Over the past year, the greater social conscious and by that I mean the internet has been flooded with pieces about Star Wars whether it be nostalgia for the originals, mixed reflections on the prequels or anticipation for JJ Abrams’ promising revitalization. I’ve always found myself it a strange position as I enjoyed episodes 4 through 6 which my mother had from the first VHS release (yes the Special Edition atrocities are only a recent discovery for me) but the prequels were much more foreign to me. I was mostly removed from the hype leading up to December 17th aka my birthday aka opening night of Force Awaken which I wouldn’t have gone to unless someone had bought me a ticket. My closer connection to the franchise has been people’s fascination with the franchise. A movie like Fanboys I’ve revisited again and again partially because I’m obsessed with the brief fluttering of Dan Fogler’s career but also I’m intrigued by that subculture even though I don’t wish to be a part of it. I bring all this up because my recent trip to New York was mostly consumed with long walks and subway rides as I binge listened to the 30+ episodes of the podcast Griffin and David Present which extensively breaks down the George Lucas prequels. For the first time I watched this heavy contended series lending a new perspective on the Fanboy’s perspective and the whirl of emotions around Force.
This may sound like a long winded intro for recommending a podcast and a movie no one cares about and while it kind of is, to me these two are now inseparable. Both these podcasters and the characters in Fanboys are extremely passionate about the Star Wars films but with widely different outlooks. Fanboys is a unique period piece as it harkens back to the late 90’s when nerds were outliers and being that steeped in Star Wars was a celibate wish. As the film’s opening crawl states (yes, it has an opening crawl calling itself Episode 7) it’s been a dark time for Star Wars fans by this time as twenty years has passed since a new film yet the horizon holds a new hope as they count down the minute to Phantom Menace’s release on their palm pilot. What I love so much about this movie is the cheery optimism these friends have for the upcoming film. Amidst Linus (Chris Marquette) dying of cancer, their impassioned arguments over Harrison Ford and the Luke and Leia kiss keep them pressing forward to their destination of breaking into Lucas Ranch to see the unfinished film. They are unimaginable optimistic of the reinvigoration of the franchise as it feels like something their whole existence has led up to.
Griffin and David Present while multiple layers of meta, is approaching the prequels from a very different direction. Just by listening to the podcast you can tell hosts Griffin Newman and David Simms lived that fanboy life, why else would you dedicate so many hours to discussing this series. Their arguments about whether Jedi’s have feeling or who is Anakin’s father are equally impassioned. The approach these guys unexpectedly take for their show is that they pretend for each season, Episodes 4 through 6 never existed and they are discovering each new film in the “Phantom Menace Trilogy” for the first time. It’s a bold approach because of course everyone else went in like the Fanboys, already immersed in a mythology and galaxy worth of worlds that they hold sacred and saw humiliated in front of them with shoddy green screen, Jar Jar Binks and other incentive stereotypes. It’s a lot of baggage to carry into Phantom Menace so I like the wonderment, no matter how manufactured, Griffin and David bring to their viewings as they imagine entering this unknown universe. They seek to analyze these movies in a way no one could because they falter in the shadow of their groundbreaking predecessors.
What I find so exciting out of this bizarre podcast experiment is after listening to them describe and critique every character, plot line, performance and special effect, I watched them for myself. Granted it was paired with their recorded audio commentaries because there’s no way I’m watching these movies unassisted, it was enlightening to see what the world and the Fanboys were reacting to. I have no right to assess a movie I didn’t fully experience but they are all indeed subpar based on the visuals and wooden performances I could glean between jokes. It makes the punch at the end of Fanboys even better as the friends sit down in a packed theater posing the question “what if it sucks?” Spoiler alert, it does but at least they have all these amazing memories of their adventure that brought them to this point that supersede the final product. Well, that’s my assumption. Most had to live with disappointment that was inevitable when a film series from the 1970’s becomes a bigger beast than you can control. If Fanboys had continued all the way to Revenge of the Sith, I think we would have found our heroes as beaten down and cynical as Griffin and David.
I’m very glad I some how avoided all that hype and eventual fall out whether it was due to my age or that S Club 7 was way more important than any space opera in 1999 and yet I’m enamored by hearing of other’s disappointments. Maybes it’s because I’m infatuated with that level of dedication to any particular subject. In Fanboys, every scene is filled with memorabilia and merchandise from Hutch’s (Dan Fogler) tricked out van with original Star Wars curtains and an R2 navigating on top to the real Yoda puppet and Millennium Falcon miniature they find in Lucas’ office. Their is high regard for all these pieces of the film then mirrored in Griffin and David as they (specifically Griffin) spend an outrageous amount of money on CommTech Chips and TC14 action figures. I respect the knowledge, dedication and salaries that go into one’s appreciation for Star Wars that I can then appreciate from afar. That being said I just watched the Star Wars Holiday Special and I have no idea how after that they allowed anyone to make more Star Wars anything.