40 years after the first Star Wars sequel, can Baby Yoda save the franchise? – The Canberra Times

Posted: September 1, 2020 at 10:52 am


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news, latest-news, star wars, the empire strikes back, the mandalorian, canberra times

An astrophysicist, a policeman and a Baptist pastor walk into a bar. This is no joke. This cantina can be a little rough. Actually, it's been called a wretched hive of scum and villainy. So, watch your step. They may not serve your kind in here. We are entering the eternally expanding universe of Star Wars - that colossal labyrinth of movies and merchandise, mystery and magic that has consumed followers and confounded non-believers ever since a visionary young filmmaker named George Lucas fashioned a rollicking space adventure from the archetypal hero's journey monomyth of Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Back in 1977, pioneering visual effects notwithstanding, Star Wars was pretty straight forward. Borrowing from such auteur idols as John Ford (The Searchers) and Akira Kurosawa (The Hidden Fortress), Lucas dressed the tropes of his favourite childhood movies - Wild West gunslingers, Errol Flynn duels, World War II dogfights, Tarzan and Jane on the vine - in captivating, futuristic packaging and infused his hero's journey narrative with a spiritualism ("the Force") akin to Zen Buddhism. More than four decades and an estimated $US70 billion in gross revenues later, Star Wars in 2020 is, well, complicated. The final films in the trio of saga trilogies,The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, divided fans and disappointed at the box office, raising questions about entertainment giant Disney's creative stewardship of the lucrative media property it bought from Lucas for $US4 billion in 2012. Evidently spooked, and with cinemas worldwide hit hard by COVID-19, Disney says it will "step back" from making Star Wars movies for now. Not long ago, there were grand plans to put out a new film every two years starting in 2022. But proposed offshoot trilogies by The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and Game of Thrones producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss appear to have gone the way of the Death Star, leaving only Kiwi Taika Waititi - director of Thor: Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit - contracted to deliver a new film at some point. With fans still eager to see every curious corner of this famous galaxy, Disney is turning instead to TV, with four Star Wars spin-off shows in the pipeline and five others rumoured to be in development following the success of The Mandalorian, which has helped the Disney+ streaming service amass 60 million subscribers worldwide in its first nine months. With the show's second season dropping in October and its title character joining Frozen's Elsa, Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear and Marvel's Captain America in the Disney+ Ooshies collection launched this week at Woolworths (along with a hologram Princess Leia!), the future of the Stars Wars universe - narratively and commercially - hangs on two characters first introduced 40 years ago in The Empire Strikes Back - the film that turned Star Wars from a hit movie into an epic saga. Long since enshrined as the best entry in the series, Empire opened in Australian cinemas in August 1980. Most of what is still loved today about Star Wars has roots in its darker, deeper first sequel, including gnome-like Jedi master Yoda and masked bounty hunter Boba Fett - inspirations for The Mandalorian - as well as the slow-burn romance between Princess Leia and Han Solo ("I love you." "I know."), composer John Williams' thundering Imperial March theme and Darth Vader's shock plot twist ("No, I am your father"). The film's limited 40th anniversary rerun in selected cinemas from September 10 may be the last time in a long time that a Star Wars movie swashbuckles across the big screen. Which raises the question: Is Star Wars done for as a movie-going experience and the ultimate four-quadrant blockbuster (appealing to both male and female audiences, both under- and over-25s)? Now that it's one franchise among many, will Star Wars ever recapture its original wonderment? Or has that star destroyer sailed? For fans clinging to the original trilogy, The Mandalorian may be the spin-off they were looking for - but can Disney keep this sprawling genre world spinning in infinity on TV? And why do these fans have such powerful proprietary feelings? Is it nostalgia, and is that what compels grown men to trade vintage toys for hundreds of dollars in livestreamed auctions? To help us to understand the forces that have shaped Star Wars and will forever dominate its destiny, we've assembled a small band of experts and aficionados. We're on a diplomatic mission to explore why, unlike its fans, Star Wars never seems to get old. Of course, bellying up to the bar together as if at the Mos Eisley cantina was not an option in the age of coronavirus. So the heroes of our quest - Mick the Fanatic, Brad the Astrophysicist, Heather the Preacher, Ben the Psychologist, Andrew the Marketing Expert and Kieren the Picture Show Man - shared their insights via phone and email. Mick "Fett" Pylak is a Star Wars superfan. His $500,000 collection of toys and memorabilia fills his Sydney house. When he's not trading action figures online or masquerading at events as "Aussie Vader", he has a day job with another kind of force - the police. Credentials: He named his firstborn Leia. Where it began: As a boy, when he saw Return of the Jedi (his parents were divorced and his Dad came specially to take him). "I can still remember how amazed I was by it - the characters, the creatures, the spaceships and this whole new world." His collection: "I started out wanting to find the toys to get back those memories of childhood, but I just never stopped. When they began to increase in value, I viewed it as an investment. Then it became about needing to complete a set and the thrill of the hunt. Once you get a set of, say, mint-on-card figures, you want to get more. I've got a normal job and income but I've acquired this collection by constantly buying and selling. For example, I was paying $500 10 years ago for the vinyl cape Jawa [action figure], the TolToys version on The Empire Strikes Back card which was only ever released in Australia, and these days they sell for $3000." The community: He established the Australian Star Wars Trading Post on