I’ve been struggling with this one for a few days now. I know that I wanted to try and squeeze in at least one more ‘Wars themed article before the new film is released and the interwebs are flooded with a constant tidal wave of what I’m sure will be similarly themed articles. In less than two weeks the whole internet will be awash in an UN-ending sea of everything Star Wars related. So what do I do to differentiate myself from the pack? How do I deliver to you the reader an article that not only pumps you guys up for the new flick (which, let’s be honest, doesn’t need any help from me at this point) but also brings something new and unique to the table? There is no shortage of ideas, but for some ungodly reason I was drawing a complete blank. Was it perhaps too much of a good thing? Was there just simply way too much for me to draw from? Well after much careful deliberation I’ve finally settled on something. What does Star Wars mean to you and me?
The beauty of this franchise is that throughout 6 soon to be 7 films, several cartoon shows, an unending litany of expanded universe fiction, video games etc…. this franchise means something different to every man, woman, and child who have dipped their toes into these waters. While the story itself is very grandiose and epic in scope, it has very personal themes at its core that hit home on enough levels that this many years after the original film there are still unique thoughts being drafted from all corners of the globe.
This franchise has very personal deep meaning to me and my infinite nerdiness. However, full disclosure I was raised in the other major sci-fi franchise: Star Trek. I saw the Wars from an early age but my family and I were completely ensconced in the Trek camp. Our family dinner nights were often coordinated around the times that Star Trek: The Next Generation aired on TV. We always made it a point to be first in line every time a new Star Trek film debuted at the box office. Why is this particular detail important? Well it’s important because it shows that despite being bombarded with one I was still able to discover the other, for the most part, on my own. Once I was able to really start forming my opinions, I started to pick up more on the Wars than I did the Trek.
Star Trek is a naval/discovery show about inter species politics and the power of peaceful ideals that bring together a very disparate bunch of species under one umbrella. It’s a nice and lofty concept but even I recognize that it’s a slightly harder shell to crack. It’s not really action driven and not for people with less than stellar attention spans. Again, this isn’t a knock against its artistic merit, but it’s just really not as accessible. Star Wars on the other hand is a far different beast that really has permeated more of pop culture and the world at large.
Star Wars (also known as A New Hope) which was released in 1977 was the start of something that at this point can only be called a “movement” and even that would be a huge disservice in trying to describe its impact. It was a huge sweeping story that spanned many different countries and gave birth to a worldwide empire (no pun intended) that is the cornerstone of any nerd’s healthy diet. My first exposure to the movies were my parents copies of the original unedited (meaning the non-special edition re-release) VHS tapes. I watched those VHS so many times that the plastic on the tapes themselves began to warp and nearly get stuck in the VCR. I started becoming obsessed with anything branded with the Star Wars name. I had all the Super Nintendo and N64 video games (Star Wars Pod Racer was a damn fun game despite what you may remember), t-shirts, underoo’s, action figures etc… I had discovered something for myself for the very first time and I was diving head first into this huge world. I still remember to this day standing in line for the midnight premier of Phantom Menace. Say what you will about the quality of that film, the excitement of buying a ticket for my first batch of original theatrical Star Wars content (again the less said about the re-releases the better) was hugely palpable. I didn’t care or even think to wonder whether or not the film would be good. I was just so over the moon about securing my place in film/pop culture history.
My favorite theater going experience has to be the premier of Revenge of the Sith. I’m going to recount this story because it perfectly summarizes in many ways why I love these movies and why I have such a personal and unyielding soft spot for the world that Lucas started way back in the 70’s. It was another midnight premier but at that point, as far as the world was concerned, this was going to be the last Star Wars movie ever. Even though Sith was a prequel, we had no idea that there was ever going to be another film, let alone a proper sequel to the last film in chronological order: Return of the Jedi. So even though I pre-bought my ticket months in advance(not unlike for the impending release of Force Awakens) I felt the need to arrive hours before show time just to be able to say I was the first in line, that I was the first one there for yet another history making moment in the Wars franchise. Boy…… was I wrong.
