Star Wars and the Dark Knight Dilemma

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Yes, the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer is out. And no, I’m not linking it here. Because it looks terrible, and because it’s probably being shared all over the Internet so much that your computer is about to burst into flames like the Death Star (and that thing blew up TWICE).

Why I feel compelled to write something as fanboys go nuts over that trailer, is because I think The Dark Knight Dilemma hangs over everything these days. You see, Batman used to be campy, colourful and fun on TV. Look, when you have villains like The Penguin, The Riddler and The Joker, what else can you do?

But then somewhere along the way, some comicbook writer decided, hey, this is a goldmine of insanity and a dark, depraved universe, so let’s turn Batman into a brooding, serious superhero with twisted, psychological ambiguities. And let’s make his enemies equally twisted.

And so, sometime around 1986 to 1987, things started getting SERIOUS. Books like The Dark Knight Returns and stories like Batman: Year One started turning up. Then in 1989, a VERY SERIOUS book turned up – Arkham Asylum. Guess what? The full title even has the word “serious” appear twice – Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth.

That’s how serious things got.

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So, we come to Star Wars, a film series originally tailor-made for 12- to 14-year-olds, George Lucas himself said back in the 70s and 80s. The first Star Wars film was nothing but a silly space opera in the vein of the old morning sci-fi serials like Flash Gordon, but with robots and princesses and monks with laser-swords. I was seven back then, and I loved it. I was a kid, and I didn’t care about the pro-fascist universe populated by anti-democracy monarchists and fundamentalist theocrats. All that came later, when I grew up and eventually outgrew the incongruous space-hero fantasies, and realised what a mixed up, childish and insidious mythology Star Wars really is.

Unfortunately, there are many who refuse to grow up and have been cursed by the Star Wars franchise to remain 12 years old forever. Or some did grow up but never outgrew the fantasies which later became enmeshed with nostalgia. I admit, I’m sometimes still the latter. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

Things got a little serious with The Empire Strikes Back, but they were still fun and campy. It wasn’t until the prequels that everybody spat on, that things got REALLY SERIOUS, with galactic politics, immaculate conceptions, cougar romance and the slaughter of “younglings,” whatever they are.

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This was a time when everything became SERIOUS and DARK. Something like Battlestar Galactica, which was also another campy series, had all the fun taken out of it with a new, updated series. I’m a big fan of the original BSG, and after I saw the pilot of the new series, I deemed it unwatchable and never continued with the rest.

Then, of course, we had Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, which took the DARK and SERIOUS bent to a whole new, ridiculous level. Batman was no longer colourful or campy. Even the colours were deliberately drained out of the picture. And we all know and have seen how Zack Snyder drained the colours out of Superman like a hungry colour vampire. Not surprising, since Nolan had a hand in Man of Steel.

And The Joker in The Dark Knight even poses the question: WHY SO SERIOUS?

It could all be a symptom of a post-911 world. Or it could be that all we see nowadays with climate change, wars and natural disasters that the world is going to hell in a handbasket pretty fast, and there’s no point having any fun anymore.

And now we come to The Force Awakens. First of all, shouldn’t it be “The Force Reawakens,” since the Force was always awake previously? Anyway, J.J. Abrams completely destroyed the Star Trek universe as we knew it, and he now has his grubby hands on the Star Wars franchise, and has happily gone and infused it with a lot of SERIOUSness.

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I’m no Star Wars fanatic, and I don’t much care for any Star Wars movies or series coming out. But what irks me is how everything has to take on this SERIOUS tone, like in the new Star Wars trailer, where even the music sounds like something out of a Terrence Malick film, instead of John Williams’ bombastic, Korngold’s King’s Row-influenced, carnival-like music, which really encapsulates what the soul of Star Wars is – a bombastic theme-park ride. And that’s all Star Wars should ever be. Why has no one learned this after the debacle with the SERIOUS prequels?

What next? Are they going to remake Back to the Future as a SERIOUS movie where Marty McFly goes back in time to stop the JFK assassination, and screws up everything, ending up aggravating the Cuban missile crisis instead, getting America nuked by the Russians, after which he goes looking for his mom and dad in a post-apocalyptic Hill Valley, only to find that they’re both dead, and so he slowly fades away, sitting on a hill overlooking the town with his existential musings in a voice-over, with Terrence Malick-style haunting music in the background?

Thank goodness Robert Zemeckis has a clause in his contract preventing any remakes of Back of the Future!

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2 responses to “Star Wars and the Dark Knight Dilemma

  1. Pingback: The Real Return of the Jedi |·

  2. Pingback: A Comet, a Star and the Hangman |·

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