Facebook in 2014. It now has 13,000 members. Last year, he set up the Australian Live Toy Auctions page, which hosts livestreams of collectors buying and selling action figures and other merchandise. "Collecting is no longer seen as a nerd thing," he says. "The kids who grew up in that era of the original films and toys are in their spending prime now, so they have the disposable income and the will to spend top dollar for the memories." But what compels him now has moved beyond nostalgia. "When you find and buy something you've been chasing for a while, you get a kind of euphoria which is almost like a drug. When you win the item and then it arrives, you feel this pleasure. And then you put it in your collection and you want to do it all over again." Disney: "They have kept Star Wars alive, which is great. After the prequels it wasn't looking like George Lucas was doing any more movies. The downside is the political correctness - trying to please everybody and not offend anybody." The Mandalorian - based on his favourite character, Boba Fett - has found the sweet spot to please all generations, he says. "TV series open up so many more possibilities for expanding storylines with different characters." Of course, that also means an infinite amount of future merch. "Ah, yes, that is going to be a problem." Dr Brad Tucker is an astrophysicist and cosmologist at the ANU's School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Credentials: He didn't watch Star Wars until his mid-20s. "That sounds weird for someone in my job, but space stuff didn't really register with me as a kid and I didn't become interested in astronomy until university," he says. "So, it's given me an outsider's view of science fiction." The science: "Science does owe a lot to the legacy of science fiction like Star Wars and the way it depicts the science, the storytelling and the visuals. For example, it's very hard to visualise travelling near the speed of light. That is an abstract thing to think about, but the visual storytelling of fiction like Star Wars helps open us up to that as visual creatures - we see it and become inspired," he says. "Our world now is facing really pressing scientific issues, from climate to COVID, so you need people to be inspired to want to pursue those questions. Look at Elon Musk and SpaceX - he's a billionaire fuelling private space endeavours because as a kid his imagination was opened up to the possibilities by Star Wars." The fiction: "People have always looked up at the stars and had a sense of wonder. We are one small world in one solar system that's one of 300 billion solar systems in a galaxy and our galaxy's one of 2 trillion - it makes us feel insignificant in the universe. Then, when you see that same vast backdrop of space and stars and planets depicted in art like Star Wars, it connects the dots straight back to that sense of wonder. When Star Wars came out it would be almost 25 years before we actually found the first planet around another star - so it was make-believe projecting possibilities and inspiring people to wonder. Then you layer over that an adventure story exploring the human condition, and it becomes a way to explore ourselves as a species." The aliens: "Star Wars, and sorry to be sacrilegious here but Star Trek too, were novel for portraying aliens as simply characters - other beings, other lifeforms, who can be good or bad. So, there can be a bunch of aliens in a bar having a beer and listening to a band - it flips the whole H.G. Wells War of the Worlds idea of monsters invading to destroy us, and changes how we think about alien life - and that question: 'Is there life out there?'" The Force mythology: "We often think about science and religion always being at odds, but to my mind they are complementary. They are both trying to help us understand our place in the world, how it works, where we are going, why we do what we do, and to ultimately better our world and our lives. Of course, sometimes science and religion can be at odds, but along comes Star Wars, weaving this narrative of the Force which says you can kind of do both - that there's a higher power, we don't know exactly what it is but it permeates everything and it's good because it gives us energy and life, but there also needs to be balance as part of this bigger universe (the meaning of which we are trying to unravel). That's exactly what we're doing with trying to understand the Big Bang. To me, the Big Bang is the intersection between physics and philosophy and theology - it's where these lines of questioning meet and each spins off in a different direction to try to help us understand." Heather Packett is a teaching pastor at Crossway, Australia's largest Baptist church, and co-director with husband Lucas of ARK, a foster care organisation that recruits and supports faith-based carers. Credentials: Hasn't seen Disney's sequels. Nothing could top her favourite film - Return of the Jedi - anyway. "It showed us that the most evil of people can still be reached with empathy," she says. Where it began: "We didn't have a TV for a chunk of my childhood to avoid bad influences on us as kids. But we did go to the movies, and my brother, seven years older than me, was my influence as far as Star Wars goes - I watched it to be with him." There she marvelled at the "sheer brilliance of the effects, the majesty of the score" and the contest between good and evil. "It was like my understanding of the spiritual realm was playing out before my eyes, albeit in a caricature-like way," she says. Today she often draws from movies in her work as a minister. "Star Wars has definitely influenced my interest in film, and most likely has contributed to my reading and interpreting of faith things within films, whether put there intentionally by the writers or not - for example, I see Messianic themes within most superhero films." The fantasy: "Fantasy and imagination are great for kids and should be encouraged and nurtured. It should also lead to them discovering ways to imagine and create fantasy themselves." But merchandising "can be a problem in an affluent society"," she says. "Kids can easily become entitled, and less creative, when merchandise is readily available, so I'm not really a fan." She has yet to introduce her children to Star Wars. "It'll happen, but currently both ours are still a little sensitive to even fictionalised violence on screen. They're 11 and 13. Most kids have seen it by that age, I know, but I have no interest in pushing them before they'll