The movie wasn’t set to start until 12:01 midnight but I arrived at 6pm to see that all 20 screens had started to form lines of people waiting to get in. These also weren’t just casual fans, but hardcore Wars nerds such as myself. There were Jedi’s, Sith Lords, children dressed as Ewoks and an almost infinite amount of Darth Vaders and Storm troopers. There were a number of fake light saber duels breaking out, people playing Star Wars Stratego, even the theater was adorned in a bountiful amount of fake At Ats and Millennium Falcons. The small bistro like cafe in the back corner of the theater was dressed up to look like the Cantina on Mos Eisley. It was a legit magical moment to see all of this before me. Needless to say this was an experience unlike I had ever seen or witnessed before. It became so crowded and busy that the theater had to open up the remaining screens that weren’t already playing the film just to keep things from becoming too congested.
Here I was sitting down amongst my fellow Wars brethren just wrapped up in the majesty of all of this going on around us, and we were losing our collective nerd shit. Even though we were relative strangers, this film and its overarching universe brought harmony to us all. That even though none of us had met and were probably never destined to meet before that moment, it was a Star Wars film that connected all of us in one glorious minute of heaven sent awesomeness. That despite outside of this moment being very different people and having different values in everyday life, this one singular event brought us all together. Literally anything else could have happened outside of the movie theater that day and it wouldn’t have mattered. We were unified as one despite any other differences that may have existed between us. THAT is what I love about Star Wars and where its ultimate power happens to lie. These are stories that transcend time and space (again, no pun intended) and though they might have different meanings to everyone, we can all agree that this is something very special.
Let’s be honest with each other, the world we live in now is a very bleak and self-serving one. This is a time where we are willing to trample over our fellow man in an effort to prove superiority over one another. We’re about to see a real estate tycoon and all around assclown become president. Isis has begun to wage a terror campaign that could very well see the start of World War III. Times have become very dark and disillusioning and it’s increasingly difficult to find something to give us hope for a brighter tomorrow. Here comes a brand spanking new entry dubbed Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Not a re-release, not more prequels or side stories(though there are a number of spinoff films planned that actually have me very excited) but a full-fledged sequel that advances the story that came to a somewhat happy ending in Return of the Jedi. Almost all of the original cast is coming back to reprise their roles on top of a slew of cool looking new characters that will carry us through a decade of new Star wars films. It’s a hugely exciting time to not only be a nerd, but a fan of film in general. Though many would consider Jaws to be the first HUGE blockbuster film, I feel it was really Star Wars that kick started the summer event film that everyone and their mothers had to make the journey to see. We wouldn’t have the MCU and the glut of Marvel films we get every year if it weren’t for the trail blazing and precedent setting Star Wars trilogy. This is a series that spans every age and race to become something that everyone you have ever even considered associating on any level with can find something to like about.
I love Star Wars and everything that falls under that banner. It keeps the child in me alive when the world around me would just as quickly try to stamp out of existence. Even thinking about this new film and the ensuing new universe leaves a gleam in my eye that I haven’t experienced in quite some time (with the exception of the new X Files episodes coming down the pike). There is a pure unadulterated youthful exuberance that I cannot and will not deny. Just the other day I went grocery shopping and had the opportunity to save myself a few bucks on stuff I desperately needed but instead decided to spend an extra few bucks on a box of Star Wars cereal and coffee creamer shaped like R2-D2. That might seem childish and irresponsible to some, but this is the kind of thing that makes me happy these days. It reminds me of a time when I was a kid and the only thing that mattered to me was watching the adventures of Luke, Leia and Han as they jumped around the universe fighting against the cool evil of Darth Vader. It ignited in me a fierce nostalgia for a simple time where the traps of the outside world could not penetrate longing for more Star Wars. That’s what it means to me to try and wrap this up a bit. Star Wars is a unifying force for good that only aims to entertain and remind us that it’s okay to indulge in that inner child once in a while. Yes, the world as we see it today attempts to grind us into dust at every turn. Star Wars comes along to remind us that despite the way things are, there will always be hope for a brighter tomorrow and it’s okay to let the child inside out to play every once in a while…… even in a galaxy far far away.