Star Wars (#110 of 32)

Box Office Rap Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the Presale Box Office

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Box Office Rap: Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the Presale Box Office

20th Century Fox

Box Office Rap: Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the Presale Box Office

Voltaire once said: “If Star Wars did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it.” Of course, these were not Voltaire’s actual words, but the sentiment still rings true: In a hyper-mediated society, citizens believe they need a cultural entity larger than themselves for the purpose of uniting around vacuous communal ties, like debating “Who shot first: Han or Greedo?” or why stormtroopers, supposedly skilled marksman, can never hit a damn thing?

Accompanying the premiere of the third trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which aired during Monday Night Football this week because Disney owns ABC and needed a ratings boost, is the news that, as the New York Times put it, the film is “a Hit at the Presale Box Office.” “Hit” suggests the film has kept pace with other blockbusters of its ilk, but the data reveals that anticipation for the film is reaching something closer to outright hysteria.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Multiplayer Pushes Series Forward

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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Multiplayer Pushes Series Forward
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Multiplayer Pushes Series Forward

It’s 5:15 p.m. the day Activision flew me and about four or five dozen journalists and other game-industry folks out to San Francisco to check out Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer. We’re temporarily lined up outside the building like we’re waiting for concert tickets. It’s like clockwork: Whenever unknown lines happen in big cities, folks from all walks of life spontaneously wander by to ask what we’re waiting for. Eventually, two very well-to-do ladies in very loud clothing and louder voices come by. The following then transpires:

Woman 1: What’s this line for?
Journalist: We’re previewing the new
Call of Duty?
Woman 2: The new what?
Journalist : You know, the video game?
Woman: 1: Oh, it’s video games! How adorable!

This sticks with me when we’re finally let in to the event and we’re surrounded on all sides by gunfire and ominous, industrial bass drops. Draped in its new next-gen engine, Advanced Warfare now has all the gloss and sheen and bombast of anything Michael Bay spits out on a yearly basis, but the single-player has always been missing Bay’s sense of assholish mirth, with any latent morality stemming from the player’s actions buried beneath the sheer jingoist glee. The franchise has never let real-world implications get in the way of good headshots and bigger explosions, and arguably they shouldn’t, and yet there’s also been a constant desensitization with each installment to the mayhem, and divorced of any deeper context, the incentives to fight the good fight in multiplayer veer dangerously closer to the worst kind of flag-waving hysteria. Kids used to play Cowboys and Indians, or Cops and Robbers. Now it’s us, in all its various forms, versus terrorists, who pretty much only have “brown” in common.

Summer of ‘88: Willow—Fantasy Departed

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Summer of ‘88: <em>Willow</em>—Fantasy Departed
Summer of ‘88: <em>Willow</em>—Fantasy Departed

One of the many residual effects of the massive success of the Star Wars trilogy was the boom of fantasy films that arrived in theaters in the mid-1980s. Movies such as Legend, Masters of the Universe, The NeverEnding Story, The Princess Bride, and others were all released within the span of a couple of years, and each to some degree featured sprawling sets, evocative atmospheres, and extensive use of prosthetics and puppets. These elements were staples of George Lucas’s storytelling, a quality that proved to be a strong companion to the Star Wars films’ grand visual and narrative design. It wasn’t long after the trilogy had wrapped that even Lucas himself had dipped into the bankable commercial lore of fantasy moviemaking when he produced Jim Henson’s 1986 film Labyrinth. His own contribution to the subgenre followed two years later at a time when fantasy appeared on the decline. With an original story by Lucas, Willow was met with widespread ambivalence upon its release. Retrospectively, however, the film’s graceless hybrid of Star Wars-style mythmaking and leftovers from the short-lived fantasy period in commercial cinema that Lucas inspired offers a pointed reflection and portrait of the filmmaker that has grown more compelling as the full trajectory of Lucas’s career has emerged in view.

Of course, Lucas didn’t direct Willow (we’ll get to that later), but the film bears his authorial stamp almost immediately at the outset. In fact, you don’t even need to see the trademark Lucasfilm logo to sense the filmmaker’s touch. The setting and storytelling influences may diverge from those of Star Wars, but the same propensity for merging age-old legends is evident. Instead of drawing from Joseph Campbell and Akira Kurosawa, Lucas and screenwriter Bob Dolman fold elements of the Grimm brothers and J.R.R. Tolkien into a nakedly bibilical framework. Take the prologue: Willow opens on the evil Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh), who orders the slaughter of all newborns for fear of a prophecy predicting the usurping of her power. But the blatant bibilical allusion doesn’t end there. Lucas and Dolman also add a dash of Moses for good measure, when a baby born in secret is placed into a basket and floated down a river. Then, after the baby is discovered by Hobbit-esque folk called Nelwyns, Willow shifts into Star Wars mode, slowing down to allow the larger world to develop.