enjoy it. I was much younger, but I wonder if back in the '70s and '80s there was a greater expanse between reality and fantasy, so it was easier to compartmentalise than it is for kids now." The Force mythology: "I think initially when Star Wars was released, it connected to a generally accepted understanding of spirituality that exists far less now than it did then." She says the films "dabbled in spiritual things to make sense of a fictional galaxy, and to help audiences relate. For me 'the Force' is not the equivalent to God, nor is 'the dark side' an equivalent to satanic force". While actual religious faiths "attempt to help us make sense of life through the lens of a greater power", as a moral compass in the real world "the good versus evil homily of Star Wars doesn't delve into our personal brokenness, and can therefore allow us to remain removed from it, without ever providing answers or a redemptive path ... If it did provide that moral compass for people initially, then I guess, yes, it is less demanding and disappointing than actual faith. But it's also written to entice and entertain audiences - something actual faith has no interest in." Dr Andrew Hughes is a lecturer in marketing at the ANU's Research School of Management. Credentials: A certified fan since childhood. "Loved the storylines, the escapism of it all, be it the stories or the settings, and of course who as a little kid does not want to see good triumph over evil?" The Empire Strikes Back is his favourite. "It expanded the storyline dramatically, and added far more depth to the characters ... it made a story about space very human." The toys: "Toys, and merchandise of any sort, are a bridge to the experience and emotions we have to the franchise/brand. In a way, having a toy, or merchandise, allows us to access those positive emotions at any time. Even as adults this is what makes toys so collectible - it is the access to those emotions, those memories which the toy represents, that we are buying." Disney: "Buying Star Wars wasn't about movies, it was about owning a story which could be developed, changed and altered to match the needs of multiple markets ... smart thinking really, because 10 years from now, if not sooner, it will be all profit. Just look at the excitement around Baby Yoda (from The Mandalorian). That's one story alone where you could run for a decade, and tie in various merch opportunities." There's risk, though. "If the franchise dies or suffers from any poor management then that is going to compromise the entire brand. With home streaming services, though, the future does look bright. Right now Star Wars is propping up Disney+ ... allowing them some time to get it right. But they need to hurry up as streaming is becoming very competitive, and the margins are getting smaller as more and more competitors enter the market." The future: "The story has no end." Kieren Dell is chief executive of Majestic Cinemas, which operates picture theatres in Port Macquarie, Nambucca Heads, Singleton, the Entrance, Inverell, Nambour, Sawtell and Kempsey. Credentials: He saw the original Star Wars at the age of 12 on one of his first trips to the movies with mates rather than family. "It was mesmerising to my young brain [as] I was already a fantasy/sci-fi fan. I think I saw it about 10 times during its season and was forever changed." The movies: "Other than [James] Bond, it is the most enduring [franchise]. It is more anticipated by multi-generations than Bond, which does largely play older now. When Episode VII [The Force Awakens] was about to open, I talked to all of our young staff, who were very excited about it, and stressed that old farts like me in their early 50s were just as excited due to our childhood experiences. So it is the true four-quadrant blockbuster franchise. Marvel tends to play to younger audiences, Star Trek - I'm a big Trekkie too - is a smaller demographic of nerds, and Lord of the Rings was huge - and one of my all-time favourites - but seems a bit tapped out due to the source material getting thinner now." Disney: "I think they need to come up with new concepts that keep the look and feel of the mythology and develop good characters that they can build on and make iconic. Rogue One, as a standalone movie, was ... worth doing. I personally liked Solo, but it didn't do as well as expected ... but I don't think it should put them off going back and doing origin stories if they are good stories." He does not see The Mandalorian replacing the communal experience of seeing Star Wars at a cinema. "The Mandalorian was a slow burn that would not be acceptable in the tighter time frame of a feature film, but it helps to flesh out characters and the mythology, as did Clone Wars and other shows and books over the years. They are different products for different purposes." Ben Fletcher, of Newcastle-based Newpsych Psychologists, has been a clinical psychologist for 17 years. Credentials: Too young when the original trilogy came out, he preferred Batman comic books as a teen. "A bit darker. So edgy. Probably fitting for adolescence". The saga: "We've always told stories. These franchises are our modern myths." Star Wars repackaged "simplistic, comforting depictions of good and evil" with "familiar themes of the classic hero's journey, in a fresh setting with the effects to pull it off. Samurai movie in space - what's not to like?" The nostalgia: "Everyone relates to art in their own way, but some themes endure and resonate with us across time and media. I imagine Star Wars stays with us because of the classic hero's journey - the monomyth." The stories we grew up with "remain sources of comfort and wisdom, maybe a vehicle for catharsis and group/self-identification at times. It is appealing, in an ever-complex world, to take refuge in pleasant memories from our childhoods. Maybe the child and adult in us always needs a bit of room - for a well-rounded existence." The Force mythology: "Most well-crafted systems to foster good living, be they rationally derived or based on faith, can be prone to benefit or misuse. Some have argued that faith is meaningless without healthy doubt - one needs to be mindful of blind spots." With the "zen" of the Jedi and "the Force" as an expression of mindfulness, "some of these principles have been useful in facilitating corresponding concepts in psychology to promote mental health ... It's how you use it. It's not always as simple in practice though. We have competing forces within us - and thus we have the monomyth."

