Sunday, December 20, 2015
A visit to good old Aunt "Star Wars"
I'm a fairly cheap date when it comes to movies. I expect there to be a film of some sort, with a plot and dialogue and actors. It helps if it isn't entirely stupid. I like previews, and popcorn, and the chance to sit in the dark for two hours and watch something and not think about my leaky vessel of a life, riding low in the water but otherwise resolutely plowing the turbulent waves of the world.
The family headed over to the Highland Park Renaissance theater Sunday afternoon, to see the latest "Star Wars." The theater was mostly empty for the 1 p.m. show—that was fast, the thing just opened Thursday. I expected a line. I'd have waited a few weeks, but the boys were keen to see it; Kent had already seen it Thursday night, but readily saw it again.
"The Times said it's like a pre-fab house," Ross opined as we settled into our seats, and I almost covered my ears: I didn't want the delicious surprises to be given away. Nor did I want my enthusiasm dampened. Rich Roeper gave it four stars. I wanted to love it.
"How so?" my wife asked. "Because it's exactly what you expect it to be?"
"It doesn't have whimsy," Ross answered.
"Maybe we add our own whimsy," my wife said, trying to put a bright spin on things.
"Of course it has whimsy," I said. "It has that little rolling ball robot in it. That's whimsical."
"I wonder if it has R2D2," my wife wondered, referring to the rolling garbage can robot of the previous films.
"I think so," I said.
"Only it's 'R2D2 as Powered by Pepsi' in this one," Ross deadpanned. "And Hans Solo Cup."
I admired "Hans Solo Cup" and wondered if he had just coined it; he claimed he had. While other branding opportunities were mentioned: "Joy Yee Boba Fet" (Joy Yee is a restaurant in Evanston that sells drinks with boba, a kind of tapioca bead) and "Sony Luke Skywalkman," they didn't reach the level of "Hans Solo Cup." Clever lad.
And the movie? Eh. Not as bad as some of the franchise—no Jar Jar Binks, no Anakin Skywalker played by an excruciatingly bad kid actor. In fact, I liked the radiant babe newcomer, Daisy Ridley, as Rey, the female version of Luke Skywalker, the young person from nowhere drawn into the rebellion. The whole thing was wildly derivative, of course, and lacked any creativity regarding new creatures or locals, except the aforementioned rolling sphere and Ms. Ridley.
But the time passed, and I never looked at my watch, and it was sentimental to see the old favorites, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, reminding me somehow of Hillary Clinton. Having expected nothing, I was not disappointed, except when the film ended and I realized that was it. Though I took a sort of perverse comfort in its mediocrity, its lack of originality or spark. With all the billions resting on the franchise, you'd think they'd have come up with something better than this. Another race to destroy the a bigger Death Star. A reminder of just how rare a good story can be. Still, one shouldn't complain. Going to see a new installment of "Star Wars" is like visiting an aged relative. There's no choice, you have to do it, and whether the conversation is interesting or not, whether a good time was had, or not, isn't really the point. It's just nice that the old girl is still around, and you have no choice in the matter but pay homage. It's an obligation.