You're Watching It Wrong: The Film Nerd 2.0 Guide To Star Wars
Besides Roger Ebert, one of the many film critics who inspired me to write my own thoughts on film was Drew McWeeny.
Drew McWeeny help jumpstart two different websites, one at the height of internet film criticism in the 1990's (Aintitcoolnews.com) and another in the late 2000's (Hitfix.com). In the 1990's, you may have known Drew McWeeny as "Moriarty," the pseudonym he used on the website. During this time, you could pretty much only find film criticism in print, and it seemed like all the film critics (minus one or two) were all alike. There was little to no appreciation for genre films, blockbusters, and similar films. With the birth of the internet, there were a few rogue cowboys who used the internet as the Wild West. McWeeny, as well as the other writers and contributors to the site, ignored review embargo's, printed news incredibly early, and could even stall the production of a film with a script review. Check out McWeeny's old script reviews for DC's "The Sandman" and "Superman: Flyby." Had the latter been made, we would have seen a Superman movie where Krypton didn't explode, Lex Luthor turns out to be a super-powered Kryptonian, and Superman is talked out of being dead by his father's ghost. Imagine that if you can. Nowadays, studios have a basis and code of ethics on when and how they will release information on their films. They have found a way to work around the early leaks, so we never see them anymore.
In 2008, Drew McWeeny helped launch Hitfix.com. One of the ways McWeeny made Hitfix a unique and special place to visit was his Film Nerd 2.0 column. In the column, McWeeny would show his two young sons older films (think 1980s, 1970s, 1960s, even 1930s) and record their reactions to them. He tried to show that children don't have to watch the latest Pixar movie in order to appreciate the medium, and that children of all ages could love movies of all ages. Whether he meant to do this or not, he also proved that the best way of helping our children digest media is discussing it with them, always having an open line of communication when they view something, to make sure they understand it.
One of the most popular Film Nerd 2.0 he wrote for the column, which comes as no surprise, is the review of the "Star Wars" saga. And after many teases and false-starts, McWeeny now has finally written his first Film Nerd 2.0 book. Its all about his children's reactions to the "Star Wars" saga. The six reviews of the prequels and the Old Trilogy were previously published on Hitfix. However, he added new material about "The Force Awakens" and "Rogue One." He also asks the question of now that we have so much "Star Wars" now and in the future, are we hitting a saturation point? Will "Star Wars" continue to be special? If you asked me when I was a boy, I would have loved to have a new "Star Wars" movie coming out every year. Now, we finally have that, and I wonder if these will continue to be event films if they are being released at an alarming rate.
The most intriguing material in the book, is his stance on order you need to watch the saga in. Of course, when introducing the saga to "Star Wars" virgins, its easy to just watch the saga in order (episodes 1-7). But McWeeny argues that its not the right order. After reading the book, and most importantly, reading the reactions from his children, I kind of have to agree. If you are going to introduce this saga to your own children one day, simply watching the episodes in chronological order may not be the best avenue of choice. When McWeeny originally introduced "Star Wars" to his children, it was September 2011. That was the year the saga was released on blu-ray for the first time. He showed his boys the "Star Wars" saga, starting with episode four, then episode five. Then, he cut straight to the prequels, showing the kids episodes one, two and three. Then finally, showing them episode six.
Why all the jumping around, you might ask? Let me take you down memory lane for a moment. When I was about five or six, the only "Star Wars" movies I had access to were episodes four, five and six. I always grew up believing Darth Vader was the biggest villain of "Star Wars," and I always thought The Emperor was some ugly guy that was just there. It seemed like a weird character to just throw into the mix in the last film. If he was the Emperor of the Empire, why wasn't he more important to the old trilogy? As I got older, and episodes one, two and three started coming out, I started to finally see the importance of the Emperor. But it wasn't until I read McWeeny's Film Nerd 2.0 reviews of "Star Wars" until I realized that The Emperor is not only the biggest villain in "Star Wars," but one of the best cinematic villains of all time.
Think about it, If you were to watch episodes four and five, you would learn that Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, and his son Luke would find out he's his father. Then when you watch episodes one, two and three and you realize that Senator Palpatine isn't a nice old man. He's been scheming since episode one. He had plans on top of plans on top of plans. I didn't really realize until I read Drew's column that "Revenge of the Sith" is actually a very dark and very disturbing film. The good guys lose, the bad guys win, and we are powerless to see how Palpatine's plan comes to a resounding fruition.
But it goes deeper than that, watching the films in the order McWeeny suggests shows us just how far good people can fall from grace. It shows us the importance of the choices we make in life, because the choices we make can either bend or break us. We see Anakin grow from a slave boy to a man, slowly becoming a Jedi Knight. Then in the blink of an eye, we watch him be manipulated by a Sith Lord, he kills everybody who ever called him a friend, he chokes his wife (who is carrying his kids) and completely changes the outlook of the galaxy. You don't realize it until you read the reactions to things from McWeeny's boys just how heavy all of this can be. Even though George Lucas didn't cast the best actors to portray Anakin, the character development and storytelling is all there. Anakin is a tragic character. While I knew that growing up, I never fully felt its impact until I read McWeeny's articles. Now, one day, when I have kids, and if they are just as movie-obsessed as I am, I am going to adopt this order of viewership. I will be curious to see how my own children react to the big beats this saga has to offer.
But also, a big reason to read this book is to read the funny (and somewhat highly emotional) reactions of McWeeny's kids.
You can get an ebook version of "You're Watching It Wrong: The Film Nerd 2.0 Guide To Star Wars" on www.80sallover.com. You can buy it for less than $10, and it showcases some of the most unique film criticism I have ever read. I hope you take a chance on this. I would encourage it.
If you end up liking the book, check out Drew McWeeny's podcast entitled "80sAllOver" in which McWeeny goes month by month in the 1980's and discusses all the movies released in said month. Its a cool podcast, and I have certainly made a list of 1980's movies I hadn't seen yet, just so I can check them out. I'd also hope you will dig into his digital magazine "Pulp & Popcorn," which is half serialized fiction written by McWeeny, half film news/reviews and all totally cool. While McWeeny was fine tuning his internet presence, he was also a screenwriter in Los Angeles. Track down the Masters of Horror series. He wrote the scripts for "Prolife" and "Cigarette Burns." (Cigarette Burns was directed by none other than John Carpenter and starred Daryl Dixon himself, Mr. Norman Reedus.)
You can find his book, "Pulp & Popcorn" and information on his podcast right here: https://www.80sallover.com/
Definitely track down other Film Nerd 2.0 articles over at www.uproxxx.com, which absorbed Hitfix.