I am the type of person who could write a novel about the reason that a person might change the way they hold a fork. Observational changes in nonverbal communication are an obsession with me and are a constant companion. I would have to say that nothing happens that I don’t notice. I am always on the lookout for why someone might have changes to their eye movement, or the tip of a head as it’s positioned on the shoulders, does it drop more than usual, or is it cantered off to the left or right more than typical. Is there an unusual emphasis on words when somebody is speaking and if there is, what does it mean—those types of things. So I enjoy big pop culture events because of all the mass information available to the way I think. I love going to baseball games where there are lots of people, because it tells me so much about the temperature of our culture, and I love big entertainment movie premiers—especially for projects that I am excited about like this new Star Wars movie, Solo: A Star Wars Story because there are always important things that can be learned about the nature of our society. And the thing that I thought was most compelling at the Solo premier in Hollywood this past Thursday wasn’t the usual fanfare that comes from most Disney productions that they know going in will turn in big box office numbers—it was that Bob Iger wasn’t there. I would encourage you dear reader to watch the whole red-carpet coverage. It was quite impressive.
Going even further was the lack of VIP formality at the event, even after the premier. The after party mixed cosplayers and celebrity actors together in ways that were very unusual for Hollywood which is kind of a theme with this new Solo movie. Freedom from social pretension is the underlying message of this new Star Wars movie and the absence of authority figures in our lives is the goal of Han Solo, and Disney wisely embraced that during this premier. This Star Wars movie is quite different from any other in the past, and it reaches back to recapture that feeling so many people had in 1977 when the first film came out where a much younger George Lucas put out a very unusual movie he had made with his wife in what were some very happy days for the fledgling filmmaker. Not happy on the business side, or the marital side, but from the ideological position where observations made were translated into unique characters placed into the Star Wars movies, like Han Solo—maybe one of the most independent characters ever put into film. That revulsion for authority figures was actually quietly part of the Disney movie premier. There were no special speeches by anybody from Disney or Lucasfilm before the three theaters started playing Solo: A Star Wars Story—all that happened were that the lights dimmed, the movie started, people had a good time, and afterwards everyone mingled together no matter what their social standing was. If you were at the premier, you were someone and therefore welcome to interact with anybody, anywhere within the scope of the premier. It was all very unusual. The richest person in the world was at the premier, but nobody made much mention of it. At the after party mixing with fans dressed in their favorite Star Wars outfits was a bald guy introducing himself as, “HI, I’m Jeff.” No pretension what-so-ever.
What these movies about Han Solo do for the Disney franchise of what is coming in 2020 and thereafter is that they use the main character to open up the entire galaxy to new stories. Solo is the thread that is connecting the massive mythology that is being planned by Lucasfilm and that is important in many ways. Lately I have been talking a lot about the scientific changes that are coming to us in real society, like the Uber Elevate sky cars, the missions to Mars by NASA and Elon Musk’s Space X, and just yesterday The Boring Company finished digging a tunnel under Los Angeles meant to carry traffic under the busy city with car pods and Hyperloops. Currently there is a video from Boston Dynamics that is freaking people out displaying a robot running across a park and jumping over a log in much the way a human does, so we are seeing a competitive species of a living thing that humans have invented moving into our world and it is causing some anxiety. There are a lot of things changing and what I see in pop culture are ways to intellectually deal with them that are emerging in our art, like in these Star Wars movies. For many people they need science fiction and fantasy to open their minds to the explosion of new ideas that are coming to the human race in a very rapid fashion and companies like Disney are trying to embrace their role in the whole thing in a proactive way.
Humans need conceptual tools to help them navigate ideas—in much the way that Star Wars needs Han Solo to open up the context of future stories, the elements of the films—the space travel between planets, the way that space travel is conducted, the type of people who will do it, and even the tools that humans use while doing all these things—like robots, religion, and even the type of “can do” spirit that everything takes are part of movies like Solo: A Star Wars Story. The movie exists to make money for Disney and all the merchandise retailers, but of course there is a deeper meaning that people like Bob Iger may not be consciously aware of, but the greater purpose is certainly part of the overall strategy. I watched very carefully the interview with the two Kasdens who wrote this new Solo movie and just like Larry was when he wrote the great film Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back, he knew what he was doing with his son on this latest film. It is just the kind of movie that people are looking for at this particular time in our lives where technology once again, as it was in 1977—is taking over and we are wondering what our place is in all of it. The original Star Wars movies told us it was OK to embrace the future and what we ended up with was the fabulous 1980s. I think the Donald Trump presidency had a lot to do with why the original Solo movie directors were fired, because Disney had planned a certain kind of Guardians of the Galaxy Star Wars film featuring Han Solo, but that wasn’t going to work in a post Donald Trump world and Kathy Kennedy wisely made the change to more of a traditional western as opposed to a color popping change that might have been a much more progressive film. I noticed that Disney has been very careful not to put Woody Harrelson on the red-carpet interviews, because he is a major pot supporter. He’s done a few interviews, but not much—he’s not even featured in the Denny’s cards from the promotional tour—and that says something.
Everything means something and there is a lot going on with Solo: A Star Wars Story. Disney is giving fans what they want in a Star Wars movie even if they don’t personally like the direction the franchise is going, because they have their eye on the bigger prize—the furtherment of human civilization as a whole, and the part they play in it as artists. While the company of Disney may not want to do a modern cowboy movie with hot rod spaceships, the fans want it, and that’s what drives merchandise sales and brings people into the parks where the real magic happens for Disney. That’s also where new technology gets its cutting-edge tests for public consumption, and directly leads to the world we are all stepping into. We are all going to space and our daily lives are changing with all this new technology. As humans we are looking for ways to process all this information into the context of stories, which is what we have always done when processing new observational realities. And it’s all very exciting!
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