With the purchase of Lucasfilm by Disney (which I discussed last week, of course) the Internet has gone pretty damn crazy about the possibilities of the already-announced Episode VII. Some people are even looking past that to VIII and IX, since those are virtually a given in the post-Lucas, post-Lord of the Rings cinematic landscape. Let’s face it, why greenlight one movie at a time when you already know they’ll line up for the sequels? But something that nobody’s discussing, probably because nobody really wants to think about it, is the possibility that we’ll see a remake of the original trilogy.
Surprisingly, I’m all for it.
Look, whether I’m for it or not, it’s going to happen. The original ‘Star Wars’ came out in 1977, approximately 35 years ago. Since that time, we’ve seen remakes of ‘Dawn of the Dead’, ‘Halloween’, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, ‘Clash of the Titans’, ‘The Fog’, ‘Friday the 13th’, ‘Fright Night’, ‘The Hills Have Eyes’, ‘The Karate Kid’, ‘Piranha’, ‘The Punisher’, ‘Judge Dredd’, ‘Red Dawn’, and we’re staring down the barrel of remakes of ‘The Evil Dead’ and ‘Robocop’. Clearly, the 70s and 80s have moved out of the realm of “recent past” and into the realm of “nostalgia”. That means that someone’s going to remake ‘Star Wars’. (It also means we’ll see another ‘Jaws’, but that’s another story altogether.)
And that’s okay. Because despite the commercial intention that lurks at the back of remakes, they have a real and useful purpose beyond just keeping some studio executive from freaking out. (Making remakes and sequels is the movie industry of blowing on the dice before you roll them. It might not do any good, but given how much you’re gambling, it helps keep you sane if you believe in it. To quote John Rogers, showrunner of Leverage: “If you are an executive, this is your day: a scruffy man in a Hawaiian shirt walks into your office and says, “I need you to be personally responsible for giving me one hundred million dollars so I can go to Ireland and have people who pretend for a living act like they’re fighting imaginary dragons.” “Will I get to see the dragons first?” you ask hopefully. “Oh, no the dragons won’t exist until after we’re done shooting. The professional pretending people will be yelling at sticks. Occasionally, they will flee from a mop.” And your job, as the exec, is to write him the check. Any sane man would break.”)
The purpose is simple: Any good movie is going to be about something more than it is about. It’s going to be a reflection of the culture it was created in. And even though a good movie will be relatively timeless, there’s no such thing as a truly timeless film. Everything comes out of the zeitgeist. ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ is a film about identity, memory, the fear and horror of not knowing who you really are…but that doesn’t mean it’s not key to the original film that the brainwashing was done by evil Communists, and that it’s not just as important in the remake that the brainwashing was done by an evil multinational corporation. The grand thrust of a film is about the elements of the human condition that never change, while the details are expressions of our particular fears and tensions.
This is why I fully expect to see a remake of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ every twenty years for the rest of time. The paranoia, the conspiracy, the main plot all speak to something deep within the human condition; but the details come out differently with each generation and each adaptation. We feared Communism, we feared urban alienation, we fear authority…and each time the story is told, it’s worth telling. (Another good example would be ‘Dawn of the Dead’. The original, a polemic about mindless consumerism creeping over the idealism of the 70s. The remake, a harrowing evocation of the events of 9/11. Every generation finds something new to say with the same story.)
So yes, despite the fact that it could be awful, I’d welcome a ‘Star Wars’ remake. Because I think that while Lucas made the best ‘Star Wars’ he could make, that doesn’t mean we could never come out of the creative process with something else just as good.