https://nnimgt-a.akamaihd.net/transform/v1/crop/frm/Z4Q6sUEHdcmw72MBPYgZkU/e3b796ce-020f-4492-81e4-27bd4eb90ab0.jpg/r501_0_3340_1604_w1200_h678_fmax.jpg

An astrophysicist, a policeman and a Baptist pastor walk into a bar.

This is no joke. This cantina can be a little rough. Actually, it's been called a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

So, watch your step. They may not serve your kind in here.

Can Baby Yoda save Star Wars?

https://nnimgt-a.akamaihd.net/transform/v1/crop/frm/Z4Q6sUEHdcmw72MBPYgZkU/e3b796ce-020f-4492-81e4-27bd4eb90ab0.jpg/r501_0_3340_1604_w1200_h678_fmax.jpg

As Disney says it will "step back" from movies for more TV like The Mandalorian, a small band of experts are enlisted to embark on a bold quest.

news, latest-news, star wars, the empire strikes back, the mandalorian, canberra times

2020-08-30T04:30:00+10:00

https://players.brightcove.net/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=6185324261001

https://players.brightcove.net/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=6185324261001

We are entering the eternally expanding universe of Star Wars - that colossal labyrinth of movies and merchandise, mystery and magic that has consumed followers and confounded non-believers ever since a visionary young filmmaker named George Lucas fashioned a rollicking space adventure from the archetypal hero's journey monomyth of Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces.

