Somebody recently said in a conversation that "Star Wars" is science fiction. That's not true. "The Martian" is science fiction. "Star Wars" is sometimes called space opera, but really, it has now, with this seventh iteration in the series, established itself as a genre on its own.
(Image: John Boyega, the best thing about "The Force Awakens")
There is nothing like "Star Wars" except "Star Wars."
Consider the contrasts.
"The Martian" solves its problems through fanciful but yet somewhat reasonable ideas, decisions, and actions.
"Star Wars" solves its problems through impossibility, and lots and lots of explosions. Press a button, save a life. Press a button, destroy five planets.
"The Martian" comes from a self-published novel and is the creation of a man with a gifted imagination who did lots of research.
"Star Wars" comes from a good movie idea that has morphed into a mythmaking conglomerate complete with its own tropes, cliches, ethos, nostalgia, and allusions. (Why do fathers and sons always have to meet on catwalks in "Star Wars"? That's just how it's done).
"The Martian" depicts space flight as it is-- a long, expensive, difficult, dangerous adventure.
"Star Wars" depicts space flight in a way that defies description. It's partly like flying through the air (complete with zoom noises), partly like sailing the sea, partly complete and total fantasy that you make up when you're seven years old and playing space man in the back yard.
In the end, that's really what "Star Wars" is: a very expensive story that nevertheless could have been made up by a pair of nine-year olds (BOOM! BANG! Oof! Ugh! Are you okay? He's dead! No I'm not, I'm just knocked out).
Which is why I was grateful that when I went to see the movie, there was a little kid in the back who yelled out "Yeah! That's because she's supposed to be a Jedi!" when he had his "aha" moment.
I know it's not news to you, but my "aha" moment was that "Star Wars" is really and has always been for kids, not nerdy adults trying to recapture the magic. It makes perfect sense that Disney now owns the franchise. Disney owns American childhood, after all.
I was once the perfect age for "Star Wars," back when it started 40 years ago or so. I'm no longer that age. I'm much more interested in "The Martian." That's a story for fusty old grown-ups who want to believe in the inherent goodness of NASA.
And "Joy"? Well, that's for people who are nostalgic about the QVC channel.
Here's to you if you were young when you saw your first "Star Wars" and now you feel like you're a bit too old for it. Welcome to the one-foot-in-the-grave club. It's not as fun as the Dark Side, but we do have cookies.
Too many cookies.