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SHORT FILM: “Summer ’78” Recalls the Impact of the Original STAR WARS (Also: My Non-Spoilery Impressions of THE FORCE AWAKENS)

Via Robot 6, here’s a nostalgic look back at the innocent Summer of 1978…

“Summer ’78” is a short film about the power of imagination. Watch as a young boy plays with his favorite Star Wars toys.

While not science fictional, this short film will recall childhood memories for many. It also serves as a reminder of the power of nostalgia…which is a great launch point for talking a bit about the more recent Star Wars behemoth, The Force Awakens

  • I thought The Force Awakens was a good Star Wars movie, which isn’t saying much. As pointed out in many other places, the consensus opinion of everyone over 12 years old is that only Star Wars (or Episode IV, if you prefer) and The Empire Strikes Back are worth watching out of the first six films. I ran those numbers by an accountant with a serious-looking calculator: that’s 33.3%. That’s a terrible average. So, to say that The Force Awakens is good needs to be qualified: It’s probably the third-best of the seven films.
  • To be clear, I did enjoy the film overall, warts and all.
  • The new cast was very good. The new characters they portray are an interesting and welcome addition to the Star Wars universe. Yet many of them were simply not fully drawn. There just wasn’t the same emotional link to the new characters that existed (and still exist) with the ones from the original trilogy. It’s as if we were just supposed to relate to the new kids just because they’re in a Star Wars film. Um, no.
  • The special effects were outstanding, and even better, didn’t take priority over the characters and story. The film was better for it. Imagine that.
  • There were far too many plot points that left me annoyed or scratching my misshapen head. By contrast, when I go into a movie like, say, Pacific Rim, I have already conditioned myself not to ask too many questions which allows me to enjoy the film to its fullest. (Why are they even have a rocket powered robot punch, much less take the time to use it? Who cares!) I expect more from Star Wars, so yeah, my expectation meter was set pretty high. There were at least a dozen story points that went unanswered or were just simply ridiculous. Annoyingly so. (Don’t get me started on that nonsense with the map.)
  • It seems as if J.J. Abrams was trying to (or was tasked with) rebooting the Star Wars franchise, like he did (successfully, in my opinion) with Star Trek). Trouble is, Star Wars didn’t need a reboot. As ticket sales will attest, Star Wars is not a dying franchise. To me, the story of the characters (old and new) would have been more interesting without so many retreads — Or are we calling them callbacks? — to the original film.
  • I’d like to see it again. The first viewing was like a 2-hour-long sigh of “it doesn’t suck” relief. Now that the pressure is off, I’d like to see it again with the intention of just enjoying the ride. That is, with lower expectations.
  • I think the film is being seriously overrated in many venues, and for one simple reason: Nostalgia. I’ll admit it affected me (i.e. blinded me) when I saw the film. It was fan-freakin’-tastic seeing Star Wars on the big screen again. We got to see characters we love thirty years on, having adventures and saving the day (mostly). Walking out the theater, I rated it a 4 out of 5. But there was those niggling plot points that kept nagging me, the ones where (I guess) we weren’t supposed to think too much about. Today, I’d rate The Force Awakens a 3 out of 5. Still good, but not as much. The nostalgia effect wore off and I was able to see it more objectively. I wonder how many of the people who were quick to rave about it still feel the same way?
  • Again to be clear: It was enjoyable for what it was. Star Wars films have sat dormant for too long. I’m glad they’re back.
About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

2 Comments on SHORT FILM: “Summer ’78” Recalls the Impact of the Original STAR WARS (Also: My Non-Spoilery Impressions of THE FORCE AWAKENS)

  1. I’ve long contended that the best time ever to be a Star Wars fan was from 77-80. In those years, SW was wide open to ANYthing. Once Empire landed, it all became a much smaller galaxy. Tis why I enjoyed the Marvel comics so much and the Foster and Daley novels. And the SW figures. Now, I think we are living in the second best time. TFA–I’ve seen it three times now and am almost finished listening to the novelization–leaves many more questions unanswered…and I’m okay with that.

    And definitely see it a second time, preferably in IMAX. It will engulf you. I saw more detail in IMAX. Also, now that you know the whole story, you can let the emotional content wash over you. And you can appreciate, even more, the cast, especially Harrison Ford and the trio of new characters.

  2. I’ve read that the positive response for The Force Awakens is nostalgia — but I’m not sure about that. I think it may be more of a pure “they knocked it (financially) out of the ballpark” response, and “I don’t want to be on the wrong side of this”.
    Also, many or most of the reviews on sites like Rotten Tomatoes seem to be small papers or blogs, not really the types of reviews to base a professional consensus upon. I don’t want to be or seem elitist — no no! — but many reviews seem to start out with “if I were a 10 year old”, which seems a pretty big handicap.
    And if you read the reviews, there are many negative reviews piling in. Probably some were tentative about posting comments online during the early days given the preponderance of very positive reviews, and blowback against the few dissenters.

    Myself, I really, really wanted to like this movie. I was really, really disappointed. All of those plot inconsistencies, the poor writing, awful jokes and camera mugs, over the top hyper-dramatics — they just succeeded in taking me out of the story. It was tiring just trying to try to stay in it!

    Maybe I was expecting something different? In the originals I mostly enjoyed the humor, the cheap effects, the cheesy lines — for some reason they work, they feel genuine, they add to the experience, and in some cases define it. Then again, there was so much that was new, innovative, original, special, unique — that there didn’t seem to be anything to forgive.

    For me, a meaningful continuation of Star Wars would expand the story, take it in new directions, be innovative and original as the Lucas era was. Then again, it was Disney and JJ Abrams, so I expected heavy hype and marketing and a special effects and derivative extravaganza. So I should not have been surprised

    Not to pick nits, but I did actually find the special effects to be overwrought. The Star Killer explosion? The constant thrashing of folks hit by blaster fire (perhaps realistic in some fantasy realms, but not in Star Wars, in which people just generally fall down dead, without a lot of fuss.)

    Anyway, like I said, these things just took me OUT of the story, and did not add to it. For other folks, I can see that if they appreciate these things, perhaps they did enhance their experience.

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