Back in 1977, pioneering visual effects notwithstanding, Star Wars was pretty straight forward.

Borrowing from such auteur idols as John Ford (The Searchers) and Akira Kurosawa (The Hidden Fortress), Lucas dressed the tropes of his favourite childhood movies - Wild West gunslingers, Errol Flynn duels, World War II dogfights, Tarzan and Jane on the vine - in captivating, futuristic packaging and infused his hero's journey narrative with a spiritualism ("the Force") akin to Zen Buddhism.

The first Star Wars movie came out in 1977. Picture: Lucasfilm

More than four decades and an estimated $US70 billion in gross revenues later, Star Wars in 2020 is, well, complicated.

The final films in the trio of saga trilogies,The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, divided fans and disappointed at the box office, raising questions about entertainment giant Disney's creative stewardship of the lucrative media property it bought from Lucas for $US4 billion in 2012.

Evidently spooked, and with cinemas worldwide hit hard by COVID-19, Disney says it will "step back" from making Star Wars movies for now. Not long ago, there were grand plans to put out a new film every two years starting in 2022. But proposed offshoot trilogies by The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and Game of Thrones producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss appear to have gone the way of the Death Star, leaving only Kiwi Taika Waititi - director of Thor: Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit - contracted to deliver a new film at some point.

The Mandalorian's title character joins Frozen's Elsa, Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear and Marvel's Captain America in the Disney Ooshies collection just launched at Woolworths. Picture: Supplied

With fans still eager to see every curious corner of this famous galaxy, Disney is turning instead to TV, with four Star Wars spin-off shows in the pipeline and five others rumoured to be in development following the success of The Mandalorian, which has helped the Disney+ streaming service amass 60 million subscribers worldwide in its first nine months.

With the show's second season dropping in October and its title character joining Frozen's Elsa, Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear and Marvel's Captain America in the Disney+ Ooshies collection launched this week at Woolworths (along with a hologram Princess Leia!), the future of the Stars Wars universe - narratively and commercially - hangs on two characters first introduced 40 years ago in The Empire Strikes Back - the film that turned Star Wars from a hit movie into an epic saga.

Bounty hunter Boba Fett was originally introduced in The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Picture: Lucasfilm

Long since enshrined as the best entry in the series, Empire opened in Australian cinemas in August 1980. Most of what is still loved today about Star Wars has roots in its darker, deeper first sequel, including gnome-like Jedi master Yoda and masked bounty hunter Boba Fett - inspirations for The Mandalorian - as well as the slow-burn romance between Princess Leia and Han Solo ("I love you." "I know."), composer John Williams' thundering Imperial March theme and Darth Vader's shock plot twist ("No, I am your father").

The film's limited 40th anniversary rerun in selected cinemas from September 10 may be the last time in a long time that a Star Wars movie swashbuckles across the big screen.

Which raises the question: Is Star Wars done for as a movie-going experience and the ultimate four-quadrant blockbuster (appealing to both male and female audiences, both under- and over-25s)?

Now that it's one franchise among many, will Star Wars ever recapture its original wonderment? Or has that star destroyer sailed?

The Mandalorian helped launch Disney's streaming service with more than 60 million subscribers worldwide in its first nine months. Picture: Lucasfilm

For fans clinging to the original trilogy, The Mandalorian may be the spin-off they were looking for - but can Disney keep this sprawling genre world spinning in infinity on TV? And why do these fans have such powerful proprietary feelings? Is it nostalgia, and is that what compels grown men to trade vintage toys for hundreds of dollars in livestreamed auctions?

To help us to understand the forces that have shaped Star Wars and will forever dominate its destiny, we've assembled a small band of experts and aficionados. We're on a diplomatic mission to explore why, unlike its fans, Star Wars never seems to get old.

