Farewell, Star Wars

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Dear Sirs,

I’m shaking. I’m sitting here, shaking.

I just returned home from seeing the latest Star Wars movie, and I am physically shaking due to a mixture of anger, resentment, disappointment, and a desperate feeling of opportunities lost. I’ve never had such a visceral negative reaction to a movie or any sort of entertainment. Undoubtedly the reaction I’m experiencing is proof positive of my level of commitment and love for the amazing story that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Now, that commitment and love has been called into question, and it’s rocked me to my core.

Before I continue, allow me a moment to prove my credibility. I saw Star Wars in the theater 26 times back in 1977, three times in one day at one point. I had every toy Kenner released, including the Boba Fett mail-in action figure. I read every comic and novel, multiple times. I’ve even written a series of my own Star Wars stories, imagining what happens to our heroes as they branch out in their fight against the evil Empire.

I sent a couple of my best stories to Lucasfilm, and how I wish they would have incorporated my ideas into this movie rather than sending me a condescending “thanks but no thanks” letter. If they would have listened to me, then this could have been a much different review. As it is, I have to say goodbye to what was a wonderful entertainment experience for the past three years.

And it’s all because of the travesty that was The Empire Strikes Back.

I slept outside of the Hollywood Paramount with about five hundred other suckers for three nights to see this abomination. And it started out as such a positive experience! The atmosphere was festive, joyous, and full of life. People dressed as their favorite characters, showed off their homemade light sabers, and hypothesized about what we would see when the movie rolled. You could almost feel everyone bound together by the light side of the Force. But when it was over, it was as if the dark side had won, taking everything good in the world with it. At first I felt numb, but that numbness quickly gave way to anger.

That’s where I am now, thus the shaking.

[If you haven’t seen this movie yet, understand that I’m going to be talking about specific details. But even still, I encourage you to go ahead and read it and find out why you shouldn’t see The Empire Strikes Back. Save yourself three dollars. Trust me, you don’t want to contribute any more to the degradation of Star Wars.]

1. Darth Vader is Luke’s WHAT?

Has there been a movie villain that has provoked more fear and awe then Darth Vader? And what an incredible set up when Ben Kenobi tells Luke that Vader was responsible for the death of his father. It gave Luke such motivation to go after the Dark Lord and show him the power of the light side with the business end of a light saber.

But no, that’s not good enough for the hacks that made this movie. They completely screw it up by having Darth Vader claim to be Luke’s father.

Yes, you read that right. Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith, is apparently the father of the hero of the Rebellion, Luke Skywalker.

Image-0-Header-1536x864-863587051769Did the filmmakers even read Splinter of the Mind’s Eye? Vader is pure evil. Evil personified. He murders people without thought, including Luke’s father, and that’s not just conjecture… it’s what Luke was told by the only known Jedi Knight. Are you seriously telling me that Ben Kenobi would lie to an innocent kid like Luke? It calls into question everything that happened in the first movie, and that is an inexcusable betrayal. “For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic”, and now they are a bunch of liars?

“Maybe Darth Vader is the one who is lying!” Of course that is an option, but if that is what Lucas is getting at, it MAKES NO SENSE. What would be the point of Vader telling Luke such a lie? How does it help him to defeat the Rebellion? Unfortunately, we don’t know, and that’s because of my second criticism.

2. The Movie Doesn’t End

When the screen went black and the credits started showing, everyone in the Paramount sat stunned. What? They didn’t save Han? We don’t know if Darth Vader is lying? What kind of a movie doesn’t end?

What should have happened (if this were a good movie) is that Luke arrives at Cloud City in time to save Han, and then they all get away from the Empire, maybe injuring Darth Vader or killing Boba Fett in the process. It’s such an easy concept! But these morons decided to end without giving the audience a resolution. We DON’T learn what Darth Vader was really up to, and the good guys are just continuing to run from the bad guys like they did all movie. No victory, no climax, no ending.

