Lightning in a bottle

There is an awakening in progress. Can you feel it? Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm for the tidy sum of $4 billion in 2012 has led us to this point in time three years later where we get to continue the story of a galaxy far away. Star Wars is back in theatres this month, and I have to admit, I’m excited. If the ticket pre-sales are any indication, George Lucas may be having some seller’s remorse. Maybe he ought to have held out for $5 billion. I’m not sure what a seventy-one year old does with an extra billion dollars, but I’m thinking I could have negotiated a better deal.

As I watched the new trailer this week for the supremely anticipated film, I was reminded of the hype back in the 90’s when George started making the prequels for his 1970’s franchise. There was almost as much hysteria surrounding the first film in that series as there is for this year’s “The Force Awakens.” And then we went to see the movie…and the second…and the third. Aside from a few bright spots, they were some of the most dreadful movies ever made. They made millions upon millions, and they were just awful. George may have bottled lightning on the first go around, but his second time out he just succeeded in making millions of fan boys mad. Then in 2008 he went and ruined “Indiana Jones” cementing his position as a washed up, former visionary-sellout. If tried, he should be found guilty, convicted, and then drawn and quartered for crimes against the imaginations of a generation. The subject of his crimes was actually explored in an immensely entertaining documentary in 2010, “The People vs. George Lucas.”

The new Star Wars is helmed by current Hollywood golden boy, J.J. Abrams. All indications are that he will show reverence to the original Star Wars cannon, but tell the new chapters of the story in a way that works. Fingers crossed. The whole thought of franchises has led me to study on the concept of catching lighting in a bottle, and how sometimes “the force” is not with us. My signature signoff when I was working in the wonderful world of radio was: “Moments lost are lost in time, like tears in the rainstorm.” I borrowed the line from somewhere because I thought it was clever. My friends insisted that it was corny and stupid, but I used it anyway. There is some truth in it. The universe singles out defining moments where all the conditions are just right for certain outcomes. Once they’re gone, you can’t get them back. Just ask George.

There’s a music app that I use frequently with millions of song choices, but due to licensing requirements, a lot of my favorite songs are not the original version that I remember from the radio years ago. A lot of them are re-recordings with the original artist, but they’re still not the real thing. Some of them are pretty close, but they’re in a different studio, on a different day, at a different time in the artist’s life. Every time I hear one I think to myself, “If this is what they’d released in 1974, it never would have been a hit.” Same talent, same instruments, same everything, and yet it’s not the same. It’s enough to make you wish they’d never done the re-recording. It cheapens the memory somehow. I’ve been to see one of my favorite bands six times in concert (or maybe it’s seven). After the last time, I decided I wasn’t going any more. It’s not that I don’t still love them. Their songs are still as important to me as they ever were, but the last time I went I realized the lightning was gone. Their perseverance as a traveling band is admirable; they still do tons of shows every year. If I continued watching it was going to change them though. Instead of having good memories of how they were, and how I was, I would be left with memories of how we are now. There’s something admirable about people who own their position in life, and leave alone the great moments of the past. Cary Grant comes to mind. When he felt he was no longer “Cary Grant,” he retired and never made another movie. Despite lucrative offers to come back to movie making, he chose instead to let us live with the golden memories of him on the silver screen. What did he have to prove? He was Cary Grant. Had George Lucas, who also had nothing to prove, hung up his hat in 1998 instead of 2012, maybe there wouldn’t be a death warrant out for his hide. J.J. had better tread carefully. It’s not a movie he’s making, but a time machine for the nostalgic memories of millions. It had better work.

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