I get PUMPED up for movies. My friends refer to it as the “TPG Hype Train” and that’s a pretty accurate way to put it considering I am the conductor, the locomotive, and the caboose combined. I love movie hype. I devour it like some type of cinematic cannibal. And with my ferocious hype appetite - nothing has satiated my desires like the hype for the STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS. And now it’s almost here and I find myself wondering - what if it it can’t live up to the hype? Will movie hype and in some ways movie hope be ruined? More importantly - who will I be if that occurs?
I suppose I’m like a lot of “fanboys” as they’re labeled by society in that I grew up in an internet literate world where movie news, trailers, and of course rumors could be shared over the internet at lightning speed. I have fond memories of coming home from school and reading Ain’t It Cool News, Dark Horizons, and whatever weird movie hub AOL was running at the time. As I moved on to work in the film and TV business I found myself getting access to scripts, casting reports, and Hollywood “rumours” which were way juicier than anything I had tasted before. These two foundations of movie excitement were rapidly accelerated by just how easy movie watching became over the last 10 years. When I was 13 I had to either rent a movie or watch it in the theater - now you can download movies, watch them on Netflix, and watch your favorite scenes or trailers on repeat on YouTube.
So now that you know about how I was baptized into movie hype - let’s get back to Star Wars the apex of hype. I get STOKED for Marvel movies, buzzed about indies, and anything that does well at Comic Con - but nothing could prepare me for the 3 year long journey of Star Wars hype. The journey to The Force Awakens began in 2012 when Lucasfilm was purchased by Disney for a seemingly modest 4 Billion dollars. In that announcement they said that episode VII was coming which automatically meant that some classic characters had to return. From there each pieces of news whether it was casting announcements, trailers, rumored spoilers, and early reviews have been dissected over the internet. Here’s some fun nuggets for you - the 3 teaser/trailers that have been released to promote the film have been viewed over 170 million times on the official Star Wars YouTube page alone, the film has generated more pre-sale tickets than any other movie by double the amount, and there even is a computer program that will block you from reading any Star Wars related news until the release date. Yes, it’s safe to say the hype is real here.
If you go back and look at the origins of the word “hype” you find yourself at an interesting crossroads. The word is clearly connected to the latin “hyperbole” meaning “exaggeration and extravagance,” yet there is another more nefarious connection linked to the London criminal underworld of the 1960’s - “to swindle by overcharging or shortchanging.” That part about overcharging is particularly monetary transactions because it implies that hype is connected to business and that is certainly the case now. The hype for Star Wars is not a coincidence. Every second of the marketing for this movie has been calculated in some psychological war-room at the Mouse House. And you know what? I’m ok with it - because for the most part participating in the hype around anything is really damn fun. And you can dive deep into the word meanings, pieces of content, that didn’t deliver, that even life moments that didn’t deliver on hype but I choose to believe that hype is not about swindling or hyperbole but about a very Star War’s esque theme: HOPE.
Ughhh, I hear you groaning a little bit with that connection, but think about it. That’s what hype really is - the yearning for something that is just totally going to deliver. Sure, it may be calculated but when you sit down for The Force Awakens you’ve been primed to hope and expect something magical. Hype leads us to hope for value, hope for meaning in our art/content, and to believe in the transformative power of art. So I guess that hope is extremely high for The Force Awakens because the hype has been unreal. If it doesn’t deliver, I’m sure I’ll be damaged but I’m sure a new piece of content will come along that is expertly marketed and designed to get me hyped, and... wait for it... give me a new hope.