Weekender

What’s the source of the force?

Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford were original stars of the franchise.
Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford were original stars of the franchise. Photo provided

The author E.B. White once said that analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it — a principal that apparently applies to both jokes and major movie franchises.

On Dec. 18, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” will open in countries across the world having already accumulated what is reportedly more than $100 million in ticket sales.

And I cannot for the life of me tell you why — and this is an appreciation, by the way.

I was born in 1987, nearly four years after the last of the original trilogy, “Return of the Jedi” hit theaters and as a result, grew up in a world where the “Star Wars” franchise was already scattered ubiquitously across the pop cultural landscape like McDonald’s along a freeway.

To paraphrase Darth Vader: it was pointless to resist.

I’ve owned the movies on VHS, I’ve owned them on DVD and I’ve owned them on Blu-ray. I look forward to the day when I can enjoy the saga the way it was meant to be viewed, in my hologram chamber on the outskirts of the nascent Mars colony New Boalsburg.

Last weekend, I watched five of the six movies again back-to-back. Some of them are great. Some of them … not so much.

It happens with franchises. Every frame of “Mission: Impossible II” is painful to watch — and most of them are playing in slow motion. “Rocky V” is what I assume people are talking about when they say that they hated the ’90s.

Bad movies fade. Great movies (the lucky ones, anyway) win Oscars, not a guaranteed all-time place of honor on pop-culture’s collective refrigerator.

“Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” was released last summer to some of the best reviews in the series’ history and a sequel is already being prepped to shoot sometime next year. “Creed,” the seventh movie in the “Rocky” lineage, is generating awards season buzz for co-stars Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone.

Neither has even approached the amount of world-wide fan fervor that is surrounding “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

A guy has a lot of time to think during “Attack of the Clones” and I was sorely tempted to try and use some of it to try and figure out how I too could create my own multimillion dollar mega-franchise. Instead I mostly brainstormed a list of islands that I would buy.

I did land on a few stray observations though.

The original trilogy, which for my money are the best of the bunch, are really incredibly simple narratives.

In the 1977 original, Luke Skywalker is a humble farm boy who meets a wise old man and learns that he has a greater destiny ahead of him. Luke rescues a princess. Luke blows up a Death Star.

Roll credits.

It’s the stuff of fairy tales, the kind that our parents told us every night at bedtime. We know the rhythms and the beats instinctually. When they are missing or out of order it’s like a scratch on a record pulling us out of the music and reminding us, even if just for a moment, that we are, in fact, still earthbound.

It’s a testament to the foundation of “Star Wars” that it can bear the weight of seven films, tales of mythical powers, alien creatures and convoluted family melodrama without collapsing, that the 1977 original was greeted with cheers instead of a collective “huh?”

When I was younger, I used to ask my dad how he met my mother. I was interested in the mechanics of it, the step-by-step process by which a stolen glance or a chance meeting at a Sunday mass (yeah, I don’t buy it either) turns into a lifelong romance.

He’s never given me a straight answer. Maybe one day I’ll ask him when Mom’s not in the room.

Maybe the simplest answer is that when it works, it works.

  Comments