I’m no screenwriter or movie director, but that is just bad filmmaking. The cynical side of me thinks that it’s just their way of making sure people come back to see what happens in their next movie, to make sure that we throw away even more of our hard-earned cash. Nice try, Mr. Lucas, but you can bet that I won’t be anywhere near your theaters when you come back to betray us once again in 1983.

Speaking of being betrayed, my third criticism is about an unfulfilled promise.

3. Luke and Leia

One of the greatest things about Star Wars was the idea that an average boy could rescue a princess, fall in love, and maybe get married one day. [Once again, read Splinter of the Mind’s Eye to see the correct direction this story should have taken.] It’s what the audience wants! The boy and the princess! Not what The Empire Strikes Back gives us – the princess and the pirate.

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Ignoring what the audience obviously wants, Lucas tears the boy and the princess apart in the first twenty minutes, and then has the princess fall into the arms of the pirate while the boy flies across the galaxy to talk to a frog in a swamp. I’m sorry – I know Han Solo is cool, but he IS NOT SUPPOSED TO GET THE PRINCESS. It doesn’t make any sense!

At least we left the theater with a hope that Luke might get Leia back. I have to admit that one of the good things about the terrible cliffhanger idea was that Han is out of the picture, giving Luke the opportunity to properly woo his princess. However, even as I write that, I know that this is not what Lucas and company will do, because it’s WHAT HIS AUDIENCE WANTS HIM TO DO. It’s like he made this movie with the intention of angering the very people that made Star Wars the biggest box office hit ever (almost $300,000,000! Can you imagine?).

This brings me to my third criticism.

3. The Swamp Frog

To understand this next bit of criticism, you have to remember what happened in Star Wars. The only person who could teach Luke about The Force was Ben Kenobi (our “only hope”), but he dies at the end of that movie. Yes, Luke hears Ben’s voice in the Death Star trench, but he doesn’t offer to teach Luke as a disembodied voice. In The Empire Strikes Back, we find that he has NOT been teaching Luke, which seems odd since Ben can appear as a ghost. Why hasn’t he been ghost-teaching him for the past three years? We don’t know, but that sort of plot hole apparently doesn’t matter to Lucas.

00muppstarsWhat Ben does do is tell Luke to go find Yoda, supposedly a great jedi, on a faraway planet, and so as soon as Luke is able, he goes. So far, so good. Luke (and the audience) expects to find a powerful warrior on this faraway planet, but instead he finds a frog in a swamp. And not just a frog, but a Muppet frog with a speech impediment. Seriously – a Muppet frog! And to underline this ridiculous turn of events, Lucas even brought in the voice of Miss Piggy and Fozzie the Bear to provide the Muppet frog’s voice! I kept expecting him to put on a tie and fedora and do a stand-up routine, or sing “Easy It’s Not Being Green” while playing a space banjo.

Speaking of color, this brings me to final critique.

4. Politics in Space

Apparently, some people complained that Star Wars wasn’t diverse enough (did these people not see all of the aliens in the cantina? How is that not diverse?), and so of course, Lucas bowed to pressure and included a token black character in this movie. Was this really necessary?  What’s next? Women fighting stormtroopers? Asian or Hispanic generals running the Rebellion?

George Lucas, Star Wars shouldn’t be about politics, it shouldn’t have to worry about representing every different kind of person onscreen. No, Star Wars should be about light saber fights, space battles, and the boy getting the princess. Again, it’s what your audience WANTS.

mpvGpMgBut he won’t listen. He’ll just continue doing these kinds of things in his next movie. I’m certain Star Wars 3 will show us that the notorious gangster Jabba the Hutt is actually a cute little space puppy voiced by Mel Blanc. Boba Fett will take off his mask to reveal that he’s actually Farrah Fawcett, and then she and Han will fall in love. Princess Leia and Chewbacca will turn out to be brother and sister from different mothers, and Lando Calrissian will be their father.

One thing Lucas has proven with this trash heap of a movie is that anything is possible, that we should not try to guess what will happen, because whatever we think, it’ll be something we didn’t anticipate, want or need.

