Remember when “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” was released?
I sure do. I wasn’t quite 7 years old, and yet was already enamored with the universe created by George Lucas. I couldn’t wait to see that world come up on the big screen once more (even though I’d only seen it on home video up to that point — but you get what I mean).
I saw it the first weekend with my dad and older brother, and before the movie began, one of the theater’s employees asked the expectant room: “Are you all ready for Star Wars?!”
Cue a thunderous cheer. It was all happening.
Then came the movie.
Now, let’s just make things clear: The three prequel films, Episodes I-III, were a disappointment, to say the least. Having said that, I distinctly remember loving each and every second of the new films — I was simply lost in the moment. Star Wars was in front of my eyes in forms I had never seen before, so there was no way it could leave anything to be desired.
The sentiment didn’t last too long. By the time “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” hit the big screen, I had realized just how far Episodes I and II had fallen from their predecessors. “Episode III” salvaged some of the luster, but I was undoubtedly one of the numerous folks who hoped for more sequels as an attempt to rectify the situation. Those didn’t seem forthcoming for a long time — up until Disney’s $4 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012. Surely they hadn’t shelled out all that money from the Disney vault just for nothing. The game had changed.
Fast forward to January 2013, and we not only have a new trilogy confirmed but also a director for the first film, J.J. Abrams. Then we got a major cast list confirmation in April of this year, followed by a title, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” in early November. But none of those events sent the Earth’s collective midi-chlorians (may they never be mentioned again) off the scale like what was released last week: a teaser trailer.
That’s why I spent Black Friday morning on my couch staring at my laptop, almost as excited as that day I first saw Qui-Gon Jinn on screen. Abrams’ production company Bad Robot humbly tweeted days prior that Friday would see “a tiny peek at what we’re working on” revealed on movie screens across America. Thankfully they extended viewing privileges to the Internet as well and, despite the playback not working at first, I was able to finally see with my own two eyes that there was, in fact, a new Star Wars movie coming out. Oh what joy.
Many will complain how the teaser failed to give too much away but that’s what it’s meant to do — tease. Here’s what we did see: X-wings, a lightsaber (with an added, and already parodied, hilt), stormtroopers and the Millennium Falcon. Tick, tick, tick, tick. And each major character shown on screen was (probably) a new one, possibly alluding to the fact that, while Luke, Han and Leia are back, this film will very much be concerned with passing the torch.
It was also interesting to see the series in 2014 quality. Granted, “Episode III” was only released nine years ago, but it seems like visual effects move at such a tremendous pace these days. Lightspeed, if you will. Everything just looked crisper, even down to Abrams’ signature solar flare. It made the entire experience of watching it over and over somewhat surreal.
What about the question at the heart of the new trilogy: will it be any good? Personally, I’m not too worried. Abrams’ 2009 revamp of Star Trek turned out to be a tryout of sorts for him. He took material that people are absolutely devoted to, and managed to update it in a way that had most moviegoers, myself included, utterly in awe.
Now, I’ve never been a Star Trek fan, and despite being a passionate Star Wars fan, I can’t say that I’ve taken more than a fleeting glance at the spacious Expanded Universe, or even played any series-related video games other than “Star Wars: Battlefront” (which releases a third title next year, a subject for another commentary entirely). With all that in mind, maybe I’m a bit passive when it comes to what I expect out of Abrams and his team, but it’s not like I’m not going to let him off the hook for a Jar Jar Binks-sized albatross. He needs to, in my opinion, capture what made the original films great. Unfortunately for Abrams, I’m not sure it can be put into words. Fortunately for me, I’m sure he already knows what it is.
As is inevitable when these big franchises release new material, they are going to make money, good or bad. When Warner Bros. revealed the sequel to “Man of Steel” would be a Batman vs. Superman film, I was pretty disinterested, and still am. But when “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” hits theaters in 2016, will you see me in the back row holding an ICEE, intently watching every second? No question.
I guess what I’m trying to say is the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is going to be a blockbuster — “Star Wars” helped create the term, anyway — and I am going to enjoy it. But unlike 15 years ago, it will be for what I see as more acceptable reasons.
There’s still a lot of time to think about it, though. And while I don’t want to have to wait for Dec. 18, 2015, I can always remind myself of Obi-Wan’s famous words in the meantime: “The Force will be with you — always.”