X-Files revival versus Star Wars Episode 7…

A Surprising Admission as We Get Closer to Both of Them…

X-Files Revival versus Star Wars Episode 7…

“Truth will always be stranger than fiction; It has to be for fiction must be believable.”

The above quote, from my understanding, is a slightly-mangled variant that is generally attributed to famed author Mark Twain.

Had someone told me a few years back that, during this upcoming winter, we would bear witness to not only an X-Files television mini-series but also to a fabled Star Wars: Episode VII, I wouldn’t have believed them. In hindsight, though, such an occurrence was all but inevitable.

Hollywood has lived in an Age of Unoriginality for so long that, for many of us, it is the only age that we truly know. It is as though we are living through an age of Queen Elizabeth or Pope John Paul II; An entire generation has grown up knowing only of one Pope or one Queen. The same has held true for Hollywood – Ever since someone figured out a way to make money on films released during the summer (Believe it out not, the phenomenon known as the “summer blockbuster” is still a few decades shy of receiving a social security check), originality has taken a back seat towards revivals, remakes, reboots & sequels.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the top five movies for 2015 (so far): Sequel (also reboot), sequel, original, sequel, sequel. The next three are a remake, a sequel and another sequel.

As they say, “What’s old is new again for a new generation.”

Which brings us to the X-Files & Star Wars: Episode VII.

The X-Files revival was written about before on this blog before back when it was nothing but a possible rumor. Since then, it has not only become a reality but that reality is but a few short months away from occurring. Filming is done & enough of the episodes (it used to be six but now there is a rumor that there could be a seventh as well) has been cut and edited together to make a two-minute trailer.

The X-Files, for those born after it’s debut, was a television show that started in the early 1990s. It featured two FBI agents who were tasked with solving strange and otherworldly cases, culminating in a grand extraterrestrial conspiracy about world domination. The show became a cult hit for many reasons, amongst them the fact that it’s popularity rose alongside the Internet (yes, kids, there was a time when the Internet was a thing only with people who were considered computer geeks; Ask your parents), the material lent itself towards infatuation and the female lead, Gillian Anderson, was considered both easy on the eyes and “accessible” for the show’s many male fans (I am told the same thing held true with male lead David Duchovny and female fans, as well).

Star Wars, of course, needs no introduction unless you’ve been in a coma since 1977 or are such a social recluse that you could be featured in a circus sideshow or on a talk show. It is the quintessential science fiction fantasy series started by George Lucas and introduced such terms as “lightsaber,” “the force” & “droids” into the general population.

Since 2002, “The X-Files” (the television show) has been off of the air. There hasn’t been a new Star Wars movie since 2005. Granted, both of those facts come with qualifiers: Neither franchise has been moribund for quite so long. “The X-Files” has had two movies (the last one being in 2008) to keep it’s fans entertained (along with a comic book series) and Star Wars has had a variety of other media to entertain it’s flock of fans ever since the final credits rolled on “Revenge of the Sith” over one decade ago.

Yet fans of both franchises have not had a spectacle from their franchises in quite some time. The X-File movies were received warmly but not enthusiastically; The Star Wars franchise has had cartoon series, novels, books, but not a bona-fide movie with the franchise’s main cast.

Until now, of course. Because, in just a few short months, fans of the franchises will have both: Agents Mulder & Scully will be back investigating monsters and aliens for six (or possibly more) episodes and the iconic characters of Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca (and dare I mention Luke Skywalker?) will re-appear with their original actors in “Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens.”

And yet, I’m only excited for one of them. Which is kind of shocking.

Had someone pulled me aside in 1983, the year that “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” premiered and told my very young self that, in the year 2015, the direct sequel to Return of the Jedi would come out in theaters and my future self would just collectively shrug and go, “That’s nice,” I would not have believed that individual for a moment. As with so many others, I was a huge Star Wars fan. How could you not have been? During the age of Classic Star Wars (1977 – 1983), if you were between the ages of six and twenty, you were either a fan of Star Wars or dead (at the very least, dead inside). On the day that I saw the Empire Strikes Back, it was standing room only in the theater. The audience stood up and cheered (yes, cheered loudly!) when the first AT-AT was defeated and fell during the Battle of Hoth. The audience gasped when it was revealed that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father. There was palpable fear that we had seen the end of Han Solo when he was encased in carbonite at the end of Empire Strikes Back and if only Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian had gotten to him just a little sooner before Boba Fett had spirited Han’s frozen form away…!

For many years, I had yearned for a sequel to Return of the Jedi. Who wouldn’t? And yet, now that it’s here, I honestly don’t care that much about it (although I am writing about it).

For the X-Files, I’ve got to confess… I didn’t really watch a lot of it. I’ve written about it before (go read that blog post) but to re-cap, I watched it to only have polite banter with my friends who were dedicated followers. I didn’t care about the meandering storyline and the convoluted questions and the replacements to Scully & Mulder that were second only to “Coy & Vance Duke” in subtlety. When the series ended, I was… “meh.” Finally. It’s over. It’s the 21st century. Time to move on. Time to move forward.