But I won’t be around to find out, and I beg you to join me! Let’s show Lucas that we are done with his manipulations and disappointments by refusing to support any of his work until he apologizes for The Empire Strikes Back and pledges to put Star Wars back on track! For example, word is that Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, and Harrison Ford are working on an action movie set in World War Two, but I say we sit this one out! Show Lucas and his friends that we aren’t going to have any more of it! DO NOT SEE THEIR NEW MOVIE, and that will show him that we mean business.

Speaking of business, you’ve probably seen in your TV Guide that the stars of Star Wars are making the rounds of the talk shows right now, talking up the movie. I want to organize a mass effort to let the sponsors of those shows know that we will boycott their products if they let the movie be promoted on their programs. No Hamill on Carson! No Ford on Mike Douglas! No Fisher on Donahue! But if they persist, I’m currently compiling a list of the scheduled appearances, so I’m going to have like-minded die-hard Star Wars fans gather en masse to protest, holding up signs that say “Not Our Star Wars!”, “Keep Space White!”, and “Vader Would Be A Terrible Dad!”

Join me, and together we can make it so that Lucas can’t show his face in public without our reminding him of his failure! Join me, and we can be the spark that’ll light the fire that’ll burn Star Wars down!

Sincerely,
Jedi Master Marvin S. Lymphburg,
Keller Der Mutter, Minnesota

This fictional letter from a really disappointed fictional über-fan is fictionally from the real August 1980 issue of the very real Starlog magazine. But not really.

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Truth

I’d been waiting for that moment for years, dreamed about it, saw how it would happen from beginning to end. I’d waited, patiently, watching him from a distance when he didn’t know that I was there.

It was my only purpose in life, my penance, to watch him and wait. Wait for the right time to tell him his place in things. At least three times I was tempted to be the one to initiate contact, but something would always stop me. At the time, I found it incredibly frustrating, and I would lock myself in my hovel and try to find peace about my waylaid plans. Each time, I would come out understanding that what had happened had been right, because things would have undoubtedly gone wrong if I had overstepped my bounds yet again. That’s the way the universe operates.

Or at least so I was taught.

Then, the opportunity was given to me. I almost told him everything, but I didn’t. He came to me, understand. I didn’t go looking for him, he came looking for me. After years of watching and waiting, he came to me. And I would tell anyone that asked that if there were signs to be sought, they were all there: I had him alone – well, mostly alone. Undistracted. None of his loud friends or busybody relatives bustling about to stop me.

It was perfect. It was time.

He even asked me what had happened. He actually asked me. The conversation had been going exactly as I imagined it would up to that point, and yet when he asked me, the words I had been practicing since I first came to this godforsaken place froze on my lips. It came on me suddenly – a feeling that I still mustn’t tell him. It still wasn’t time, even though everything seemed to be pushing me towards following my original plan.

I saw what would happen if he knew the truth right now. He sat before me, a boy filled with a beautiful optimism and purity, and those qualities would serve him well in life, but they would be his undoing if he knew the truth now. His goodness would make him obsess over the truth, he would go mad thinking that he could somehow make things right. He would run to him – and he wouldn’t be ready. And then all of his admirable qualities would be twisted and manipulated and turned into a dark abomination.

I saw him turn, right in front of me, in my home.  And he whispered that if this happened to him, it would once again be because of my impatience. As I was responsible for his father, I would be responsible for him.

And then I heard words that I had never rehearsed spill from my mouth, and I felt a guiltless guilt as I saw my lie spill over him. I knew that it was the right thing to do, even as I knew how deep his goodness ran, and how deeply he would feel betrayed when he found out the truth.

But he will understand, and he will forgive. That’s the man this boy will grow to be.

And when he’s old enough, he will be ready.

But not today.

“A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights. He betrayed and murdered your father…”

The Last Jedi Trailer • Finally UP!

DLvF7e3X4AIiZTMWe’re almost two months away from the premiere of the eighth film in the Skywalker saga, and we finally get our second look. First, the powers that be at Lucasfilm dropped this amazing new poster, which has a stark white and red theme going.

