Wednesday, 16 December 2015

#The123sOfTheGFFA: 999 is for Millennial Fulcrum

This is my 999th World Of Blackout blog post (albeit with a little judicial editing over the years, admittedly). The 1,000th post will be my (first) review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and both of these are milestones which seemed almost unthinkable a few years ago. The post-count isn't necessarily of significance in itself, but I didn't want that particular entry to be a moaning review of whatever sub-standard comedy the studios have quietly pushed out in the gap before The Star Wars Film lands. So as I'm obsessed with both Star Wars and cinema in general (as you, dear reader, are well aware), this seems like as good a point as any to reflect on how we got here ~ on the eve of The Force Awakens.

For a long time I didn’t think I’d ever get to see a new Star Wars film in what had become my local picture house. Although, how many of us did? Prior to 2004, my nearest options for the cinema were either Oxford or Reading. Both feasible for occasional visits, but more than just a casual stroll away.

So, around that time, I was getting feverishly excited about the upcoming (and at that time, final) Star Wars movie, Revenge of the Sith. But the new cinema was in its planning stages as part of a larger development, and even I knew that it wasn't going to be ready for May the following year. This wouldn't affect me watching Episode III in a cinema, of course, but I was quietly resigned to the fact that my local wouldn't be showing any SW movies, notwithstanding potential re-releases or anniversary showings. May 2005 came and went, the Sith got their revenge, our new cinema opened its doors in 2006, the Cineworld Unlimited card was subscribed to shortly thereafter, and I haven't looked back since (as you, dear reader, are well aware). Having a cinema within walking distance of my house was still going to be a good thing, indeed.

Then in 2007, something awesome happened. A new Star Wars film was announced. The Clone Wars, the upcoming animated TV series taking place between episodes II and III, was due to be launched with an accompanying springboard-movie. It wasn't one of the 'Saga' episodes, and it would be markedly different from its live-action counterparts, but it was still technically a new Star Wars film. Now, me personally? I loved Clone Wars because of its differences, not in spite of them, and ultimately it's an excuse for me to spend more time in The Galaxy. The Clone Wars movie flopped spectacularly, of course. Partially because it was three episodes of the TV show edited together as a single unit, and didn't have the pacing or scope of a film as a result, and partially because it was being distributed by Warner Bros, who appeared to have no idea how to market a Star Wars product. The Clone Wars lived out the rest of its lifespan (121 episodes) on the small screen*1. But hey, I'd seen a Star Wars film in my cinema.

Then in 2011, something intriguing happened. The 3D re-release of The Phantom Menace was announced (and received with the level of general enthusiasm I've come to expect since 1999). But as you've already gathered, I love The Phantom Menace. The release wasn’t grand enough to warrant a midnight-screening at my local (I caught that elsewhere), but they showed the film in their regular programme. The 3D project flopped spectacularly, of course. Despite the logical starting point to the remastered saga being Episode I, audiences weren't generally convinced and the series was quietly side-lined (although the 3D-completed Eps II and III have since been screened at conventions ). So despite having already watched a couple of SW movies in my local, it looked like I wasn't destined to see Luke Skywalker save the galaxy within a mile of my house, after all.

Then in 2012, something magical happened. Star Wars Episode VII was announced. Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, including its many properties and subsidiaries, resulted in a rekindling of the Star Wars saga which was possibly the most seismic event to the timeline since the Prequel Trilogy; possibly moreso given that Uncle George had handed the lightsaber permanently over to Kathleen Kennedy, so wouldn't be the writer/director/overseer influence he'd been previously.

But this time... this time there'd be a new Star Wars film; an actual new, actual Star Wars, actual film; a brand new Star Wars film featuring characters we love but where we don't know what's going to happen next; a new Star Wars film which could not possibly be passed over for midnight-screening status in a year where Fast & Furious and The Hunger Games sat on that platform. And no, Cineworld didn't disappoint. Of course they didn't, they're 'my' cinema.

Which brings us to where we are now. In a few hours time, I'll have watched a new Star Wars movie for the first time, in my local cinema. In a few hours time, I'll have watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the Galaxy Far, Far Away will have expanded again. In a few hours time, I'll see Episodes I to VI in a different light, whether the retcons and ramifications are large, small or barely even hinted at…

In a few hours time, it all changes.

And moving beyond Episode VII, who knows what lies ahead? Other than lots more Star Wars, obviously. Which I'm absolutely fine with. Obviously. The as yet untitled episodes VIII and IX are on the way, as is Rogue One and the Han Solo and Boba Fett standalone flicks. Star Wars Rebels continues apace on the small screen, and you know that this is just the start.

Even now, even before I've read the new BBFC card, even before I've seen the famous yellow logo receding into the starfield, The Force Awakens has the feeling of going home. Going home for the first time…

*1 With the exception of a few special screenings of stitched-together 'event' episodes, but these were one-offs at (or organised by) Lucasfilm, not general-release movies.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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