For years after the series had ended, I couldn’t have cared less about the franchise. And yet, now that the revival is here, I’m actually kind of excited about it.

So, why the difference?

George Lucas. Or, rather, creator involvement.

With the X-Files revival, Chris Carter is involved. With Star Wars: Episode VII, George Lucas is nowhere to be found.

It’s not as though George Lucas is dead; He’s very much alive (at least, at the time of this writing). He’s not in jail. He’s not in exile. He’s not disgraced by some scandal. He’s not infirm or in a coma. The man is lucid and active and completely capable of hammering out a script or spouting off ideas.

And, yet, the creator of Star Wars, the creator of perhaps one of the most significant modern sci-fi franchise in movie history has not been involved one iota with the upcoming Star Wars trilogy. Not a sentence of dialog, not a character’s name or physical description, not a planet, not a sound effect, not a plot point.

The same can not be said for The X-Files.

Let’s be honest – They are different media, television and movies. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the Star Trek franchise, didn’t create every single aspect of that franchise. He didn’t create the distinctive shape of the starship USS Enterprise. He didn’t write every single line of dialog. Didn’t name every single character. Didn’t approve every single sound effect or costume in every single episode. And yet, every word and every visual and every button on every panel in those original episodes are absolutely, 100% canon. Why? Because, at the end of the day, Gene Roddenberry was calling the shots. He was the head guy. In television, there is the expectation that you can’t do it all, that you have to delegate a lot of the creativity to other people if you want to realize a vision. You can’t write every script and name every character and approve every sound effect or costume. You are busy. Is it good enough? Great. Put it into the scene. If the name or the costume or the prop or the sound effect was terrible enough, it would be replaced.

Not so for a movie. For a movie, you make the call. You’re the one who names the characters and writes the script and approves the cast and the scenes and the sound effects. You’re working close with the choreographer and the music score and in post-editing. George Lucas was the one who approved the look for General Grevious. Sure, someone had to draw the concept art but it was George Lucas that looked at it and said, “Yup, that’s it.” Someone had to write the music & orchestrate it but it was George Lucas who listened to it and said, “Yup, that’s it.” This isn’t Bob Kane taking credit for Bill Finger’s work; This is Bill Finger giving the thumbs-up approval for Bill Finger’s work.

Anyone can hammer out fan fiction. I’ve hammered out fan fiction. Fan fiction is when someone writes a creative work using someone else’s intellectual property. What’s the difference between fan fiction and Episode VII? Not much & even less when you consider that the creator of the franchise is still amongst us and that you don’t need a Ouija Board to speak with them.

The X-Files Revival feels real – The creator is back, a lot of the behind-the-scenes talent is back, the original actors are back. They’re not trying to adapt a television series into a movie.

Star Wars: Episode VII feels like well-made, well-intentioned, officially sanctioned fan fiction. The creator has been shut out from his creation. If I had $300 million dollars, could I make an Episode VII? Sure. So could anyone else. But it wouldn’t be Star Wars. It would be something that looked like Star Wars and could feel like Star Wars. But it wouldn’t be Star Wars.

There will be a day when George Lucas dies. Gene Roddenberry died. So did Ian Fleming. And Jim Henson. And so did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And J.R.R. Tolkien. And Edgar Rice Burroughs. At some point, the creator of a popular franchise is no longer with us. At that point, you either accept what is given to you or you move on to another franchise. Gene Roddenberry hasn’t been with us for the better part of a quarter-century so you either accept “Star Trek: Voyager” or you don’t. You accept the Star Trek reboot or you don’t. You accept “Star Trek: Enterprise” or you don’t.

That’s not the case with Star Wars: Episode VII. George Lucas is alive and well. The least that could have happened was put him in an adviser position. Let him name a planet or two. A character or two. Give him approval of the main plot points of the script. Let him build the shell and then everyone else plugs in the dialog and the costumes and the music.

That’s not the case, though, with what is actually happening and this is why I feel no real compulsion to see Episode VII. It’s not real, it doesn’t feel real. And the X-Files does. It has an air of authenticity that Episode VII just doesn’t have, that “TRON: Legacy” also didn’t have and also with “The Thing” reboot. When you don’t involve the creator with the creation and you could have, what does that say about the creation? If you gave a Sherlock Holmes fan the choice of reading a previously unreleased Sherlock Holmes story written by Arthur Conan Doyle or a new Sherlock Holmes story written by Stephen King, which would they read? Would it matter who the contemporary author was? Pick one, any one. Plug in whatever franchise you want – A previously unreleased Hobbit book by J.R.R. Tolkien or J.K. Rowling’s stab at the Lord of the Rings franchise.

I hope that both ventures does well but, in a few months, I won’t be in a movie theater line. I will be, though, making sure that my DVR will be set to record properly. And that surprises me a lot… But not as much as I had hoped.

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