Of course, bellying up to the bar together as if at the Mos Eisley cantina was not an option in the age of coronavirus. So the heroes of our quest - Mick the Fanatic, Brad the Astrophysicist, Heather the Preacher, Ben the Psychologist, Andrew the Marketing Expert and Kieren the Picture Show Man - shared their insights via phone and email.

Mick "Fett" Pylak trades in action figures on his Australian Live Toy Auctions Facebook page. Picture: Supplied

Mick "Fett" Pylak is a Star Wars superfan. His $500,000 collection of toys and memorabilia fills his Sydney house. When he's not trading action figures online or masquerading at events as "Aussie Vader", he has a day job with another kind of force - the police.

Credentials: He named his firstborn Leia.

Where it began: As a boy, when he saw Return of the Jedi (his parents were divorced and his Dad came specially to take him). "I can still remember how amazed I was by it - the characters, the creatures, the spaceships and this whole new world."

His collection: "I started out wanting to find the toys to get back those memories of childhood, but I just never stopped. When they began to increase in value, I viewed it as an investment. Then it became about needing to complete a set and the thrill of the hunt. Once you get a set of, say, mint-on-card figures, you want to get more. I've got a normal job and income but I've acquired this collection by constantly buying and selling. For example, I was paying $500 10 years ago for the vinyl cape Jawa [action figure], the TolToys version on The Empire Strikes Back card which was only ever released in Australia, and these days they sell for $3000."

Specific Jawa toys can go for big money to keen collectors. Picture: Supplied

"Collecting is no longer seen as a nerd thing," he says. "The kids who grew up in that era of the original films and toys are in their spending prime now, so they have the disposable income and the will to spend top dollar for the memories." But what compels him now has moved beyond nostalgia. "When you find and buy something you've been chasing for a while, you get a kind of euphoria which is almost like a drug. When you win the item and then it arrives, you feel this pleasure. And then you put it in your collection and you want to do it all over again."

Disney: "They have kept Star Wars alive, which is great. After the prequels it wasn't looking like George Lucas was doing any more movies. The downside is the political correctness - trying to please everybody and not offend anybody." The Mandalorian - based on his favourite character, Boba Fett - has found the sweet spot to please all generations, he says. "TV series open up so many more possibilities for expanding storylines with different characters." Of course, that also means an infinite amount of future merch. "Ah, yes, that is going to be a problem."

Australian National University astrophysicist Brad Tucker. Picture: Rohan Thomson

Dr Brad Tucker is an astrophysicist and cosmologist at the ANU's School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Credentials: He didn't watch Star Wars until his mid-20s. "That sounds weird for someone in my job, but space stuff didn't really register with me as a kid and I didn't become interested in astronomy until university," he says. "So, it's given me an outsider's view of science fiction."

The science: "Science does owe a lot to the legacy of science fiction like Star Wars and the way it depicts the science, the storytelling and the visuals. For example, it's very hard to visualise travelling near the speed of light. That is an abstract thing to think about, but the visual storytelling of fiction like Star Wars helps open us up to that as visual creatures - we see it and become inspired," he says. "Our world now is facing really pressing scientific issues, from climate to COVID, so you need people to be inspired to want to pursue those questions. Look at Elon Musk and SpaceX - he's a billionaire fuelling private space endeavours because as a kid his imagination was opened up to the possibilities by Star Wars."

The fiction: "People have always looked up at the stars and had a sense of wonder. We are one small world in one solar system that's one of 300 billion solar systems in a galaxy and our galaxy's one of 2 trillion - it makes us feel insignificant in the universe. Then, when you see that same vast backdrop of space and stars and planets depicted in art like Star Wars, it connects the dots straight back to that sense of wonder. When Star Wars came out it would be almost 25 years before we actually found the first planet around another star - so it was make-believe projecting possibilities and inspiring people to wonder. Then you layer over that an adventure story exploring the human condition, and it becomes a way to explore ourselves as a species."

