I don’t care all that much about what everybody else thinks.  I’ll make up my own mind, thank you very much.  Sometimes that means I find myself defending what’s popular because I don’t automatically reject the mainstream just for being the mainstream.  And sometimes I find myself in the minority, honestly liking and earnestly defending something that the majority decries as awful.  That happened again recently, reminding me of how often I find myself contradicting conventional wisdom. 

 

I started thinking about this because of a conversation with a bunch of friends over Thanksgiving (and a conversation about that conversation with my wife, the lovely anacoqui).  The host of the gathering had cooked Chinese for us and he impressed the various children with lightsaber chopsticks.  At the end of the meal, the grown-ups took turns admiring the chopsticks and identifying which was which.  That’s Luke Skywalker’s.  That’s Darth Vader’s.  The short green one is Yoda’s.  The double-sided red is Darth Maul’s.

 

The conversation quickly turned to a discussion of the prequel trilogy.  Everybody else immediately agreed that they were completely awful and should have never been made.  One dad commented that he wouldn’t even let his kids watch them.  The host assented to the verbal opinion, though he defended Darth Maul’s double-sided lightsaber at least as being cool (I should note, that Yoda’s short lightsaber comes from the prequels as well; he didn’t use one of his own in the original trilogy).  I politely disagreed, but didn’t press the issue.  I didn’t want an
argument to spoil the genial mood. 

 

However, I do disagree.  I don’t think that the Star Wars prequels are completely awful.  I’m glad they were made.  I’ve enjoyed watching them multiple times.  And it’s been a pleasure to share them with my children.

 

I don’t think that the prequels are perfect.  Their flaws are well-documented, if occasionally over-stated.  But I’m at least honest enough to admit that the original movies weren’t perfect either.  As my friends made fun of the dialogue, I pointed out that they made fun of the dialogue in the original movie, too.  Yes, one of them replied, but we do that out of love.  As I said, I didn’t press the point but the comment demonstrated that overwrought dialogue didn’t have to be a barrier to enjoying a film.  There’s a certain inconsistency in chastising the prequels for a flaw while cherishing it in the originals. 

I, for one, am glad that my parents didn’t sit over my shoulder pointing out flaws in the original movies.  Instead, they allowed the movies to capture my imagination. 

 

The prequels are able to do that as well.  They’re full of cool moments and things that make you say “Wow.”  I already mentioned Darth Maul’s double-sided lightsaber and hinted at the incredible Yoda duels vs. Count Dooku and Palpatine.  There are the vistas of Coruscant, Naboo and Kashyyyk.
I can easily imagine young boys pretending to ride a varactyl as my cousins and I used to pretend to ride tauntauns.  I know that my daughters love to pretend to be Aayla Secura, Shaak Ti or Ahsoka (the last one is from the Clone Wars cartoon).  The prequels contain the same sense of wonder as the originals and it is no shame to enjoy them. 

 

That’s certainly not the only case in which I’ve contradicted conventional wisdom.  I remember a conversation with another friend years ago in which he commented that the Rolling Stones should have retired years before that.  Truthfully, I’ve heard that comment more than once.  Again, I can’t say that I agree. 

 

I love classic Stones.  Exile on Main Street is one of my all-time favorite albums.  I’ve got Goat’s Head Soup and Tattoo You on LP.   I think that any band would be hard-pressed to match songs such as Brown Sugar, Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Paint It Black.  And yet, I also think that the Stones are as good now as they have ever been.  In the
last 20 years, they’ve written incredible rock songs like Love Is Strong, Don’t Stop and Rough Justice.  They’ve added to their craft, introducing quirky songs into their repertoire like You Don’t Have to Mean It and somber ballads like Thru and Thru.  And they’ve gotten better at making live albums: Stripped and No Security are greatly superior to Love You Live.  I’m glad that the Rolling Stones are still making new music.  I’m glad that they’re emulating their blues heroes and playing well into their golden years.

 

Of course, this is a column about comic books and I should probably note
that there are occasions when I contradict conventional comic book
wisdom as well.  The clearest example comes in the form of ‘90s comics.
 I don’t think that the ‘90s were a comic book wasteland.  I happen to
think that the ‘90s were actually a high point of comics.  

