Alright nerds. Let’s say that you have kids at some point in your life (congrats on the future sex). Maybe that happens around 2025. And, because you’re reading this, let’s assume it’s important to you that your children watch Star Wars, starting with the original trilogy. I’m going to peg the year when that kid’s going to watch Episode IV at roughly 2035, which will make the little padawan about the same age that you probably were when you found out that the Jedi are glorified tax collectors in The Phantom Menace.
This, my question to you is: In 2035, will a ten-year-old kid even want to watch Star Wars? And will they like it?
By that point, A New Hope, which came out in 1977, will be 58 years old. That’s as old as a guy I like to call Barack Obama. Ever heard of him? Oh yeah, he’s retired at that age.
Do you know what movies were 58 years old when The Phantom Menace came out in 1999? Let me set the stage for you. It was 1941. The United States didn’t enter WWII until December because we were too busy debating lend-lease and taking Lindbergh seriously. Bugs Bunny and Joe DiMaggio were the peak of American culture, and vaping hadn’t been invented yet.
Here were some of the big movies that came out in 1941, helpfully organized into four conceptual buckets:
Movies that Are Good
- Citizen Kane
- The Maltese Falcon
- How Green Was My Valley (I don’t know if this is good, but it beat out Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon for multiple Oscars. The Oscars are dumb.)
Movies that Would Have the Same Title Today but Would Be Very Different
- Andy Hardy’s Private Secretary (a courageous whistleblower won’t be bullied into silence by powerful corporate executives in the #metoo era)
- Bachelor Daddy (Adam Sandler’s most recent Netflix vehicle)
- Play Girl (a feel-good, soft-R comedy starring Melissa McCarthy, Reese Witherspoon, and Rebel Wilson)
- The Green Hornet Strikes Again (a gritty reboot of classic comic book IP)
Movies that Are Actually Movies Today
Movies that Certainly Sound Like Adult Films
Maybe you’ve heard of some of these movies. Maybe you’ve actually seen some of them. But I’d bet the net worth of Lucasfilm that most ten year olds in 1999 wouldn’t get amped for Orson Welles’ cinematic breakthrough or the genre prototype laid out in Maltese Falcon (although, to be fair, most 5th graders probably weren’t that high on midichlorian counts or racially problematic trade disputes either when Phantom hit).
So, again, answer this question we must: Will the original Star Wars trilogy fade into history? Is it rooted to its time and place? Is it centered around ideals and concerns that will seem too distant to bridge across several generations? Or is there something more timeless and enduring about believing in the little guy and rusted landcruisers—something that will transcend time and space in a manner that will continue to captivate young people, thus forever hooking our progeny to the blue-milk-teat of Disney Plüs?
Is A New Hope more Dumbo or more Maltese Falcon? And which is the better thing to be?