[image: Dogwood, 2014, JA Van Devender]
Matthew 13:52 (NKJV)
52 Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”
If the only artistic avenues open to a culture is the revarnishing of old achievements, then you can be pretty certain that stagnation is present as a prelude to collapse.
I have always had a kind of sneaking suspicion that there is a reciprocal relation to artistic energy and cultural health. Broadly speaking, I think you can measure the "temperature" of a culture by the vitality and movement in the arts. There are historical precedents that it would be tedious to catalog and I don't intend to go there, but a walk through of any local art museum with a significant collection can almost present a commentary on the rise and fall of cultures.
I think back to the energy of the early American movements and the raw hopefulness that was communicated in the arts. I am not going to commend any particular artists because it would distract from the main point, but pick one or two that you like and just survey their works in comparison to the wider prospects and attitudes in their surrounding times and places. What is truly interesting to me is to survey the "periods" they represent, especially when subsequent artists basically just polish the apple of the pioneers. At first glance there is some rough correlation to the lack of creativity, the retrenching attitudes, found among the whole community.
Which brings me to the planned release of Star Wars VII coming up this December... starring... the original cast in the leading roles. C'mon guys... Hans Solo at 70? Good grief... would it not be better to come up with at least a "Next Generation" epic ala Star Trek rather than resurrecting the same old characters?
This is Hollywood making money by exploiting the nostalgia of aging boomers and their kids. We are supposed to relive the thrill of that first opening sequence, with the words receding into infinity and the brilliant score strumming our imaginations even as it fixed itself into our cultural heritage. It was ground-breaking stuff... brilliance of execution transforming a mediocre plot line into the stuff of legend. Adding to that original work, especially beyond the first three, has seemed analogous to a later artist adding some background detail and "improvements" to the Mona Lisa. It was complete as it stood... what was added to it had the net effect of detracting from it.
The same with 2001: A Space Odyssey. "Also Sprach Zarathustra" is forever branded in my mind as being associated with a bone spinning in the air registering the leap of man creatures into the age of tools... and the fade in view of the spinning Space Station with its docking shuttle waltzing to the "Blue Danube" was cinematic brilliance at its best. None of the sequels came anywhere close to that achievement nor to the perplexing and thought provoking final scene with the embryo gazing at the planet earth. We talked about that for months.
Star Wars did its thing and introduced iconic characters that resonate among us to this day. Leave it alone!
Come up with something new, for goodness' sake. Let the Force be with someone else...
When art is reduced to only a celebration of technique... when special effects are the reason to see the movie and not to enhance the story line... then the true tragedy is occuring in the culture and lives of those who are paying the admission fare. Special effects mesmerize the senses but they do not inspire the imagination. There's only so many things you can do with the Robin Hood theme until you transform it into something it was not.
Show some class Harrison, Mark and Carrie... let the memory of your work then be that which abides in your fans... don't diminish it with some token attempt to regain your youth because that will be how you are remembered.
It was good as it was... leave it alone.