Since the debut in 1977 the franchise Star Wars has maintained a flowing current through our ever changing popular culture landscape. Unlike Star Trek which ebbed into near oblivion several times since its television debut in the 1960s, Star Wars held on as a memory of longtime fans. Its characters spread throughout the globe with Yoda and the Force two of the elements quick on the tongue of even the most facile devotee.
Then something happened. The franchise that perfected the art of tie-ins, toys, and merchandising exploded again brighter and louder than the two Death Stars detonating combined. It came before the Disney buy-out, when the Lucas-helmed Episodes I, II, and III. Since then, and re-energized by the empire of the mouse, Star Wars has become pervasive, ever expanding, and omnipresent. As a life-long Star Wars fan I never thought I’d say this…we’ve reach peak Star Wars and I am jumping off the bandwagon.
I saw Rogue One a few weeks after its opening. That alone is unheard of for this fan of the Rebellion as every other film in the franchise, in my recollection, I saw on opening weekend. Why didn’t I leap aboard Rogue One? Many reasons. The election wore me out, school has been demanding, and most importantly, I realized I was burned out by all consuming Star Wars.
Rogue One was a serviceable film. Not terrible, but not great. Its flaws were mostly aesthetic, in my opinion. While set in the weeks preceding A New Hope, Rogue One felt strangely discontinuous. The film’s directorial style, guided by the talented Gareth Edwards the man responsible for the solid indie sci-fi film Monsters, was uninspired and akin to 21st century cable film-making. It was supposed to be within and emulate a movie made in the 1970s, in a universe crafted with 1970s hairstyles and costume materials, with gear and guns from World War I and World War II. Rogue One had none of those elements or feelings. What Rogue One lacked was ‘texture.’ It lacked the texture of the time its universe was created, the weapons were plastic, not real steel, the costuming was canvas and leather, not nylon and plastic. The hairstyles were 21st century, not coifs squarely in the heart of the disco-era.
This command to direct a “period” film with modern touches, textures, and aesthetics alienated this old timer. It is tricky to direct a film like Rogue One. It won’t be great film making but it also won’t be good enough for the old school fans, such as me. Ultimately, I do not fault Rogue One or its director. Instead I criticize the business that has turned something that was somehow both cult and successful into a product that has become so bland, at times derivative, that it lacks the energy and innocence. Star Wars was George Lucas homage to Hidden Fortress. Star Wars was space opera. Star Wars was a western in space.
Star Wars today, all of its sequels and ‘Star Wars Stories’, is a machine without inspiration or texture. It sits on a mountain of toys and diffused financial interests. It is less about entertainment and more about capital. Movie-making is a business, full stop. I get it. But what has happened to a film franchise known for its kit-bashed aesthetic and boot strap ethics? It panders to fans who refuse to leave the past behind. It regurgitates the same basic story over and over. It i a franchise which has lost its energy and has confused the bottom-line with genuine entertainment.
A copy of a copy looses its vibrancy and its texture. Rogue One, as Star Wars goes, has lost its texture.