This is interesting, considering that The Force Awakens poster was splashed with all the colors of the rainbow, as films do these days. But The Last Jedi looks to be a much darker film, and as The Force Awakens harkened back to Episode 4, it appears that The Last Jedi will have similar dark themes as Episode 5. Hopefully just similar themes, and not such a similar storyline!

But these days, a trailer drop is nearly as big an event as the film itself, especially when we’re talking about a Star Wars movie. So without further ado, I give you trailer #2 for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

 

How George Lucas Helped Shape The Christian Film Industry

A long time ago, in a cinema far, far away…

Episode 1:  A New Resource

It is a period of spiritual war…

war-roomWar Room opened up last weekend in 1,100 theaters around the country, and made an impressive 11 million dollars. Not bad for a movie made with a 3 million dollar budget, and the movie’s just getting started.

Made by filmmakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, who also made Facing the GiantsCourageous and Fireproof, War Room is the latest offering in the burgeoning Christian film industry (read my thoughts on that idea here), and stands to turn a healthy profit, as all Kendrick-made films since Facing the Giants have done, thanks to good grass-roots style marketing and the legions of loyal Christian fans who consistently turn up to support their films.

Christian filmmakers, Kendrick brothers included, have been learning quite a bit from their secular counterparts these past few years – how to make a film look and sound better, how to help actors act better, and even (on the rare occasion) how to write a better screenplay.

But the thing that really stands out? How to turn a profit.

And this is what has gotten the attention of the big boys in Hollywood.

Of course, making money from art is not a new thing for Christians. Back in the days of Bach and his contemporaries, musicians and artists were commissioned by the church to create, giving us beautiful and important work that continues to be cherished today. Locally, churches have been paying artists for ages to minister as organists, choir masters, worship leaders, and praise band members.

And it’s also not a bad thing. “Don’t muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” Paul said in the book of Timothy. In other words, when people work hard, they should be able to enjoy some of the benefits of their labor. In filmmaking, that means if someone makes a movie, and it earns buckets of money, that filmmaker should be able to have a few buckets for themselves to do with as they please – even if the film is being made as a “ministry” or an “outreach”, and not just as typical profit-grabbing entertainment.

Of course, there are more and more potential buckets available for successful films. We have the obvious box office buckets, but if the film has been distributed in the traditional way, the majority of those buckets go back to the studios and distributors. So another option is the bucket of merchandizing.

And there are lots of buckets in movie merchandizing, even with Christian-made films.

Warrom-DisplayUnlike secular movies, where the merchandizing can run the gamut from video games tie-ins to kid’s meals at fast food restaurants, Christian-made movie merchandizing primarily means the creation and selling of what the Christian marketing world calls resources.

What are resources? One kind of resource is the study guide. These are written so that Christians can watch the film with their Sunday school or small group and then engage in a Bible study inspired by the film, and it’s something that is particular to the faith-based film genre. For example, Marvel doesn’t typically mass produce study guides to the MCU movies, nor does J.J. Abrams write study guides for his films, although they’d probably sell if they did.

[Undoubtedly they’d sell. Note to self: pitch study guide idea to Kevin Feige and J.J. Abrams]

But resources can also mean many other things, from church campaign kits, books inspired by the film, and original soundtracks featuring favorite CCM artists.

And then there’s the typical kitsch and tchochkes – baseball hats, coffee mugs, t-shirts, notepads, plush dolls, little wooden crosses, and the like. I would imagine secular companies have to be impressed by how effective the Christian Corporate Machine has become at taking films from idea to screen to marketplace.

For example, long before it ever bows onscreen, a film like War Room has been so incredibly well-strategized, planned, marketed, and produced, that I’m surprised the ever-popular Chick-fil-A wasn’t signed on for some product placement.

I can see it now… Ms. Clara goes into her War Room to pray, but when she’s sure nobody’s looking, she pulls out a bag of waffle fries and a white styrofoam cup of sweet iced tea emblazoned with that curly red chicken head…

Yeah, maybe that wouldn’t have worked.