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker being trained by Yoda to be a Jedi in The Empire Strikes Back. Picture: Lucasfilm

The aliens: "Star Wars, and sorry to be sacrilegious here but Star Trek too, were novel for portraying aliens as simply characters - other beings, other lifeforms, who can be good or bad. So, there can be a bunch of aliens in a bar having a beer and listening to a band - it flips the whole H.G. Wells War of the Worlds idea of monsters invading to destroy us, and changes how we think about alien life - and that question: 'Is there life out there?'"

The Force mythology: "We often think about science and religion always being at odds, but to my mind they are complementary. They are both trying to help us understand our place in the world, how it works, where we are going, why we do what we do, and to ultimately better our world and our lives. Of course, sometimes science and religion can be at odds, but along comes Star Wars, weaving this narrative of the Force which says you can kind of do both - that there's a higher power, we don't know exactly what it is but it permeates everything and it's good because it gives us energy and life, but there also needs to be balance as part of this bigger universe (the meaning of which we are trying to unravel). That's exactly what we're doing with trying to understand the Big Bang. To me, the Big Bang is the intersection between physics and philosophy and theology - it's where these lines of questioning meet and each spins off in a different direction to try to help us understand."

Pastor Heather Packett. Picture: Supplied

Heather Packett is a teaching pastor at Crossway, Australia's largest Baptist church, and co-director with husband Lucas of ARK, a foster care organisation that recruits and supports faith-based carers.

Credentials: Hasn't seen Disney's sequels. Nothing could top her favourite film - Return of the Jedi - anyway. "It showed us that the most evil of people can still be reached with empathy," she says.

Where it began: "We didn't have a TV for a chunk of my childhood to avoid bad influences on us as kids. But we did go to the movies, and my brother, seven years older than me, was my influence as far as Star Wars goes - I watched it to be with him." There she marvelled at the "sheer brilliance of the effects, the majesty of the score" and the contest between good and evil. "It was like my understanding of the spiritual realm was playing out before my eyes, albeit in a caricature-like way," she says. Today she often draws from movies in her work as a minister. "Star Wars has definitely influenced my interest in film, and most likely has contributed to my reading and interpreting of faith things within films, whether put there intentionally by the writers or not - for example, I see Messianic themes within most superhero films."

The fantasy: "Fantasy and imagination are great for kids and should be encouraged and nurtured. It should also lead to them discovering ways to imagine and create fantasy themselves." But merchandising "can be a problem in an affluent society"," she says. "Kids can easily become entitled, and less creative, when merchandise is readily available, so I'm not really a fan." She has yet to introduce her children to Star Wars. "It'll happen, but currently both ours are still a little sensitive to even fictionalised violence on screen. They're 11 and 13. Most kids have seen it by that age, I know, but I have no interest in pushing them before they'll enjoy it. I was much younger, but I wonder if back in the '70s and '80s there was a greater expanse between reality and fantasy, so it was easier to compartmentalise than it is for kids now."

The Force mythology: "I think initially when Star Wars was released, it connected to a generally accepted understanding of spirituality that exists far less now than it did then." She says the films "dabbled in spiritual things to make sense of a fictional galaxy, and to help audiences relate. For me 'the Force' is not the equivalent to God, nor is 'the dark side' an equivalent to satanic force". While actual religious faiths "attempt to help us make sense of life through the lens of a greater power", as a moral compass in the real world "the good versus evil homily of Star Wars doesn't delve into our personal brokenness, and can therefore allow us to remain removed from it, without ever providing answers or a redemptive path ... If it did provide that moral compass for people initially, then I guess, yes, it is less demanding and disappointing than actual faith. But it's also written to entice and entertain audiences - something actual faith has no interest in."

Darth Vader during a pivotal scene in The Empire Strikes Back. Picture: Lucasfilm

Dr Andrew Hughes is a lecturer in marketing at the ANU's Research School of Management.

Credentials: A certified fan since childhood. "Loved the storylines, the escapism of it all, be it the stories or the settings, and of course who as a little kid does not want to see good triumph over evil?" The Empire Strikes Back is his favourite. "It expanded the storyline dramatically, and added far more depth to the characters ... it made a story about space very human."

The toys: "Toys, and merchandise of any sort, are a bridge to the experience and emotions we have to the franchise/brand. In a way, having a toy, or merchandise, allows us to access those positive emotions at any time. Even as adults this is what makes toys so collectible - it is the access to those emotions, those memories which the toy represents, that we are buying."

