Monday, July 21, 2008

Star Wars Exhibit

Laura and I went to see the Star Wars exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota with her sister Kat and Kat's husband (and fellow Wyrdsmith) Sean Murphy. It was entertaining--cool ship models and some of the props and costumes--but Laura and I felt that it just didn't have the same impact as the Magic of Myth Star Wars exhibit, which Laura and I saw at the Smithsonian sometime last century.

We spent some time trying to figure out why that was and concluded that it's got nothing to with the exhibit and everything to do with episodes I-III. After seeing what Lucas did with I-III we simply aren't the same Star Wars fans we were when we saw the Magic of Myth. While there was some really cool stuff in the prequels, the deeply inferior storytelling has tarnished the brand for us in a deep and abiding way, which is actually quite sad.

The one big exception to the simply not as cool as all this stuff used to be factor was the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon in the Jump to Lightspeed attraction where the four of us got to go into a mockup of the Falcon's cockpit and watch a short surround-projected film that included several jumps to lightspeed. We were all acting like excited nine-year-olds for that bit, hitting buttons, flipping switches, and just generally playing in a way that grownups mostly* don't get to. It was thrilling because we all deep down loved IV-VI, and the Falcon by itself didn't evoke the disappointment of I-III.

I'm sure there's an important lesson in there for writers about not tarnishing your brand and learning when to stop, but I'm equally sure it's actually quite hard to apply. I have no doubt that Lucas thought I-III were going to be great and that's why he did them. He certainly didn't need the money. There's also a lesson in understanding that once a story has an audience and fans it can never be entirely the writer's toy ever again, no matter how much we might want it to be. Perhaps that's all generalizable to something like the writer has to understand that the audience is part of the story and that's true from the moment you start writing something you intend to share.

What do you think, gentle reader?

*I actually do get to play on a daily basis because my job is writing fantasy, but it's generally make-believe in my head, and rarely involves toys.


Paul Weimer said...

Perhaps that's all generalizable to something like the writer has to understand that the audience is part of the story and that's true from the moment you start writing something you intend to share.

Paul Weimer said...

And I did like the exhibit, myself (but I had not seen the previous one you mention).

Kelly McCullough said...

Jvstin, I liked the exhibit well enough. It was certainly worth the price of admission. It's just that it didn't induce nearly the sense of wonder that the earlier exhibit did for me, and mostly because me relationship to the material has changed drastically.

Tim Susman said...

For me, the first Star Wars movie is still magic. There's something there beyond it just being the first, I think. It's tightly plotted, the dialogue is just cheesy enough to work, and none of the actors seem at all conscious that they're in an Epic Franchise. None of that was true in any of the later movies. That said, it's a great point about the audience becoming part of the story. There is often a tendency on the part of writers to cling to ownership of their work and world. Lucas certainly did, but I think you're right that it wasn't just for money, and it wasn't to screw over the fans. I think he just wanted to keep playing in his own sandbox, and he'd gotten big enough that he didn't have to listen to people tell him that the dialogue was wooden, the plots rambling and (in many cases)--the unforgivable sin--boring.

Anonymous said...

I think Lucas' problem is that he's surrounded by people who will agree with whatever he suggests. He probably doesn't have anyone around him saying, "Gee, I think we've been to the well a few too many times on that idea, George." (Top secret: I think this is the case with Oprah too.)

Of course, we are old and worn. My five-year-old nephew has just discovered Star Wars and is a fanatic.

Kimberly Frost said...


Yeah, LOVED the old stuff. No comment on the new stuff.

BTW - my website's up ( and I linked to this blog on the FAQ section for aspiring writers. I know they'll find the blog helpful. thanks for doing what you do here.

P.S. It's why whenever the feline overlords ask if they should kick you out of their house, I always tell them no.



Kelly McCullough said...

Kimber, cool, thanks for the link and the intervention with the committee for feline domination. I'll toddle over to your site and have a look sometime tomorrow when I'm coherent again.