1313, GRIT, AND THE TROUBLE WITH ANSWERED PRAYERS
Before George Lucas sold his eponymous company to Disney (and its eponymous head in a jar), there once was a corporation called “Lucas Arts.” They made, among other things, Star Wars games. Coming hot off of the heels of third-person adventure games like Uncharted and Gears of War, the Lucas people decided that they wanted a slice.
The game was never to be. When Lucas sold his company, Disney axed Lucas Arts, and with it 1313. The game got cancelled because Disney knows here was more money in the licensing business than there is in actual video game development (which is why they literally own everything now).
1313 is one of those “What could have been” moments. The concept was solid. The tech was there. And, most importantly for what I am about to get into, the concept was there. It was what people like me have been pining for since that poor schizophrenic kid shouted “Yahoo!” We grew up and Star Wars did not. 1313 was to give us something that we had wanted for years: A grown up Star Wars, one that was more Boba Fett than it was Ewoks.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the long-awaited fulfillment of that promise. Star Wars was always a lived-in universe. One full of rust and sand and heat stroke, but at the edge of all of that is a type of mythical magic that you only get from fairy tales and, hell, the Bible (at least for me, as a kid I had both of those books next to each other on the bookshelf. I'm sure Joseph Campbell would approve). Rogue One is a step farther in the direction of grit than the franchise has ever gone. It's a move that carries on the spiritual legacy of what 1313 was supposed to be.
While The Force Awakens seeks to recapture that old magic, Rogue One exists as a clear, if safe, counter-point to that. It’s something new, but not too new. It’s something people wanted, but not something that people didn’t know that they wanted. But, it's also still recognizably Star Wars. It’s something that I’ve wanted to see for decades.
Or at least I thought that I did.
|"Great kid, don't get cocky!"|
We already exist in a world full of grit. Right now, the world appears to be this incomprehensible mess that seems to gain strength vacillating between distant confusion and local horror. Over here we seem to have actual Star Wars villains running the show and, elsewhere, we have people running around committing acts that would give the Sith pause. Maybe this wasn't any different in the late 1970's. Maybe it's me. Maybe I don't know any better. Even during the height of the War on Terror, when the Prequel Trilogy concluded, it didn't ever seem this bad.
And maybe that's why Star Wars worked.
It came out at the height of New Hollywood's decadence (detailed in Raging Bulls and Easy Riders). Famously, it crushed William Freidkin's Sorcerer*, an even grittier remake of The Wages of Fear. Only in hindsight would this be seen as the death knell of New Hollywood (culminating in other high budget bombs such as One From the Heart, and New York, New York, and, most importantly, Heaven's Gate). To say that Star Wars ended the gritty, adult films of the 1970's is an oversimplification, but it does speak to the idea that good doesn't always mean "adult." This isn't to say that Sorcerer was a bad movie. I choose to see it as a statement that Star Wars was a good movie. People made their choice and they made it in droves**.
These things work in cycles. I'm sure Joseph Campbell would probably have something to say about this. . .
There's something to be said about us changing, about the fans changing, and not the series itself, though, maybe that's another issue entirely. Back to the issue at hand. . .
|"Let me tell you about the original|
Luke Skywalker. . . His name was
Star Wars is about the past. It's a reflection of both civilization's mythology and it's, most annoyingly, about our own mythology. I pity the poor daughters and sons of bitches that have to make a new one-- Especially if they want to make it good. That must be a nightmare.
As good as it might be, Rogue One is a perfect example of why you should be careful what you wish for—Especially if you’re a fanboy. The reality of the thing is not always what you imagined it to be. In short, sometimes a fantasy is better off as just that: A fantasy.
(See? Even the logo had grit!)
*Apparently Shane Meadows is working on a remake of Sorcerer. Because apparently he wants to personally torture my friend Eric Bryan, long time Sorcerer fan and enemy of Shane Meadows. And, also, appropriately, it's going to be coming out opposite a new goddamn Star Wars. Because, sure, what the fuck. Why the hell not?
**Yes, I'm aware that Rogue One has made a billion dollars world wide. I'm not arguing against that. I'm arguing about my enjoyment and the wider meaning of turning a kid's saga into a war story, and that this is something worth thinking about whether you're a big fan or not! Pay attention, you plebe!
James Kislingbury is a writer and a podcaster. He also sends harassing letters to public officials. If you'd like to support his endeavors, please check out the Patreon for his podcast production squadron.