Thursday, December 5, 2013
Star Wars "Fanboys"
Warning: This post contains plot spoilers! (But not too many).
In the movie "Fanboys," Eric's friends Hutch, Linus, and Windows give him a chilly reception when he meets up with them at a party. We soon learn that this is because Eric has traded in his dreams of drawing a comic book series with Linus, and instead has become a successful salesman at his father's car dealership. Eric defends his decision: at least he has made something of his life. The other three seem little changed in the three years since high school. Hutch and Windows work in a comic book shop, along with their friend Zoe, and they are willing to set the past aside for a moment, to enjoy this unexpected reunion with Eric. Linus, however, refuses to talk with him.
Through Hutch and Windows, Eric learns that Linus has been diagnosed with cancer, and has only four months to live. Perhaps Linus saw his future as intertwined with Eric's, and when Eric chose to fulfill his father's expectations over collaborating with him on a comic book series, this left him with little hope of fulfilling his dream. In any case, with no future left to him, Linus is reluctant to admit Eric back into his life. So Eric embraces a wild idea he and the group had fantasized about in the past: to travel from their native Ohio to Marin County, California, where they will break into Skywalker Ranch, the home of Lucasfilm, and steal a rough cut of the new, upcoming Star Wars movie.*
Although the four are fascinated by Star Wars and comics, clearly they also have talent and abilities. They exhibit these on their drive across the country. Hutch in particular shows promise, as he has painted George Lucas and Leia on the side of his van, and installed an R2-D2 dome on the top. He's also "made a few modifications himself," which he exhibits during the course of their journey. Although he still lives at home, Hutch dreams of starting his own auto detailing business, once he's gotten enough money. But it is Windows who uses his Internet contacts to eventually get them detailed information on Lucasfilm's physical layout and security, and badges so they can get into the ranch.
And the person who gives the boys the secret plans and forged credentials? None other than William Shatner, aka Captain James T. Kirk. They meet him at a convention in Las Vegas, where they also meet up with Trekkies who bear them grudges for previously ridiculing them in public. The Star Wars versus Star Trek theme echoes aspects of fandom in which diehard fans defend the validity of their love for one franchise by putting down another. But all of us define ourselves as much by what we embrace as by what we reject. You can't become a person of real character by embracing everything. Thus, in this way Eric, Hutch, Linus, and Windows show us who they are. What their beliefs are. What is important to them. What they are willing fight to protect, and risk their jobs, injury, and even imprisonment for.
"Fanboys" received largely unfavorable reviews from critics, with the well-regarded Roger Ebert even suggesting that the boys should have poked fun at the Star Wars movies, and their heroes, rather than embracing them so fully. But critics, and most people for that matter, will never understand those who love the characters, stories, and elements of a particular fictional universe so much that they seek to structure their lives around it. For most people, there's Fiction, and then there's Reality. For them, to embrace Fiction so fully means that one's progress through Reality is halted prematurely. "Fanboys" isn't a perfect movie, and at times, it serves up a little too much crass and juvenile humor for my tastes. But where it succeeds for me is in demonstrating how one can channel the positive elements of Fiction (as others would utilize Religion, Science, Politics, etc) to pursue the future one desires, even if one's dreams seem unconventional and unrealistic to others.
But then, what do I know? I'm not a person of real character, after all. I tend to embrace too much, to love too many different types of Fiction. And yes, even that includes Star Wars AND Star Trek.
*Although made and released later, this film is set six months before the release of "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace."