By Dan Moren
December 17, 2015 11:50 AM PT
A fan’s new hope
Ten years ago, in a movie theater not so very far away, the credits rolled on a Star Wars movie and I succumbed to a wave of unexpected emotion: relief. Not because it was good—no matter what anyone tells you, Revenge of the Sith is not a good movie—but because it was over. Done. After six long years of anticipation and anxiety, the prequels couldn’t hurt us anymore.
Finally, we could take a breath. Star Wars could once again become something that was in the past, no longer a current event. Even if the battle had been lost and the Empire had won, we could all move on with our lives and take only the memories of Star Wars that we wanted.
The peace didn’t last.
I’ve been struggling with the reality of a new Star Wars movie ever since Disney snapped up Lucasfilm a couple years ago. As a thirty-five year-old, it’s odd to be faced with the same barrage of feelings I last encountered at the end of my teen years, though I’m grateful that those resurgent pubescent feelings have remained constrained to a movie franchise.
For all the familiarity, though, things are different now. Like all Star Wars fans, I’ve been around the block. I sat through those prequels and wondered how something that seemed so right could go quite so terribly, terribly wrong.
George Lucas set out to tell the story of Anakin Skywalker and his journey to becoming Darth Vader. But seven-some hours of movies later there still wasn’t a lot of clarity over what drove the fall of perhaps the most iconic movie villain of all time: Fear? Jealousy? The indignity of spending an entire movie with that rat-tail? Your guess is as good as mine.
So I tried not to get my hopes up. I really did. I’ve seen what lies at the end of that dark path and it’s disappointment and disillusionment. Even as all the news announcements chipped away at my facade of stony indifference—the hiring of J.J. Abrams to direct, getting Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote series-best Empire Strikes Back) onboard, the return of the original cast—I tried to keep my anticipation at a low simmer.
Any pretense of stoicism lasted until the first trailer, when the Millennium Falcon burst onscreen accompanied by John Williams’s iconic theme. I’m not saying I lost it, but I’m also not disingenuous enough to claim that my eyes were totally dry. I fell hard after that: last April, I crowded into the Anaheim Convention Center’s arena with thousands of other fans during the Star Wars Celebration. Abrams took the stage with the cast and debuted the second trailer, including our first look at characters from the original trilogy: a grizzled Han Solo alongside a Chewbacca, who must be dyeing his fur to stay that youthful-looking.
Okay: I definitely lost it that time.
I watched the third trailer in a darkened living room, huddled with my girlfriend, and since then, I’ve been avoiding as much as possible of the broadside of TV spots, toys, and tie-ins that seem to appear at every turn in this age of social media. Not just because I can’t quite bear to get my hopes up any further, but because I still can’t quite come to grips with the idea of getting to see a new and possibly-quite-good Star Wars movie for the first time. I’m already sold on the movie, literally: I bought my advance tickets the night they went on sale, after an hour of feverish web-page refreshing as hordes of likeminded excited people crashed the ticket sites.
A decade ago, in my first published piece ever, I wrote that “you can’t necessarily count on the dreams of your childhood to hold up into your adult life.” At 25, I was already feeling a bit jaded, and perhaps part of me thought there was some truth in that old chestnut about when it’s time to put away childish things.
There’s certainly a worthwhile lesson in that, to not let yourself become too wrapped up in things outside of your control, but there’s also a risk that by protecting your feelings you disengage from the things that might bring you joy—even if it’s just a movie. Bit of a double-edged lightsaber there, if you will.
For me, and for so many others, though, Star Wars is more than just a movie. It’s part of the fabric of our identity. It keeps us young at heart, even when nine hundred years old we reach. A decade ago, it even helped propel me through a career change, going from IT guy to professional writer.
Much of Star Wars is escapism, for sure, and who can blame us from wanting to take a break from the world’s oft-relentless brutalism? But escape is necessarily ephemeral. The best stories go beyond that to illuminate our reality and subtly shift our perceptions.
There’s something aspirational in Star Wars’s thrilling heroics, the battle of the dark side and the light. That hope, that good might eventually triumph and that even evil can be redeemed, is at the very core of Star Wars’s story, and in these times of terror and strife, when the morning headlines seem to every day scream of some new atrocity, we could all use a little more hope.
So I’ve decided to put aside the hovering fear of disappointment and embrace that hope, that this time things might be different, that good can still triumph, and that we might once again be transported to a galaxy far, far away.
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