On Star Wars and Every Generation Having a Legend: Part 1 (written before seeing the film)
December 16, 2015
It seems inconsistent for me to write about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This is a film that I have completely avoided reading about. I bypassed links to Ten Things We Learned from the New Trailer, skipped fan theories speculating about the absence of Luke Skywalker from the previews, and couldn’t be bothered with headlines prognosticating about either the film’s quality or its eventual box office. In short, I want to see the film without any preconceived notions or plot expectations.
Ever since the seventh chapter in the Star Wars saga was announced, I have been filled with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, the film, as well as its eventual sequels, seemed unnecessary. The central story of the Skywalker family had been told and reached its logical conclusion. Regardless of what order the six movies are watched in – and I still believe the prequels should be watched after the original series – there was finality to the story. Sure remnants of the Empire still exist at the conclusion of Return of the Jedi, but their ultimate fate did not have the importance of the rehabilitation of the father at the hands of his son or the start of Han and Leia’s new life together. What happened next seemed obvious and perhaps better left to the imagination.
The Star Wars universe continued of course. There were comic books, novels, action figures, video games, and cartoons. Most of these existed outside of the official Star Wars canon, and one in particular riled up Star Wars enthusiasts by killing off Chewbacca. I was a casual fan of these, having enjoyed the comic book as a child and read Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy as an adult.
As the years went by, Star Wars lost some of its importance. As the films went through multiple incarnations, they were no longer what had originally excited people so much, wounded by pointless debates about who shot first and ludicrous added moments, such as Han stepping on Jabba the Hutt’s tail and not experiencing any repercussions for it. The most recent version of the Return of the Jedi has a change at the conclusion of Luke and Vader’s climactic battle that just feels wrong. In fact, knowing about it, as well as the many other recent alterations, may have contributed to my decision not to purchase the six films on Blu-ray.
This brings me back to the new film. I am aware of the excitement that people have for The Force Awakens. I’m just not there yet myself. The new film remains a curiosity to me, and I’m cautiously optimistic based on the previews I’ve seen. Some cite J.J. Abrams’ influence as the main reason for their enthusiasm and blast George Lucas for many of his decisions regarding the prequels, such as his casting of Hayden Christenson, his inclusion of Jar Jar Binks, the film’s constant barrage of CGI effects that numb the senses and take away from emotional moments. I suspect that what they are most angry about is that Lucas seems to have made The Phantom Menace for a new generation of Star Wars fans and not those that grew up with it.
Let’s be honest: The Phantom Menace was for the kids. The trailer said it all: Every generation has its own legend. The Phantom Menace and its sequels were meant to be the millenials’, and The Force Awakens is meant to be this generation's. It is intended to be an experience that will be collectively had and talked about for the rest of their lives. These are tall expectations indeed, and it is all too easy for these kinds of hopes not to be met. Like I said, I’m cautiously hopeful. After all, every generation does indeed deserve its own legends. Why shouldn’t one of them be Star Wars?