 
I know that I’m in the minority of current comic book fans.  I know that
older fans are dismissive of comics and companies that they consider a
fad.  And I know that younger fans aren’t likely to be drawn to
characters and comics that are long out of print.  But I think there’s
something great about comics of the ‘90s.  One of the things that I
liked was that there were all of these new companies.  I got to be a
part of a superhero universe from the beginning.  I got to meet hundreds
of new characters and dozens of new teams.  There was always something
fresh and exciting.  There was always something to discover and explore.
 I imagine that’s what it was like at the beginning of the Golden Age,
when 1000 superheroes debuted in a few short years.  I imagine that’s
what it was like at the beginning of the Silver Age when characters
first started to meet up with each other and the modern idea of
continuity was established.  

 
I recognize that some of these characters were flawed.  I realize that
some of the stories and comics were better than others.  But I also know
that’s true of every era.  There were Golden Age comics that were
quickly canceled.  There were Silver Age characters that needed to be
spruced up and modified.  But that doesn’t diminish the sense of
excitement and wonder.  So yeah, I love ‘90s comics.  

 
And that brings this column full circle.  I’m not ashamed of liking the
things that other people make fun of.  I’m not afraid to contradict
conventional wisdom.   

    
The End.

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Comment by Figserello on January 7, 2011 at 1:41am

I've only read a few contemporary reviews of Star Wars from when it came out.  One or two from the respected critics of the time and one or two from hardcore sci-fi buffs.  The former thought it was bubblegum piffle and the latter thought it more of a fantasy than a sci-fi flick, but that's great if more people liked it than I thought.

 

I think the duffness - er alleged duffness :-) - of the prequels has soured people on how good the first 3 films were, which is strange as the first three films are still, despite Lucas' tampering, more or less the same films as they've always been.

Comment by George on January 7, 2011 at 1:31am

"Star Wars" got almost unanimous rave reviews in 1977. Critics (who are film buffs, or at least the better ones are) recognized which old movies Lucas was paying homage. This was a movie by and for film geeks.

It was only after much less talented people tried to imitate the "Star Wars" formula (or at least its special effects) that critics began to sour on the film's influence.

The reality is that "SW" was much better liked by critics at the time of the original trilogy (1977-83) than it is today ... although most people over, say, 13 weren't too crazy about the Ewoks in "Return of the Jedi." Roy Thomas has written that he hated it so much, he would have asked for his money back, if he wasn't at a free screening. And Roy is the guy who convinced Marvel to publish "Star Wars" in comics form.

 

 

Comment by Figserello on January 6, 2011 at 11:28pm

And the original Star Wars movie, come to that.

 

Things become classics as the people who'd objected to them at the time die out...

 

Its the way of things.

Comment by Chris Fluit on January 6, 2011 at 10:21pm

The ability to engage the imagination is an artistic merit. 

 

Works of art, schools of art and even whole genres have been widely panned by conventional wisdom before gaining wider acceptance and even critical acclaim upon later reflection. By the way, that includes the entire field of comic books. 


Comment by George on January 6, 2011 at 7:13pm

And there's also, "It's lousy, but I like it anyway."

 

These are known as "guilty pleasures" -- things we like, even though they're indefensible on artistic grounds. Things like Ed Wood movies, "Showgirls," the "Star Wars" prequels, etc.

Comment by ClarkKent_DC on January 6, 2011 at 7:09pm
And there's also, "It's lousy, but I like it anyway."
Comment by Chris Fluit on January 6, 2011 at 3:14pm

but there's a real difference between, "I like it because it's good" and "It's good because I like it."

 

That's true.  There's also "I like it because it's good, though a large part of the public is missing out on its appeal."

Comment by ClarkKent_DC on January 6, 2011 at 11:59am
I'm with George. Everyone is free to like whatever they please, and I certainly enjoy comics, movies, and TV shows of widely varying quality, but there's a real difference between, "I like it because it's good" and "It's good because I like it."
Comment by Eric L. Sofer on January 6, 2011 at 7:18am

Star Wars prequel - good idea(s), poorly executed.  (Or as someone said to me after watching "The Phantom Menace"... "Do you realize that for the last two hours, the guy we've been rooting for is Hitler?")

 

I will say that the Jedi battle in that first movie is arguably the best movie fight scene ever.  The background music helped a lot, of course.

 

As always, YMMV... which is the whole point of this post, ya?

 

ELS

Comment by George on January 2, 2011 at 7:15pm

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I don't buy the currently popular notion that all opinions have equal validity. Roger Ebert likes to quote Gene Siskel, who said:

 

"There's a point where an opinion crosses over into an error of fact. When you say 'The Valachi Papers' is a better movie than 'The Godfather,' you are wrong."

 

But I don't think anyone on this board has THAT bad taste in entertainment.

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