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Posts Tagged ‘Flash Gordon’

Star Wars Hype

17 Dec

It’s like being 13 again. This time around with a wee bit more hype. When the first Star Wars came out in 1977 I was an anxious newly teened boy.  I don’t remember any hype other than the normal new movie advertisements, and then I started hearing movie reviewers talking about Star Wars. They compared it to old-fashioned good guy / bad guy movies. They compared it to cowboy movies – it was just good clean shooting at other people fun – but way better. Just beams of light. Ok. Relax Star Wars nerds; I’m sure it’s way more complicated than that.

Then it was compared Flash Gordon. These were all important comparisons. See, good and kind intergalactic reader, I had no wheels, man. I was 13 and lived ten miles from the Rhinelander Theater which was actually Rouman’s State Theater. I needed my mom or dad to buy into this very small amount of hype to get me a ride to the theater.

Rouman’s State Theater was built in 1921 and owned and operated by two Greek brothers. Their nephew ran the theater in the 1970’s and his children run the multiplex that was put up around 2000.  I was not originally sure of Mr. Rouman’s ethnicity. There was not a lot of variation, aside from your Polish, German and Irish, in this ethnicity parched region. Was he called Mr. Rouman because he was a Roman? Was Rouman another word to describe Greek? In fact, I always thought his last name was spelled “Roman”.  But as I got older I found out that he had nothing in common with Romans – whom I associated with a keen ability to guard things.  For example, he was not good at guarding the door. If you were old enough to walk and give money for a ticket, you could get into an R rated movie.  Maybe a positive spin was that he was not so “judgy”.

My younger brother saw the Jaws 3D movie at the State Theater (I’m not really sure why he would have seen it anywhere). When his pair of flimsy 3D glasses came apart causing the blue side to fall out, he went to Mr. Rouman to procure a new pair. Mr. Rouman, in his staccato English, told him, “It still works. Cover one eye. It will work.”

Flash Gordon was the clincher. My dad had grown up watching Flash Gordon. I had watched repeats of Flash Gordon. I liked Flash Gordon, in that they were battling in space and on other planets. The thing I didn’t like about Flash Gordon was the way those old serials from the 1930s were made. You see, they were trying to figure out how to create suspenseful cliffhangers.  It was story-telling 101 for this new medium they were trying to figure out. I didn’t like that at the end of one segment, if Flash’s space ship was headed for a crash, they would just crash it. Now why would I come back to see if that really didn’t happen. And in the beginning of the next episode he would come ever so close to crashing – but not. I hated being lied to, but there was nothing else on my three channel television. It’s sort of how today’s political parties still work – only with two channels.

I envisioned this new War of Stars movie trying to trick me in the same way, but by the 1970s there were new ways to trick people. Spoiler alert: Like having a dude almost make out with his sister.  By the 1970’s and moving forward, there were also more effective ways to end stories that you knew weren’t really going to end. But how do you get people to remember to come back and see more of the story three years later?

With regard to hype, the 1970’s may well have been the 1930’s as compared to what 2015 hype looks like. But here’s the honest to goodness truth amicable reader, I love the hype. There are a certain amount of people who have no interest in seeing the new Star Wars, and that’s fine. It would be really weird if everyone wanted to see Star Wars. Like, who would run our stores and businesses?  Luckily there are not enough theaters to hold all the Star Wars viewers on opening weekend.  That could be a national code red, with everyone in a theater. Our defenses would be super down. Although I don’t know if you will be much help in a crisis if your response is to make sounds like “Schrvmmmmmm! Kwishuuuuuu! Vrummmmmmm FVISH! while swinging some kind of imaginary sword. So, it’s really ok that everybody isn’t into Star Wars.

But I have to file a complaint against those who are sick of the hype. I have heard that some are tired of seeing Star Wars oranges, Star Wars cereals, Star Wars Target, Star Wars this and Star Wars that. My complaint is that all the things that are getting in on the Star Wars hype are not bumping space that previously held Part 1 of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. The stuff on the cereal box before the Star War themed tie in was probably a toucan in a jungle maze. The Target commercials that reference all things Star Wars were probably talking about another thing at Target with some kind of thing trying to motivate you – like cold or hunger or kitten pictures.

The term “over-commercialization” can apply to Christmas, but the term cannot apply to a movie. You see, I’m here to say that a movie is a commercial item. The movie commercial attention is only taking the place of some other commercially sponsored item. There is only so much time in the day for commercials and you are just seeing more of that time for one thing. I’d rather watch the Jimmy Fallon YouTube a capella Star Wars theme than something Jimmy Fallon does with Madonna, whereas both are promoting something different (and the same – Jimmy Fallon).

Flash Gordon was the clincher to get that parent ride into town to see Star Wars. I was happy to see that the main similarity between Star Wars and Flash Gordon – aside good clean fun fighting in space – was the opening titles coming in from off the front of the screen and other technical things like side wipes. There was not a totally false ending – only unresolved pieces.

I will not be rushing out to see the newest Star Wars this weekend – even though I have a car these days. I will bide my time until the crowds subside. Dear readers, I am an oak tree in the face of hype. My 13-year-old daughter is more like a willow in the face of hype, but Star Wars hype is like Kryptonite to her. She will not be seeing Star Wars until Adele or Taylor Swift are involved. However, my 8-year-old son really wants to see it, with no suggesting on my part.

Since I have wheels now, we may take a road trip to my hometown of Rhinelander and go to the Rouman Cinema and see it in 3D. I bet Mr. Rouman’s kids would give me a new pair of 3D glasses if my pair broke. They, like the hype, have evolved. I bet they’re not unhappy about all the Star Wars hype. Now we just need to see a reinvented and hyped Flash Gordon, and all will be extra well with the Science Fiction space genre.

Sadly yours,

Jason Spafford