatment for What If? – it was an alternate version of Empire’s ending, in which the twist was that Darth Vader got to Luke, hanging on that weather vane or radar apparatus or whatever it was, before the Millennium Falcon. She called me and told me that she loved it, but since Marvel’s Star Wars was a licensed property, I couldn’t do anything that reworked the canon. That was my first experience dealing with licensed properties. And by the way, I think it is a major sin that ComicMix’s own John Ostrander and his work on Star Wars for Dark Horse, who inherited the license from Marvel, was cut out of the “new, official” history.

Anyway, like many of us I have been bemused by what it seems to me to be an overdosed marketing campaign launched by Disney, although in an online story dated December 8 by Robert Hackett for Fortune magazine, he quotes Disney CEO Bob Eiger calling the publicity machine “extremely deliberate” and “carefully constructed” and specifically saying “We are managing this with great care.” The article goes on to say that Disney has spent only $17 million on public relations, against the usual $50 million that movie studios typically spend on “blockbuster” movies.

Of course that $17 million doesn’t count the seven marketing partners that are flooding the airwaves, including Fiat Chrysler. To be honest, I do find some of these ads very clever and amusing. I just saw an ad for Dodge, which the company titled “The Force Gathers.” With “The Imperial March” ominously playing, a black Dodge Viper – a stand-in for Darth Vader – leads an army of white Dodge Chargers, Challengers, and Durangos, i.e., “Stormtroopers,” down a major metropolitan street, passing scared pedestrians and heading towards two very nervous parking valets standing in front of a theatre playing The Force Awakens. The fun twist is the homage to another major film that changed movies forever, as one valet paraphrases to the other, “We’re gonna need more valets.”

Still, part of me is sad and misses those halcyon days when a sci-fi fantasy space opera made on the cheap exploded onto the world through simple word-of-mouth. Those days, I think, are pretty much gone forever.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens carries a huge monkey on its back.

I really hope it doesn’t let us down.

Thanks and a tip of the Dark Helmut to Nerdist.com for the awesome hunk of art atop this column.

Tweeks: D23 2015 Part 1

It’s no secret that we are huge Disney fans.  It was, after all our first fandom.  We love the movies, the TV shows, the Parks, the Broadway musicals – omg, just everything.  And then you go throwing Star Wars and Marvel into the mix.  (Plus, the Anaheim Convention Center has really amazing food choices, so we might just go to any con they decide to throw there.)

Last weekend, the super Disney fandom organization, D-23, held it’s 4th Expo (if someone is keeping score – this our third one we’ve attended) and lots of great announcements were made and tons of stars were there, and unlike Comic Cons, we could easily point out the origins of even the most obscure cosplay. There were also exhibits, concerts, signings, and panels.

There was so much going on that we had to break our coverage into two videos..  This one talks about some of the major announcements like Johnny Depp being inducted into the Hall of Fame, the new Star Wars lands in both Disney World and Disneyland,  a preview of Disney Shanghai, and Disney Animation & Pixar’s newest movies.

Until next time….May the force of Tinkerbell’s pixie dust come with great responsibility.

Mindy Newell: Full Of Sound And Fury

First off, “I just think he’s hot.”

That’s a line from the end of Man Of Steel, which I watched again last night. And the captain who says it is right. Henry Cavill is – im-not-so-ho – hot. Extremely so. Perhaps more importantly, the man can act. Given a script that does not serve Mr. Cavill, in its, let’s say, frugality of characterization, exploration, and screen time of Kal-El alias Clark Kent actually being Kal-El alias Clark Kent, Mr. Cavill does a helluva job in conveying the confusion, loneliness, guilt, anger, and prickly emptiness inside this alien immigrant from Krypton.

The first time I saw it, I thought it sucked. This time, I thought, well, it doesn’t so much suck as it does come up empty, running on fumes instead of a full tank. And, no, it’s not because *gasp* Superman Kills Zod! *gasp*which is what got so many bowels, including mine, in an uproar. Given the (truncated) emotional journey that Kal-El alias Clark Kent is on in the film, it’s – im-no-so-ho – the right action at the right time, for not only is Kal-El alias Clark Kent killing the warlord, he is also killing Kal-El the Kryptonian (and by inference, finally laying to rest the planet of Krypton) inside of him, killing the “otherness” that has haunted him all of his life. In that moment of final brutality, he transforms into Clark Kent alias Superman, born and raised in Kansas, U.S.A., and citizen of the planet Earth. As Clark Kent he will love Lois Lane; as Superman he will love Earth.

The problem with the film as I watched it the second time was that I had trouble staying awake to watch the very, very, very protracted battle scenes. Frankly, it got B-O-R-I-N-G. Director Zack Snyder, like George Lucas before him, is not interested in “what makes people tick.” He’s the toddler who knocks down his building blocks because it makes a big noise. He’s the kid with the Erector set building a giant John Deere crane that can knock down his Legos Empire State Building. He’s the adult ultimate SFX and CGI geek that is given a zillion dollars to play with.

And so in Man Of Steel we got an eternity of destruction played out before our eyes. We got IHOP and SEARS demolished real good. We got shockwaves of roiling dust clouds rolling across the Kansas plains. We got tidal waves sweeping across the Indian Ocean. We got F-16s and alien ships crashing to the ground. We got skyscrapers collapsing. We got pummeling and we got blood-and-guts – only there was very little blood and there was absolutely no guts. We got death without bodies.

It’s not really Zack Snyder’s fault. Nor is it the fault of so many young adults, mostly men, who have said to me, “Man Of Steel was so cool! The best part was the fight between Superman and Zod, and when Superman killed him, that was the best!” For they are all part of a generation that, as kids, saw the real towers fall down on television. Too young to really understand what was happening, too young to think about the political implications, too young to grasp the murky history of the Middle East and how it led to that moment, 9/11 and its aftermath, the televised “Shock and Awe,” was the ultimate video game, with explosions and lights, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing.