Regardless of how they do what they do, it’s interesting to see how Christian filmmakers have joined their secular counterparts in mastering the business of movie marketing cross promotion and tie-ins.

And do you know who we have to thank for the overabundance of “resources” being produced for Christian-made films?

George Lucas.

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Episode 2:  The Merch Strikes Back

It is a dark time for movie merchandizing…

Yep, George Lucas.

That George Lucas.

You read it right, dear reader. I’m making the claim that George Lucas is the reason that every time a new faith-based film opens, the Christian bookstores and websites fill up with all sorts of movie-themed “resources” that help bring in more buckets of money for Christian retailers, publishers, filmmakers, producers, marketers, and everyone else involved in making and promoting Christian-made movies.

Most people under the age of 30 probably don’t realize that prior to Star Wars, movie marketing cross promotion was pretty insignificant. Yes, you had the occasional attempt to take advantage of the buzz created by a movie by making a strange toy version, like the odd “for ages 6 and up” shark game made by Ideal Toys when Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 6.48.53 PMJaws became such a monster hit. Certainly, toys and merchandise and even Christian-produced resources had been made based on movies and television programs, but usually with fairly limited success.

And then, when George Lucas took us to that galaxy far, far away, things changed.

The key is found in one of the biggest blunders in movie studio history. Because Star Wars was seen as such a risk, Lucas made a deal with Twentieth Century Fox that he would take a cut in directing fees in return for having all the rights to licensing and merchandising, and then he sold the toy rights to Kenner for a flat fee of $100,000 per year.

Kenner was so unprepared for the popularity of Star Wars that they didn’t make near enough toys for the demand. If parents wanted to buy their child a new Star Wars toy for Christmas in 1977, they were forced to give the child a voucher for Star Wars toys that would not be manufactured and released for months, and Kenner went on to sell a staggering $100,000,000 worth of Star Wars toys during the first year alone.

That’s one hundred million dollars.

Worth of little plastic action figures and such.

For a movie that nobody had wanted to make.

In one year.

Since that time, the franchise has gone on to make well over 27 billion dollars, with only about 4.3 billion coming from the movies. That means around 23 billion dollars of revenue has come from merchandizing alone.

And with Lucas’s innocuous little space opera, not only was a merchandizing juggernaut born, but a new way of making movies as well. Suddenly, films started being greenlit based on how much peripheral material could be marketed alongside it, as well as potential box office.

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The Star Trek Happy Meal.

It’s hard to imagine, but there was actually a time when McDonalds and other fast food places didn’t sell Happy Meals connected to movies. In fact, McDonald’s first Happy Meal was an attempt to cash in on the space craze created by Star Wars, and it was based on 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Read this article for more information on the way the Star Wars marketing phenomenon evolved over time, impacting the majority of movies being produced, both then and now, both secular and Christian.

Episode 3: The Return of the Faith-Based Filmmakers

The Kendrick Brothers have returned to their home in Albany, Georgia…

And so now we live in a time where it is standard operating procedure for potential merchandizing to play a heavy role in the making of movies. And while Christians may not yet be at the place of the summer blockbuster, where merchandizing often seems to lead the film, we are definitely at the place where merchandizing is being utilized to bring even more profit to those who made the faith-based film.

And profit is important, even in the Christian film industry.

But I want to end this blog post with a pretty radical suggestion.

If we must have a Christian film industry, what if that industry did things differently? What if the movers and shakers made the decision to not be swept away by dreams of big box office and profit, like all the other film industries are, and like many of the other Christian media industries seem to be? What could be done, if we determined that we were going to be a counter-industry industry?

What if our Christian film industry – as a whole – pulled a Keith Green?

keith-green1Keith Green was a very popular but quite radical Christian singer in the 70’s and early 80’s, who famously (or infamously) gave away his records, telling people to pay what they were able, and he required Christian retailers to give away a copy of his cassettes for free with each one they sold, all to help spread the Gospel. Green’s giveaways reportedly sent shockwaves through the Christian music and retail industries at the time, but Green was known to be an uncompromising person when it came to his convictions.

