I imagine we have all seen Star Wars The Force Awakens by now. I have seen it four times, and plan on seeing it dozens more. Many people loved the film, some of my fellow hardcore Star Wars fans did not for various reasons. I am not writing this blog to debate how good or bad it was, or to nitpick at it’s flaws. My main purpose for this blog post is to highlight my extreme joy, mixed with some trepidation on where Star Wars is heading. I feel it is crucial to explain my history with Star Wars, so that the reader can understand where I am coming from.
In 1977, at a theater somewhere in Central Ohio, I sat in a chair and watched a film that awakened me to the wonder of a universe that was not my own. At 7 years old, I was seeing something beautiful, and it stayed with me my entire life. I got the action figures at Christmas like everyone else. I quoted the characters, watched the film on VHS countless times, and later saw the rest of the trilogy in the theater. My favorite was ROTJ, because we see the hero win the day, not through might, but through compassion and love for a father he never knew. Later I read comics, and novels that expanded on the story I fell in love with. In many cases these tales only made me more passionate for the characters, especially Luke Skywalker.
When the prequel films came out, I was excited. This was a whole new tale, in a new time, and with new characters to love, new heroes to believe in. Let me just say, outside of a couple powerful moments, and a great performance by Ewan McGregor playing the young Obi-Wan, I was very disappointed with these films, and I began to wonder at the future of Star Wars. If there was a future, and would it live up to the magic of the now distant past. Even the expanded stories were losing steam, and going in unsavory directions. With Lucas stating it was the end of making these films, I feared Star Wars was heading to an end. Then something shocking happened. Disney bought all rights to Lucasfilm for $4 billion. I wondered what this could mean. I decided that either Star Wars was saved and reborn, or it will be further ruined.
So episode VII was released and with much fear and trembling I went and saw it. It was the ultimate gift for me. I felt like that kid in the theater in 1977. Seeing all these iconic characters and elements on the screen, like Han, Chewbacca, C3P0, R2, and the “Falcon” again just brought it all back. I remembered why I loved Star Wars so much. This film re-introduced the characters that I loved all over again, and what was missing from the last trilogy was found again in this film, magic and …. heart. It has always been the story that made Star Wars great, and Star Wars was back. Harrison was amazing, and he really was Han again. I could watch his lines alone a thousands times with joy in my heart. Yes my sojourn with that beloved character ended way too soon for me, but I forgave it. There was too much good to let it spoil everything.
So is Star Wars saved? Did it need saving in the first place? I’m sure many PT (prequel trilogy) fans would argue the need. What really saved Star Wars though in my opinion was the new characters. Rey, played by the amazing Daisy Ridley , is what will save Star Wars, and make it great again. She is such an attractive, and compelling face of the new franchise, and if she is related to Luke Skywalker, so much the better. I knew if Star Wars was really going to have a rebirth that lasted a generation, a new character with great potential and an actor that had star power was critical. check. She went beyond all my possible expectations, and now there is someone young women can look up to, to make into a hero, to follow for years and care about. win win.
So is Star Wars saved? Is it great again? Does it have the infrastructure to survive and stay on the top of the mountain? Maybe. That is my answer because much can still go wrong. We have multiple directors directing the next several films. I do not believe that all of them love Star Wars as much as J.J Abrams. I’m not sure that having so many hands in the proverbial cookie jar is going to provide the continuity we need. My biggest concern of all though, is my favorite hero in the franchise, Luke Skywalker. Luke, in the now “non-canon” expanded universe, went on to become the greatest Jedi Master ever and founded a new Jedi order from scratch and led them in a few decades to hundreds of members. The backstory for Luke in this new sanctioned universe, is just sad. He tried to start a Jedi Order, with Han’s son as his star pupil. Kylo turned to the dark side and with his Knights, killed all the students. Luke leaves in failure, and exiles himself for several years. So what has Luke accomplished in the last 3 decades? nothing. Can he still be the hero? Can he still be the powerful master that founds an order to defeat evil? Yes, but much damage is done, and I fear that he will simply pass it on to Rey, and fade back into the wood work, and never really have a legacy . Luke is only in his early-mid 50’s, decades younger than Count Dooku, yet I fear he will be treated like an “Old Ben” and not be seen as still young and powerful. I hope I am wrong, and its all great. But it will be a couple years before I can know the fate of Star Wars for me.