You can put me firmly in the group of people who once called themselves Star Wars fans. (You noticed the qualifier in that sentence, right? Once.) Like so many, my childhood was filled with lightsaber battles, and imaginary playtime with Wookies and Ewoks. Even into my teens I watched the films with a warm, everything-is-right-in-the-world feeling. My friends and I quoted Yoda. We were damn proud Star Wars nerds.
When George Lucas decided to release a new trilogy, Episode I through III, we counted down the days, and consumed any news and merchandise we could. There was a fever pitch with all Star Wars fans at that time. You had to be excited. It was like someone had shown up with a time machine and told you they were about to take you back to one of the happiest, most carefree, and innocent times of your life. All you had to do was stand in line at the movie theatre and let it all happen. So we did. We metaphorically gave Mr. Lucas our hands, and let him lead us to the Promised Land. But then he did the worst thing he could have. He turned a wonderful part of our childhood into a mockery.
I don’t have to rehash the epic disappointment of Episode I through III. The three movies remain unwatchable for an array of reasons. I’ll just say, on a personal level, George Lucas killed meesa soul. Like a Jedi being hunted by the Empire, I had to leave the Star Wars universe. They had taken an important part of my childhood, and completely bastardized it to make more money.
It made it even more tragic to me that it worked. The Star Wars franchise blew up. Over the years that followed Episode I through III you couldn’t escape the Star Wars marketing machine. A new generation of kids had been seduced with lightsabers, and pod races. Anakin Skywalker was a household name, R2-D2 became the cutest little robot in the club, and Yoda replaced Bob Marley for the next generation of stoners searching for meaning amid a clouded high. Even Boba Fett somehow managed to eke out his own little piece of land on planet I’m-Such-A-Rebel.
I was the old codger complaining that back in my day you had to be a real fan to even know who Boba Fett was. Oh God… I had become one of those sad people complaining that their favorite band had gone mainstream. It was time for me to leave the party.
So, when Disney bought the franchise and announced the coming of Episode VII… I sadly didn’t give a crap. My little Star Wars soul was dead. Yet, in the coming months, things began to change. It was a slow change, met with resistance, but it was a change.
I heard they were bringing back the old characters for the new movie. (Hmm, that’s somewhat interesting). There seems to be a rumble that the producers understand what was so wrong about Episode I through III, and promise not to repeat past mistakes. (Okay, admitting you have a problem is the first step). They are promising less goofy CGI characters, a much better cast with fewer established stars, and a promise to stay true to the original movies. (Well, I’ll see what the reviews say). The reviews are… good. (Maybe I’ll check it out when it comes to Netflix).
Then a good friend of mine, someone whose opinion matters greatly to me in this particular matter, posted on facebook that the movie redeems the failure of Episode I through III. (No… Is it possible? I suppose… I’ll have to go see it).
And then… The movie exceeded any expectation I had for it. It was amazing.
No more horrible actors, the new cast was quality, and had chemistry.
No terrible CGI goofiness, the effects were apt and not overdone.
The comedy was subtle and actually funny, not the corny and forced slapstick of the “Jar Jar” disaster.
And then, the thing I just never would have expected. The story was absolutely great. It was heartfelt and deep. The action was suspenseful, and riveting. I found myself caring for the characters, new and old. There was mystery that kept you intrigued. There were moments that brought actual sadness. This movie had me; it awakened something in me.
And before I knew what had happened. I was back. Like Han Solo returning in A New Hope to help Luke defeat the Death Star, I was back. I walked out of the theatre, and for the first time in fifteen years, the force was with me. If Episode VIII had been in the theatre next door, I would have immediately walked in to watch it. Knowing I have to wait over a year for it is killing me, and that’s probably the best review I can give.
Without giving anything away, the final scene of the movie is the most perfect metaphor for the “old guard” of Star Wars fans there could possibly be. If you never thought you could return, you were wrong, the force is strong with you, and it is there waiting for your return. All you have to do is reach out and grab it.