They did not know that it was a tale told by an idiot.

And now Superman has a new power. An incredibly destructive and unstable power, to quote writer Geoff Johns. Because heat vision and telescopic vision and super-duper strength and invulnerability and x-ray vision and the ability to fly at super-sonic speeds and across space and into suns and to cross the time barrier just isn’t enough anymore.

Because, you know, all that stuff can get so B-O-R-I-N-G.


Box Office Democracy: “Strange Magic”

I spent all week trying to scheme for some angle to not have to see Mortdecai. Maybe this would be a good week to go see a couple Oscar contenders that we missed, maybe our readers would rather hear about The Boy Next Door and see if there’s any chance of a J. Lo comeback, anything to keep me from having to write about a movie that looked to be Johnny Depp doing his best to murder his career on the same hill Mike Meyers went to for The Love Guru. Finally, late on Friday, I came up with a counterpitch that stuck: I should go see Strange Magic because it’s a George Lucas film (or at least a George Lucas story credit) and ComicMix readers probably have a strong opinion one way or the other on the man who launched and arguably sank two of the biggest geek franchises of all time. I regret doing it; I regret succeeding because I can’t imagine Mortdecai being any worse than Strange Magic.


Marc Alan Fishman: New Star Wars? Meh…

Blow out the torches and put the pitchforks back in the barn, kiddos. Any longtime fan of ole’ Marc Alan Fishman knows well that he isn’t much for the lightsabers and midichlorians. I’m not here necessarily to slight a multi-billion dollar franchise that helped spawn a legion of fanboys that in-turn became the heroes of my youth. Instead, I’m here to explain calmly and coolly why I’m skittish that the hype machine that will churn out the next Star Wars will not be the second coming all the wookies and rogues are awaiting with baited breath.

  1. J.J. Isn’t the Messiah

J.J. Abrams is a talented director and writer. But he’s not a miracle worker. While his track record and profit margins have never been snickered at, I look over his IMDb resume and nothing strikes me. Yes, he created cult (and successfully syndicated) hits like Alias, Lost, and Fringe. Yes, he helmed Cloverfield – lauded for its original take on a typically tropey concept. And yes, he successfully brought the Enterprise into our modern cineplexes.

But I specifically look to his Star Trek movies when I attempt to envision an Abrams’ Star Wars joint. And it has me fretting for the future set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Abrams’ Trek was clean to the point of stringency. His lens-flared Apple-esque vision held with it no lasting memories beyond the tepid jokes. While he crammed every spare inch of celluloid with today’s troop of tasteful thespians, can anyone here denote a single performance that was anything more than brilliant pastiche? I love Simon Pegg. I tolerate Karl Urban. Hell, I’ve pined for Chris Pine. But cast as living ret-cons, they all floated on the “close by not quite” vibe for their namesake roles.

“You incredulous Dewback!”, you chortle, “J.J.’s Star Wars is using the original cast and veritable no-names for the new roles!” Too true. And if it’s one small saving grace as to why I think the new movie will be reasonably entertaining and not the new testament, it’s largely because I think Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher have plenty more to pump into their historic roles. But I digress.

J.J. Abrams has the chops to make a palatable port of the seminal series. But, to date, he’s done nothing that screams to me that he was/is/will be the end-all be-all director that will remove the taste of the prequels from my memory. Which leads me to reason two:

  1. Episodes I, II, and III happened.

Preach to me all you want. Rebels, countless in-canon comics penned by incomparable scribes such as our very own John Ostrander, and a litany of extended universe novels may all showcase how amazing the Star Wars universe can be. But in all those aforementioned examples, the target market clearly was always the hardcore Star Wars fan. Not John Q. Averageguy.

The fact is this: Episodes I, II, and III did make it to movie theaters. And sure, they banked considerable cash. But find me someone who walked out of any of those flicks, declaring that they trumped the original trilogy in any way (and “CGI” sure as a Sarlacc don’t count) and you’ve found the village idiot. The prequels were bloated, underwritten, over-produced crap-fests that proved to an entire generation that George Lucas’s original vision had forever been tarnished by the very commercialization that originally made him his fortune. And I’m being nice – we know there’s plenty of people who didn’t walk out of Return of the Jedi singing ole’ Georgie’s praises. The fact remains: the prequels happened, and they’re not going away. Episode VII may end up amazing… but it’s still sitting on a foundation of midichlorians… and of wooden acting.

  1. Hype is a dish best served virally.

I’m wracking my brain to find the last thing in this world that lived up the hype built up over countless marketing ploys. The Dark Knight comes to mind. That’s about it. The fact is Star Wars is a globally recognized juggernaut franchise. When it comes to hitting the multiplex, Lucas and Disney will spare no expense ensuring the world at large knows of the impending Episode VII. Count the coverage of the teaser trailer alone, and then multiply it exponentially as we march closer and closer to the midnight premiere.

Do you remember Episode I? The tent cities that dotted the movie theaters, coated in cosplayers? Do you remember the aisles of every toy store choked with every non-chaser action figure of every background character that would be in the upcoming film? Or how about the happy meal tie-ins. Or the Hostess snack-cake collectible mini-comics. Or the 7-11 collector cups. Or the Pizza Hut Jabba the Hut slice-n-dicer. OK, I made up a few of them, but don’t deny the past (and the inevitable): nothing will stop Mickey and George’s empire from marketing en masse come this December. Santa doesn’t stand a chance.

And if you think Episode VII will be that good enough to forget the sins of the past, and the sins to come… well, I’ll see you at the North Pole.