And if today’s successful filmmakers of faith started insisting on doing something similar, imagine the modern day shockwaves!

What if many of those resources developed for movies made on a shoestring budget, but movies that turn out to be popular enough to go on to rake in ten or twenty or even forty-five times that in box office, were just… given away?

The study guides, the bible studies, the church campaign kits, the prayer journals, the baseball hats, and the little wooden crosses all available for whatever potential customers could afford to pay, even if it is nothing at all.

All to help spread the Gospel.

I know, I know… it’s a crazy idea.

I know Christian producers have to pay salaries, and I’m not suggesting they don’t. I know that Christian filmmakers want to be able to afford to plan out their next projects, and they should certainly do what it takes to do that. I know that some – like the Kendrick brothers – pour much of their film profits back into their home churches, and they should obviously continue to do that as they feel led.

And I know that they all need to put bread on their own tables, and provide for their families, and they certainly shouldn’t be muzzled while they are treading out the grain.

But I’m so frustrated that too many of the other Christian industries appear to be too much industry and not enough Christian. And since the film industry is the youngest of them all, and it’s the industry closest to my heart, why can’t it be the one to change course and do something different, and radical, and refreshing – even if it seems crazy, and unindustrial, and unprofitable?

After all, they thought Luke Skywalker was crazy for switching off his targeting computer when he was making that infamous trench run.

And Luke wound up saving the rebellion.

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God bless, and may the force be with you…

Always.

Update 1:  I just found out that the producers of the upcoming movie, Captive, are giving away a ton of resources on their website.  All the sorts of materials that are being sold on the War Room website are free for the Captive folks. I was already looking forward to seeing Captive, and now it’s even moreso!  Good job, Captive!

Update 2: I’ve heard some encouraging news.  Apparently, Giving Films – the production company behind the upcoming film, 90 Minutes in Heaven, have committed to giving all the profit they make from the film to charity.

That’s what I’m talking about.  Way to go, Giving Films!

Star Wars Episode VII Concept Art

Warning!!!

Spoiler images ahead!!!

If you wish to walk into the theater on December 18, 2015 with absolutely no knowledge about anything to do with Episode VII, then click away to another page.

Maybe here?

Or, you can read my open letter to J.J. Abrams: Please keep the sex out of Star Wars!

Otherwise…

These images just hit the internet today, and they are fantastic.  They look like classic Star Wars, but with new elements thrown in.  Exactly what an old fan hopes for.

The images were first found here, but you can see them by just looking down the page here.

I can’t wait to see how these all piece together!

 

J.J. Abrams, Please Keep the Sex out of Star Wars

Dear J.J. Abrams,

Let me start by saying I’m a big fan of  your work.  I loved your Mission Impossible movies; got lost on the islands with the survivors as I watched Lost; sat on the edge of my seat as you ran us around New York dodging monsters in Cloverfield; and thought you had a fantastic and original homage to Spielberg with Super 8.

And then there’s Star Trek.

star-trek-into-darkness-poster1I know you got quite a bit of flack for your reboot of Star Trek, but I generally fall on the side of the assentors.  To put my thoughts on your reboot into context, I’m not a die-hard Trek fan, but I have been to a convention and stood in line for Marina Sirtis’ autograph.  I’ve read countless novels from the series, and have seen most episodes of every incarnation.  I loved what you did with the reboot because you took an old property in danger of fading away into irrelevance and breathed new life into it.  You and your writers figured out an ingenious way of wiping the board clean, creating a very Trekkian alternate timeline, and in the process you didn’t destroy everything that came before.   You made Trek cool again for a new generation.

I even liked the lens flares.

When the news came out that you would be taking the center chair for that other little space series, I was relieved.  I’d read of your love of Star Wars, and since I’m only a couple of years younger than you, thought that we could have even watched A New Hope in the same theater.  I feel like the property is in good hands, that you’ll do the series justice, and I wish you all the best with Star Wars, Episode 7.

And now, with Variety reporting that you have started filming, I have one huge heartfelt favor to ask – one Star Wars fan to another.

