Ever since Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 and green-lit a sequel trilogy, not a week has passed where something Star Wars wasn’t blowing up my social media. This year it’s become a daily irritant as the orgasmically anticipated The Force Awakens inches ever closer to its December 18, 2015 release date. Star Wars this and Star Wars that, casting controversies here, trailer releases there, new toy lines everywhere. Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars. It’s as if the entire world has turned into Jan Brady. Or maybe I have.
The worst perpetrators of this Star Wars obsession are the fanboys (and fangirls, but especially the fanboys) who came of age in the seventies and propelled the original Star Wars movie to cosmic heights of blockbuster glory and created a merchandising and Hollywood juggernaut that even Jar Jar Binks and elementary school level scriptwriting couldn’t abate. Now they’re all grown up with children of their own and flooding the internet with Instagram exhibitions of dad and daughter Star Wars costumes, Youtube clips of dad watching his son experience Star Wars for the first time, and an endless stream of blog posts that run the gamut from cringe-worthy to tear-jerky. Add in the barrage of Twitter trends and Reddit threads by current college gamer geeks that first experienced Star Wars via the prequels and still, remarkably, decided to embrace the cult, and you’d be excused for thinking the internet is one endless Star Wars revival for 50 and under males.
Oh, you’d be excused, but you’d also be wrong. Membership in the church of Star Wars may be numerous but it’s not ubiquitous. I, for one, am not a congregant. For starters, I’m far more partial to that other Sci-fi franchise with a slightly unhinged fanatical following. Secondly, I didn’t even see Star Wars until my teens, long after the original trilogy had run its course and indoctrinated the masses. But most importantly, I’m a loyal disciple of the heretical creed that Star Wars wasn’t even the best movie of 1977.
To Hell With Star Wars
The film to which I pledge my undying allegiance was released on May 27, 1977 two days after Star Wars premiered in limited release. Never achieving number one status at the box office in any single week, it nonetheless steadily raked in the dollars and by year’s end was the second highest grossing movie of 1977 earning a stunning $126,737,428 ($473,986,600 adjusted to 2015 average ticket prices) compared to, yes, Star Wars’s otherworldly initial release draw of $307,263,857 ($990,125,334 adjusted to 2015 average ticket prices). Adjusted for inflation, that’s still a large enough gross for 68th place all time, tucked in nicely between Hollywood classics Tootsie and West Side Story.
Like Star Wars for you, this movie, the greatest cinematic creation ever, yes I just wrote that, spellbound me and changed the world. Well at least automobile sales at General Motors. From the moment I first watched it from the back seat of my parents’ 1974 Pontiac Catalina Safari station wagon, lovingly dubbed The Schmidtmobile, at the Port Elgin Drive-In that historic summer of 1977, my life was transformed. Instead of lusting for silly robots, spaceships, and lightsabers like all of you, my heart yearned for black sports cars, eighteen wheelers, and CB radios. You named your dogs Chewie and your kids Luke while I named my cat Bandit and my kids, well, something completely unrelated to the movie because my wife was blinded to the awesomeness of Buford or Cletus. And unlike your galaxy far, far away my fantasy world was a mere 1,500 km drive south on the 401 and I-75. Sorry, I don’t have the conversion to parsecs on that for you.
It’s now thirty-eight years later and I’m still a fanboy. I still get chills when I hear Jerry Reed sing “East Bound and Down”. I still dream of owning a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am Special Edition, black with gold trim, 6.6 Litre engine, and T-top. And dammit all, I still wanna know whether they got that clam chowder. So I say to you now, with my right hand over my heart and head held high, to hell with Star Wars: The Force Awakens! The 1977 movie that really needs a sequel, or a reboot, is the legendary, the greatest of the great, the sumbitch of cinema, Smokey and the Bandit.
Here’s the brilliant part of any Smokey and the Bandit reboot/sequel. The perfect plot idea is already waiting. In the climax of the original movie, Bandit, Snowman, and Frog agree to a double or nothing bet with Big and Little Enos to get clam chowder from Boston in eighteen hours. Smokey and the Bandit II, however, picked up the story much later so we never found out what happened on the great chowder run. The possibilities for a couple southern boys on a run to New England and back are absolutely endless. Just imagine the Bandit going to battle with a Bawston Sheriff? Hell, imagine Buford T. Justice going to battle with a Bawston Sheriff! It’s just genius. Really.
Still don’t think a reboot would work? Consider how popular the Fast and the Furious franchise has become. It’s basically nothing but car chases (no I’ve never seen any of them but trailers don’t lie). Here’s a ready-made legacy asset, one of the founding fathers of car chase movies, just itching for a modern reboot as an ideal competitor to the reigning car chase movie champion. Hell, if they’d clued in to this genius idea a decade ago it might have even saved the Pontiac brand. Imagine if that new Camaro/Transformers pairing had been coupled with a spiffy new Trans Am/Smokey and the Bandit union. Oh my…I think I need a moment.