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Obi-Wan Kenobi himself warned against ‘Star Wars’ obsession

Alec Guinness (who played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy), recalling a fan encounter:

A sweet-faced boy of twelve told me proudly that he had seen Star Wars over a hundred times… Looking into the boy’s eyes, I thought I detected little star-shells of madness beginning to form; I guessed that one day, they would explode… I just hope the lad, now in his thirties, is not living in a fantasy-world of second-hand childish banalities.

In this excerpt from his memoir, Guinness instructs the young Star Wars enthusiast never to watch the films again. The actor feared that the boy would “mature” into a man-child, still obsessed with a shallow children’s movie.

Of course, millions of similar “lads” (and lasses), now in their “thirties” (and forties), will eagerly revisit this “fantasy-world of second-hand childish banalities” when The Force Awakens premieres tomorrow. Sir Alec would likely disapprove. Even before production wrapped on “A New Hope,” Guinness was deriding its “rubbish dialogue.” In the decades that followed, the late actor eventually grew to despise the franchise altogether.

And he had a point. Some extreme Star Wars fans do lose track of reality in their love for that “galaxy far, far away.” Check out this fake commercial from last week’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ episode; it ridicules grown men who collect kids’ action figures. Or recall another SNL sketch, in which William Shatner (Captain Kirk himself) tells obsessive Trekkies to “Get a life!” These parodies make us chuckle, but they also reflect the pathological fixations of some hardcore sci-fi devotees.

Of course, I probably shouldn’t cast stones here. I’ve written more blog posts on Star Wars and Star Trek than any other topics. “Second-hand childish banalities” are apparently my cup of tea.

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Killing Kirk

J.J. Abrams’ sequel to the 2009 Star Trek reboot fell flat. Into Darkness’ story was ridiculous; never before has a film taken the phrase “Man the torpedoes” literally. The movie also wasted Trek’s best villain, inexplicably transmogrifying Khan from a sly, brown-skinned Indian to a mopey, pale-faced Brit. Finally, a jarring bra-and-panties scene felt like a cynical attempt to make the film’s trailer appeal to over-hormonal teenagers.

All that considered, there’s no easy fix for Star Trek: Into Darkness’s many flaws. But I would argue that a single, key change would have proven that the filmmakers at least took Trek seriously: Kirk should have stayed dead.

In the film’s climax, Captain Kirk climbs into a lethally radioactive chamber, fixes some key machinery, and saves the U.S.S. Enterprise from certain doom. The scene echoes a similar moment in Star Trek II, in which Spock sacrifices himself on the crew’s behalf. This time, it’s Kirk who succumbs to radiation poisoning. He dies with Spock by his side—the ultimate end to their space bromance.

Or… not. Just in time, Dr. McCoy discovers that Khan’s blood can (magically!) raise the dead. A quick blood transfusion, and Kirk is resurrected!

Faux-killing Kirk leverages fans’ Wrath of Khan nostalgia without actually risking the franchise’s future. And, as with Spock’s death, it was a mistake.

Imagine an Into Darkness that definitively kills Kirk—the franchise’s iconic character. The reboot could then veer into uncharted territory; as the Enterprise visited its “strange new worlds,” the audience could also enjoy a new Trek universe, free of Shatner/Nimoy baggage. What happens to Spock after Kirk’s death? Does grief overwhelm his Vulcan commitment to cold logic? Or does he banish emotion altogether to avoid the pain? Even re-hashed plot lines from the original series could prove interesting; what happens without Kirk in the captain’s chair.

Alas, as with Spock’s return in Star Trek III, Kirk’s resurrection siphons dramatic tension from the rebooted franchise. The creators apparently lack the guts (or the authority) to take big risks or make big bets.

Even worse, they’ve invented Khan’s Magic Blood—a silly plot device that can rejuvenate any key character who inconveniently croaks.