There’s a great book by psychology professor Daniel Gilbert (you may have seen him recently in a Prudential commercial where people put stickers on a big board showing the oldest person they know) called Stumbling On Happiness. It’s a fascinating read and I highly recommend it. What it talks about is that humans are terrible about knowing what will make them happy. Predicting that some future event – a new house, a child, a promotion, getting a new toy – will finally make us really happy is an error we make over and over. But research into happiness suggests that’s not what happens. The person we are when the event actually happens will be a different person, in different circumstances, than the person who was waiting for it to happen two, three, ten years before, and so the prediction is just as likely to be untrue as it is to be true.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this in regards to Star Wars Black. For years – ever since the inception of Marvel Legends, really – I’ve been saying that if we ever got a 6″ Star Wars line, I would immediately go crazy for it. That it would drive me into a full-on SW obsession. That this site would suddenly have a vaguely SW-style theme, that I’d probably go around writing fan fiction in my head and buying Rebel-logo bumper stickers. Longtime readers know how faddish I can be. I know many of you still visit hoping to find a renewed love for MOTUC (probably my high-water mark in terms of readers – there’s one Hordak-related post from 2009 with over 200 comments. I can’t get anywhere near that today.).
I’ve been trying to determine exactly why my predicted Star Wars mania hasn’t happened. What wasn’t I taking into account in my prediction? I think there are a few factors.
First, I can’t underestimate the effect of S.H.MonsterArts. I love Star Wars, yes, but I love Godzilla several orders of magnitude more.* That goes for any other geek property you could name – Batman, He-Man, Evil Dead II, maybe even Lord of the Rings. And S.H.MonsterArts is not a cheap line. It’s forced me to make more difficult toy purchase decisions in the last two years than I’ve ever had to make (which is to say, any such decisions, really). The S.H.MonsterArts figures have to be purchased no matter what else I’m collecting. So it’s possible my brain is subconsciously resisting obsessing over SWB6 for sound financial reasons.
Second, Star Wars as a franchise hasn’t really offered something I’ve been interested in in a while. I hated the prequels and the universe they spawned, so I skipped The Clone Wars (I know the show is supposed to be good, but I have zero interest in that world and those characters). The last SW thing I enjoyed was Knights of the Old Republic. I was very interested in Star Wars 1313, and thought that had a chance to rekindle my excitement for SW, but the game was cancelled after the Disney purchase. I did enjoy the hell out of the two Dark Forces games, particularly the first one.
See, the part of Star Wars I’ve always loved most isn’t the lightsabers and godlike Jedis dueling it out, or the galactic politics or even the battles with the Death Star. It’s the seedy underbelly of the universe, the one glimpsed in the Mos Eisley cantina. My favorite Star Wars books are The Han Solo Adventures, Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, Tales of the Bounty Hunters, Tales from Jabba’s Palace and Tales from the Empire (okay, and Death Troopers). I know I’m not alone. Joss Whedon apparently loved this part of Star Wars so much he based an entire TV show around it. (It’s yet another reason I wish Whedon and not Abrams – whose films I’ve found oddly but consistently forgettable – was in charge of this particular part of the Disney empire.)
But when I really thought about it, I decided that most of the above issues could be cast aside if I became excited enough. I could even see myself buying the prequel figures – after all, if I could I talk myself into the likes of Lightray and Demo-man, I could talk myself into Darth Maul and prequel Obi-Wan.
In truth, there is just one thing standing between me and being able to love Star Wars again. I know it’s become cliché, and many geeks are tired of hearing about it and want to move on. But what keeps me from getting into Star Wars is that I can’t get the original films in pre-Special Edition form in HD. I want Blu-Rays of the films as they existed in the remastered, touched-up VHS versions that were released in 1995. I’ve heard (though I don’t know if this is true) the masters were physically altered to create the Special Editions and therefore what I want is no longer possible without extensive digital restoration.
Someday I may have kids, and I have no doubt I’ll watch all the films with them again. Maybe they’ll love the prequels as well as the new Abrams movies. Maybe my kids’ love for Star Wars will bring back my own, as I watch them discover the universe.
But for now, the fact that I can’t watch the films I watched when I was young (in the high-quality format they deserve) just bothers me too much. And yes, the whole “Han Shot First” thing matters an incredibly stupid amount to me. Lucas took the baddest-ass moment of one of my favorite fictional characters** and nerfed it. I saw A New Hope at a drive-in when I was two years old and I’m one of the least aggressive people you’ll ever meet. It didn’t scare me; it didn’t make me think Han was a bad guy. It was obviously self-defense even without having Greedo miss at point-blank range. Lucas’s changes softened the character unnecessarily and ruined one of the best character moments he ever scripted.
It’s not that I won’t buy figures from Star Wars Black. I definitely will. But I’m just going to pick and choose – I won’t be a completist on this, or even try to be. From everything revealed so far, I’ll pick up R2D2, Boba Fett, Han Solo, and the regular Stormtrooper. Greedo is a maybe. Aside from that, here’s every figure I foresee myself buying:
- Darth Vader
- Original trilogy Obi-Wan Kenobi
- Luke in Tatooine and Jedi Knight outfits
- Leia in A New Hope outfit
- Original trilogy Yoda
- Lando in either ESB or ROTJ outfit
- Grand Moff Tarkin (actually really hoping for this figure)
- The Emperor
- Hammerhead, because he’s my favorite Mos Eisley patron
There’s a chance that, if the fever does somehow catch me, I suspect I might go completist on the Original Trilogy (especially if S.H.MonsterArts decides not to give us any more Showa-era figures). But it will require a change of heart. That’s just where I am now.
One final note: it’s also possible my ability to become obsessively interested in a single franchise has waned as I’ve aged. Even with Godzilla or Pacific Rim, I don’t have that brain-on-fire mania I had when I first discovered Hellboy in ’04, or when I was really into Halo in ’07, or even at the beginning of the MOTUC era.
* You may be wondering, if I love Godzilla so much, why I haven’t been reviewing S.H.MonsterArts on the site and writing about it incessantly. I’m not sure, honestly. There seems to be some psychological stuff going on, like not wanting to dwell on the figures’ faults when reviewing them. Anyway, I’m hoping to start the reviews soon.
** Han is probably #4 behind Godzilla, Gandalf, and Batman, if we can count Godzilla as a character. After Han is Hellboy, then Grimlock, then Will Graham from Red Dragon, then Ash from the Evil Dead films, and then maybe Quint from JAWS. After that I’m really not sure who would rank where.