J.J. Abrams, please keep the sex out of Star Wars.

Let me go back to your Star Trek reboots to explain why I’m making this plea to you.  I know that Captain Kirk is a stud, but could you really only communicate that by having him hop out of bed with a pair of Caitian girls in Into Darkness?  (I had to look up their species – I’m not that big of a fan!)  I know that sex sells, and Alice Eve is certainly attractive, but did we really need Carole Marcus modeling her underpants?  Just how did that scene propel the story forward?  And everyone knows that Orion slave girls are a desirable commodity in the Star Trek universe, but did we really have to have a shirtless James T. and his green-skinned classmate monkeying around in the dorm room in your first Trek film?  What did that do to help us understand Kirk’s character arc that couldn’t have been done in a less TMZ way?

In case you are tempted to throw off my request as just another prude playing the part, I need to remind you that the Star Trek movies were at least partially aimed at kids.  And while the argument can be made that Trek is the more adult series, I posit that the same argument cannot be made about Star Wars.

xwingPerhaps it is because George Lucas saw the huge profit potential of aiming his series at children, but Star Wars has always been about the kids in the audience, with adults enjoying being along for the ride. This is one reason why my generation – who loved the original trilogy – generally dislikes the prequels: the inclusion of Jar Jar Binks (who my kids LOVE, but I can’t stand); the less than stellar performances by key-demographic-hitting child actor Jake Lloyd (I blame Lucas’s hubris as a director for that); and the general emphasis given to special effects over story and character development.  But Lucas made these films to entertain the entire family, not as films that push boundaries and create controversy, and he made them for primarily for the kids of the generation, not for the generations that came before and want the movies to scratch their own itches.  The films have earned over $12,000,000,000 in toy sales, for heaven’s sake!  And while I know plenty of 40 year old fans have their toy collections, my guess is that most of those toys were bought for kids.

Am I really the only film lover who has grown tired of directors taking movies that are hyper-marketed to kids and sexing them up for absolutely no reason whatsoever?   The worst offender in this regard has to be Michael Bay and his muddled and confounding Transformer movies, with the masturbation jokes, robots with testes, and the long lingering shots of Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.  

But I digress.  Let me leave behind the giant transforming alien robots and return to a galaxy far, far away.

Purists will undoubtedly bring up the infamous princess Leia metallic bikini in Return of the Jedi as a counterargument.  Yes, it was bare skin on a Star Wars screen, but here’s the big difference:  in this case Leia’s wardrobe pushed the story forward.  Leia’s willingness to wear the bikini demonstrated that the character was willing to undergo abject humiliation – not for the rebellion, but to help save the man she loved.  leiaIt humanized an otherwise rather cold and difficult character.  Given, I could be totally off base here.  Maybe Lucas only added the bikini to titillate his largely teenage male audience, of which I was one.  But even if that is the case, the choice made sense in the context of the story, and the character wasn’t simply objectified and sexualized.  Leia maintained her strength and grace through the entire opening act of the film, in spite of the wardrobe.  Thankfully, Lucas never showed us Han and Leia rolling around in whatever the Millennium Falcon used for a sack, and we never saw a buff Luke Skywalker tearing off his shirt to show off his jedi areolas while training with Yoda.

So, Mr. Abrams, please avoid the temptation make Star Wars sexy to appeal to the older kids and adults trying to relive the past.  Please respect that there are those of us of your generation, with families like yours, who want to take our families to watch Star Wars and and not have to explain why two of the characters are naked in bed together, or why they are stripping down to their underwear.  Our kids are getting way too much exposure to too many things much too early as it is.

Please, Mr. Abrams, allow Star Wars to remain a safe haven!

And if that makes me a prude, then guess what?  There are lots and lots and lots of other prudish parents out there who feel the same way.  Guaranteed.

And by the way, if you happen to talk to Michael Bay, will you ask him to please cut it out?  I’d like to take my kids to see Transformer movies, too.

Sincerely,

Nate Fleming
Author of Thimblerig’s Ark

Thimblerig's Ark Cover Art