Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The Dark Side...and the Light

You know this about me: I'm a Star Wars nerd. I was born in 1977, about a month and a half after the first movie came out, so it's always been a part of my life. Sitting here now in my recently Christmified living room and facing our tree, adorned with several SW ornaments, I can't help but think about how entwined Star Wars is with my childhood Christmas memories. As a kid, I couldn't wait for the tree to go up. I'd slither underneath and reach up into the branches, pretending I was Han Solo fixing the Millennium Falcon. My wishlist was always filled with action figures and vehicles from the movies, to the exclusion of just about anything else, and I'd lie awake long into the night on Christmas Eve, wondering what I'd find the next morning. To this day, I joke that I'll be up early on Christmas morning to find out what Star Wars guys Santa brought me--only, to be honest, it's not that much of a joke. If I found a pile of action figures under the tree, I'd be one pretty happy 37-year-old man. Judge me as you see fit.

I was lucky to grow up among other Star Wars nerds. When the teaser for the latest movie, The Force Awakens, came out last Friday, my old friend Patrick initially indicated on Facebook that he hadn't watched it. When finally he did, and indicated that he wasn't sure if he'd go see it or not, it wasn't entirely unexpected. I advised him to go see it with the hope of being pleasantly surprised, but I also said I had much more to say on the topic. And here it is.

To start with, I totally understand his trepidation. We turned six years old the year that Return of the Jedi came out, and for a very long time, that was it as far as Star Wars was concerned. Three movies and out. This was before even VHS was particularly common; I remember how excited I would get when one of the movies was going to be on HBO, because that was the only time you could see them. Luckily, there were plenty of action-figure adventures, and later on, video games, but Star Wars experiences were rare. It kinda sucked, but on the other hand, it also made them very special when they came around.

I've noted before that I didn't immediately jump on Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire when it was published in 1991. Eventually I did--the pull of Star Wars was too strong for me to resist for long--and I was glad. Those were great books. But they opened the door to a ton of Star Wars books down the line. I read all of them for a long time, but eventually it became too much to keep up with, at least if I wanted to read anything else (which--well, I majored in English; of course I wanted to read other stuff), and so few of the books were any good. Now we're at a similar point with the films. The Force Awakens will open in theaters a little over a year from now; from then on, it sounds like Disney plans to put out a Star Wars film each year. Right now there are six movies (two trilogies); five years from now there will be eleven movies--three trilogies and two standalones--and it will likely go on from there. At what point does the Star Wars experience cease to be special?

And then there's that second trilogy to consider. When The Phantom Menace was announced, I was all in. It was hard to believe that, after sixteen years, there was going to be new Star Wars on the big screen, and I was stoked. And then that movie turned out to be a complete dog. Attack of the Clones was a little better, and Revenge of the Sith was a little better than that, but still, that trilogy was nowhere near what it could or should have been. There's certainly a chance that future installments will be bad as well.

And yet....

I mentioned to Patrick that one thing I learned from The Phantom Menace was that nothing could diminish my love for those first three movies, and that's true. The Phantom Menace sucked, but I still have Star Wars wallpaper on my PC and ornaments on my tree. The Force Awakens can suck and I'll still smile when I put up a Christmas tree each year, longing to climb underneath and ask for someone to hand me a hydrospanner.

That's all unchangeable...as, I think, is the thrill I feel sitting in a darkened theater and seeing an opening crawl accompanied by that iconic theme. Will that fade some now that I'll get to do it each year? Maybe eventually, and probably faster if the movies turn out to suck. But, on the other hand, if they turn out to be decent, maybe that feeling will stick around. Maybe it'll even be enhanced.

I'm an optimist. I have a good feeling about the new trilogy and about the people working on it. Much love to George Lucas for the machine he set into motion, but I'm glad he's out of the picture. I'm looking forward to seeing what other people have to add to the story, while also looking forward to seeing familiar faces in familiar roles, at least briefly. I think that's one good thing about there being a long string of Star Wars movies on the horizon--there's leeway for a not-so-great one here and there, knowing that different writers and directors are going to be involved in each one.

So yeah, count me in for The Force Awakens. I'll be there on day one, most likely at the midnight showing, like I was for all the prequels. And probably more than once.

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