I am a pretty big Star Trek fan. I am also a pretty big Star Wars fan, but I am probably more attuned to Trek than Wars. My wife on the other hand, isn’t on my fandom level, but has seen the original trilogy and likes certain aspects. Prior to seeing Episode VII in theaters opening night we started watching the original movies in Machete Order, being Episodes IV, V, II, III, and VI in that order. We unfortunately only got through the first two on the account of holiday baking and other tasks, but we’ve recently finished II and III and will finish VI tomorrow. Even though she has seen the films in the past, she wanted to re-watch them, and I wanted to show them to her in this order to see if it connected with her as the folks who proposed this order described it.
So far, the result has been pretty positive. She questioned at first why you’d do such a thing, and at first it was somewhat difficult to explain because it required her knowing all of the details of the five films well enough to spot how they connect in that order. But I convinced her to just watch and I’d help fill in the dots. However, I did not spoil any critical plot lines for her, I wanted to let her experience the films as they were and then talk about it after.
So as I sort of expected, after Episode II, she immediately questioned the dialogue between Skywalker and Padme. She remarked that the scenes were cheesy and contrived, like they were out of a bad teen romance film. She questioned some of the more useless and irrelevant parts of the plot, like the Trade Federation. Now, she has seen Episode I, but I intentionally omitted Episode I because I wanted to suggest that it was irrelevant to the plot in every way. Even if she were to consider the role of the Trade Federation in Episode I, would that have answered her question? None of the prequel movies ever adequately explained their motives beyond control and tax evasion. Hardly a plot, one makes.
But the more interesting, albeit equally predictable remark, was her preference for the original trilogy. She based this on characters, plot, special effects, and the overall feeling of the movie. She felt the prequel trilogy lacked that charm, relying too heavily on the special effects, the over-spun and unnecessary lightsaber battles. She also felt that the casting decisions were off, but she wasn’t sure how. I suggested that the casting choices were, in fact correct, but that the dialogue and delivery felt forced, as if they were given strict lines and just forced their way through them. She agreed, and joked that much of the film’s overall dialogue felt like those local business commercials where family members or employees would read the commercial’s dialogue in a very dull and monotone way. The actors/actresses in VII felt much more loose, as if they improvised a little as-needed.
We then proceeded to talk about book-to-movie adaptations. She read and watched The Hunger Games franchise, and read all of Charlene Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse Series before they created True Blood. She was not pleased with True Blood’s complete disarray of the original source material, and voiced similar but less-disappointed concerns for The Hunger Games. Making films for general movie-going audiences is difficult for writers to really pull out the full range of emotion and storytelling. Specific things are done to ensure movie audiences leave satisfied their movie was well-spent. Marvel repeats its formulas largely from movie-to-movie, and while they remain blockbuster hits, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all really.
Ultimately, I enjoyed this experience not just because it allows me to expose my nerd-side to my wife, who is largely not the level of nerd I am, but understand other perspectives of the things I enjoy. Episode VII will be a commercial success, and most fans will enjoy it, but I will remain one of the many who felt that J.J Abrams played it safe. I know why he played it safe, and I understand the need to play it safe, but that’s what I want people to understand when I tell them I do not like his “reboot universe” formula, especially with Star Trek, something he has ruined for me possibly forever. I am not really a theater-movie person except Pixar. I am interested in universes, in stories, and in characters. Both Trek and Wars deserved reboots that created a new universe for new audiences to experience. You do not need old characters or old plotlines. I know that sounds bad to old fans, and fans like me, but fans like us need to embrace that sort of change. Characters come and go. Universes persist forever.
At least until the heat death of the universe that can only be prevents by magical girls turning into witches.