Friday, March 15, 2013

Opinion: Expect The Best Until The Worst Happens

By: Zac Arnold

For years, I have proudly considered myself among the ranks of the nerds. I’ve gathered more knowledge, analyzed books and movies more intently, and even improved my vocabulary beyond what I thought possible. It may have affected a few relationships from time to time, but as Dr. Seuss once said: “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

That mentality has helped me over the recent couple of months, as I expand my boundaries beyond the Star Wars Universe, and my fandom increases. From the ages of 12-17, I was strictly a Star Wars kind of guy, and even made jokes about Star Trek. Although I must admit the only thing I *really* knew about the show was that it's ship was named "Enterprise", and that’s about it. Over the last few years - through the wonders of Netflix – I’ve been privileged to see more perspectives and ideas about our future than I ever thought possible. From the use of a new solar system in Firefly, to the creation of the Federation in Star Trek, and even proto-humans and talking pieces of skin like the Lady Cassandra on Doctor Who.

Clearly, man’s imagination of what the future holds has no bounds, so why do the people of the present have so much trouble using their imagination right now?

Ever since the news was released that Disney had bought Lucasfilm, approximately 70-80% of what I see online is now about how much they hate Disney and monopolies. Really? Please, continue to tell me that from your AT&T or Verizon wireless device. Those companies don’t monopolize at all. Or you could go on about how much you hated The Lion King, or Toy Story, or The Avengers… OK, sorry, that’s as mean as I’ll get. But if you put most of the arguments seen online against someone like Mister Spock, he would almost definitely say they were “illogical”.

I will grant, however, that it is not illogical to care for one’s favorite series, especially when discussing sequels. Just take a look at the likes of 101 Dalmatians 2, Cinderella 2 and 3, Mulan II, Inspector Gadget 2, Peter Pan: Return to Neverland, and I can’t even count how many movies have been made about Air Bud and his offspring. Even though the majority of those were produced for direct video release, it is clear that Disney has made some mistakes in their time with sequels, but they’ve also had shining moments. Ventures like The Lion King 2, The Rescuers Down Under, the Aladdin sequels, Toy Story 2 and more recently, Toy Story 3, have all become critically and fan-acclaimed. I would also venture a guess that Thor 2 and Captain America 2 will have the potential to blow some minds as well. Just about any sequel made has the potential to be a huge success or a terrible flop, it just depends on how much effort is put into it, and what the fan expectations are going in.

If anything, I would think fear over something being screwed up in Star Wars would come when the standalone movies are released, because it’s safe to assume the majority of creative juices and resources are being dedicated to the main films, episodes VII, VIII & IX. Anger over the standalone films could come from fear that the character wouldn’t be presented properly (like Boba Fett) and make EU fans mad, or that the character would go over-the-top (like Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi) and make classic movie fans upset.

Out of all this you’ve probably been wondering, “where does the title play into all of this?” and I apologize, I can have a tendency to ramble when discussing something I’m passionate about. I love Star Wars, I love sci-fi in general, and I want to see some awesome things just as much as the next fan. I think what makes me different, however, is that I have a motto I’ve followed for many years, and it is one that I will probably use for years to come. It’s helped me not only when preparing for movies or events, but also in life:

“Expect the best until the worst happens”.

What I mean by that simply is this – if one goes into the world (or a movie theater) with expectations for things to be terrible, their attitude ultimately makes the situation worse than it really is. The same is true for the opposite side of the spectrum – if we go in expecting things to be perfect, we don’t know how to respond when things go awry. I won’t bore you with any personal life examples, but rather my mentality on the upcoming Star Trek film in May, and Star Wars when it releases in 2015.

I’ll start with J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek. Up until the 2009 release, I had only heard bits and pieces about the Star Trek universe, but my dad who grew up on The Next Generation wanted to try the new movie and see what it was about. I walked in with an expectation for science fiction and action, nothing more. I knew almost nothing of character names, canon expectations, dimensions of the ship, how powerful the antagonist would/should be, or anything. The fighting, plot, visual effects and even the music were the things that sold me on the movie. The name merely added to the overall epicness. I wasn’t there, but I believe that is what Star Wars did way back in 1977. No one had ever heard of the name, characters, canon or anything else. No expectations, just a hope for an awesome movie.

I believe the decade between episodes could benefit the series overall. As Star Wars: The Clone Wars has risen up a new generation of Star Wars fans during the past five seasons, the combining of fans from all three spectrums should be an interesting blend should they get it done right. Think of it – Episode VII will be set after the last OT movie, bringing the hardcore, original fans to the theater. The new-and-improved graphics should bring the PT fans in to see what they plan to do with ILM and their CGI abilities this time around. Finally, everyone who has stuck with the Clone Wars will be enticed to see what else this company can produce.

This is as far as I really allow my speculation to go, however. I try to keep an optimistic hope for the situation as a whole, holding onto a faith in humanity that eventually and gradually unites the Star Wars (and science fiction) fans. If I approach it with anger, saying it’s going to be terrible, it most likely will be terrible because I have made up my mind it will be so. On the other hand, if I go in expecting more, I may be disappointed that it didn’t have a script like Doctor Who, or the graphics of the new Star Trek, or the intensity of Lord of the Rings. It’s entirely possible it may have all these things, but even if one of these things is lacking, it won’t make me hate the movie, definitely not the series, and especially not George Lucas.

Yes, the man’s a genius, and yes, he created the Star Wars universe, but to use some track and field metaphors if I may - so many other people have “picked up the baton” since his first portion of the “run”. People like Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Dave Filoni are now the next people in this leg of this cinema relay. Olympic-caliber relay-racing teams do not just choose people off the street, and these film professionals are no different. I have every hope for positive things to come from these movies, but exactly what, I’ll leave up to them.

The care for the series is an encouraging sign that Star Wars’ popularity has not died out, and there appears to be a reappearance of hardcore fans that have been lying low, just hoping and praying that a day like this would happen. I believe there’s nothing wrong with hoping that a franchise will do your series justice, but let’s try not to take it to either extreme thinking that everything will bomb in our face or have the potential to be over-the-top. Let’s just lie low like the information about the movie itself seems to be doing, and try our best not to hold it to any other movie, series, fandom, or previous trilogy.  Holding something accountable to its predecessors’ glory is relatively unrealistic and affects how we may view VII, VIII and IX as a whole.

May we expect the best until the worst happens, and May The Force Guide us as we Endeavor to Unexplored Territory.

This article is an opinion piece and represents the views of the writer, and not the entire Star Wars Underworld organization.


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