By Roger Currie
Over the holidays, I took my 11-year-old grandson Andrew to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” It was his second time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes at least once more. I freely confess to being a lifelong movie addict with no desire to be cured, but I have very mixed feelings about the ‘Force’ in 2015.
With record ticket sales of more than a billion dollars in less than a month, and merchandise sales of more than twice that amount, the folks at Disney are doing very well as the new proprietors of the Star Wars franchise. Since they first appeared in 1977, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and friends have taken escapist entertainment to a whole new level.
It’s interesting that Disney is now in charge because it was Walt’s studio that gave us baby boomers our first taste of movie escapism, as well as merchandising, in the 1950’s and 60’s. There were Mickey Mouse ears, and Davy Crockett clothing to go along with those hugely popular movies and TV shows. No doubt many of our parents were making noises similar to mine about excessive crass commercialism, etc.
I guess I’m now a stodgy old fan of realism who has difficulty connecting to the fantasy of Star Wars. I certainly admire the visual wonders that director J.J. Abrams and the legion of special effects artists have put up on the screen, but could any of it possibly happen?
When I was 12-years-old, if I had asked myself such an unlikely question about a movie like “The Shaggy Dog,” the answer would undoubtedly have been a resounding “No, of course not!” As children and adolescents we are much more able to suspend our disbelief and go with the flow.
Aside from Disney pictures, our escapism back in the day came probably from John Wayne westerns and war pictures like “The Guns of Navarone.” The latter was fiction from the pen of Alistair MacLean, but many of us said to ourselves, “it could have happened” when the world was fighting the Nazis, less than a generation before we came along.
Another favourite was “The Great Escape,” which actually did happen, although not quite the way it was depicted by Hollywood in 1963. Truth be told, we identified strongly with Steve McQueen, the epitome of cool, as he tore across the war-torn countryside on a motorcycle. Hey, it could have happened, couldn’t it, even if there were no Americans in that POW camp?
Somehow German soldiers with machine guns were definitely more real than the bad guys with light sabres in Star Wars.
But then again, it’s only a movie.
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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.