Disney: "Buying Star Wars wasn't about movies, it was about owning a story which could be developed, changed and altered to match the needs of multiple markets ... smart thinking really, because 10 years from now, if not sooner, it will be all profit. Just look at the excitement around Baby Yoda (from The Mandalorian). That's one story alone where you could run for a decade, and tie in various merch opportunities." There's risk, though. "If the franchise dies or suffers from any poor management then that is going to compromise the entire brand. With home streaming services, though, the future does look bright. Right now Star Wars is propping up Disney+ ... allowing them some time to get it right. But they need to hurry up as streaming is becoming very competitive, and the margins are getting smaller as more and more competitors enter the market."

The future: "The story has no end."

Majestic Cinemas chief executive Kieren Dell and Kempsey Cinema manager Chelsea Curyer. Picture: Ruby Pascoe

Kieren Dell is chief executive of Majestic Cinemas, which operates picture theatres in Port Macquarie, Nambucca Heads, Singleton, the Entrance, Inverell, Nambour, Sawtell and Kempsey.

Credentials: He saw the original Star Wars at the age of 12 on one of his first trips to the movies with mates rather than family. "It was mesmerising to my young brain [as] I was already a fantasy/sci-fi fan. I think I saw it about 10 times during its season and was forever changed."

The movies: "Other than [James] Bond, it is the most enduring [franchise]. It is more anticipated by multi-generations than Bond, which does largely play older now. When Episode VII [The Force Awakens] was about to open, I talked to all of our young staff, who were very excited about it, and stressed that old farts like me in their early 50s were just as excited due to our childhood experiences. So it is the true four-quadrant blockbuster franchise. Marvel tends to play to younger audiences, Star Trek - I'm a big Trekkie too - is a smaller demographic of nerds, and Lord of the Rings was huge - and one of my all-time favourites - but seems a bit tapped out due to the source material getting thinner now."

Disney: "I think they need to come up with new concepts that keep the look and feel of the mythology and develop good characters that they can build on and make iconic. Rogue One, as a standalone movie, was ... worth doing. I personally liked Solo, but it didn't do as well as expected ... but I don't think it should put them off going back and doing origin stories if they are good stories." He does not see The Mandalorian replacing the communal experience of seeing Star Wars at a cinema. "The Mandalorian was a slow burn that would not be acceptable in the tighter time frame of a feature film, but it helps to flesh out characters and the mythology, as did Clone Wars and other shows and books over the years. They are different products for different purposes."

Star Wars action figures.

Ben Fletcher, of Newcastle-based Newpsych Psychologists, has been a clinical psychologist for 17 years.

Credentials: Too young when the original trilogy came out, he preferred Batman comic books as a teen. "A bit darker. So edgy. Probably fitting for adolescence".

The saga: "We've always told stories. These franchises are our modern myths." Star Wars repackaged "simplistic, comforting depictions of good and evil" with "familiar themes of the classic hero's journey, in a fresh setting with the effects to pull it off. Samurai movie in space - what's not to like?"

The nostalgia: "Everyone relates to art in their own way, but some themes endure and resonate with us across time and media. I imagine Star Wars stays with us because of the classic hero's journey - the monomyth." The stories we grew up with "remain sources of comfort and wisdom, maybe a vehicle for catharsis and group/self-identification at times. It is appealing, in an ever-complex world, to take refuge in pleasant memories from our childhoods. Maybe the child and adult in us always needs a bit of room - for a well-rounded existence."

The Force mythology: "Most well-crafted systems to foster good living, be they rationally derived or based on faith, can be prone to benefit or misuse. Some have argued that faith is meaningless without healthy doubt - one needs to be mindful of blind spots." With the "zen" of the Jedi and "the Force" as an expression of mindfulness, "some of these principles have been useful in facilitating corresponding concepts in psychology to promote mental health ... It's how you use it. It's not always as simple in practice though. We have competing forces within us - and thus we have the monomyth."

Excerpt from:
40 years after the first Star Wars sequel, can Baby Yoda save the franchise? - The Canberra Times

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September 1st, 2020 at 10:52 am

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