Thanks to an undying love for all things Star Wars, a puntastic coincidence on the fourth day in May has cemented the date in fandom as "Star Wars Day." Yes, "May the Fourth Be With You!" is now a tradition — even when the battle between franchise mastermind George Lucas and the series' vocal devotees continues to rage.
Many people who loved the original Star Wars trilogy — consisting of Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Return of the Jedi (1983) — now have vehement hatred for Mr. Lucas and his continued efforts to tinker with his sci-fi classics. A documentary like The People vs. George Lucas, which chronicles the pop culture war crimes committed by the mega-producer over the past three decades, wouldn't have been made without that unwavering dedication to the past and passionate disagreement with the Star Wars of present. The comments on my defense of George Lucas for his changes to the Star Wars Blu-rays are the clearest sign: people care about these movies. A lot. And now, they feel burned beyond repair.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 3D, Lucas responded to fan backlash. "Well, [Star Wars is] not a religious event. I hate to tell people that. It’s a movie, just a movie.... If you look at Blade Runner, it’s been cut sixteen ways from Sunday and there are all kinds of different versions of it. Star Wars, there’s basically one version — it just keeps getting improved a little bit as we move forward." To the creator of the Star Wars movies, the franchise is a malleable product. The "Extended Universe" is a shade of that — cartoons, books. comic books and reinterpretations of the precious saga that complicated, destroy and continue the legacy. Lucas wants his cheeky sci-fi movie from the '70s to live up to today's high standards. He continues to manipulate the old movies to keep them relevant. He develops spin-off projects to keep the brand alive, because he knows there are fans ready to gobble it up.
Cherishing a property is a tough game to play — all the worse during the summer movie season. May, June, July and August are the blockbuster stomping ground, where Hollywood reincarnates popular brands into big screen event films, hoping to draw you into the multiplex with a familiar title. This year is no different: we've got three superhero movies (The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises), an action picture based on a board game (Battleship), a fourquel-as-a-reboot (The Bourne Legacy), a cartoon/action figure sequel (G.I. Joe: Retaliation), a Broadway adaptation (Rock of Ages), a sci-fi remake (Total Recall), and a Johnny Depp vampire flick based on an beloved, cult TV series (Dark Shadows). That's a lot of original source material to mangle in the eyes of fans. That is, if the fans are ready to let it be mangled.
Loving a creative enterprise of someone else's creation is entirely reasonable. I am a Star Wars fan. I have read the comic books that studios are whipping up into live-action feature films. I have even played Battleship a few times and really, really enjoyed it. But fandom goes awry when the invested feel personally accosted by, what they deem, an unworthy extension of that brand. I'll fully admit that I have been there once — do not get me started about M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender, an absolute travesty in comparison to the TV show on which it is based — but even then, I knew that the fury burning inside me was unwarranted and pointless. At the end of the day, I still had the thing that I loved originally. I didn't even need to revisit Avatar: The Last Airbender after my cinematic nostalgia whipping — my memories of loving the show went untarnished.
With so many franchises at stake this summer, fans will inevitably be burned. Maybe Total Recall didn't live up to the original. The Dark Knight Rises paled in comparison to The Dark Knight. What was Johnny Depp thinking, trying to replicate the awesomeness of the original Dark Shadows!? But if Star Wars has taught us anything, it's that, as fans, our condemning cries don't do us any good. Flopped efforts don't destroy our love for a property, our own backlash does.
That's why we spend an entire day of the year relishing in all things Star Wars. We love it! We don't need to watch it everyday, we don't need to have crisp Blu-ray versions of the movies we saw back in theaters in the '70s, '80s, '90s or '00s, we don't need to see George Lucas hanged for his evil doings. We just need to talk, reminisce and nerd out about Star Wars. That's how we should take modern blockbusters too. We clamor for every bit of news and on-set snapshots for our upcoming superhero movies or anticipated adaptations or latest efforts from acclaimed actors/directors because we're fans and we want to get excited. But if it doesn't work out exactly as we hoped, we didn't lose anything. Someone tried to recreate the magic and failed — but let's give them props for trying. If anything, you can read the comic book/watch the show/revisit the old movie again. It's not gone forever, even if you can't physically track down the original versions of Star Wars.
This Star Wars Day, remember why you became a fan in the first place. Then take a deep breath, look forward to what's to come and start getting excited.