I was seven years old in the summer of 1977 when I saw “Star Wars” (later dubbed “A New Hope”) from the back seat of my father’s Ford Elite as it was projected onto the drive-in movie theatre screen in my small hometown. Even as a boy I remembered an interview I had read where George Lucas said the film was part of a nine-part story. I debated with friends who swore to me that Darth Vader died at the end of that first movie. I never gloated when he somehow was alive for “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Return of the Jedi” and when the trilogy wrapped in 1983 I felt that was the end of the cinematic
experience (even while telling people someday there would be more)… Comic books and novelizations helped keep the story going but they never matched the excitement of seeing the original stars onscreen with that familiar cinematography of Tatooine, Dagobah, and Endor.
When the prequel trilogy was announced I (and many other fans who had kept the spark of interest in this film series alive until the 1999 release of “The Phantom Menace”) was extremely excited for what this meant. We viewers would be treated to the origin stories – How did we get to Darth Vader from Anakin Skywalker? What was Ben Kenobi like before adopting the Ob-Wan mantle? Why is R2-D2 so sure of his mission? I do not need to echo the almost universal sense of disappointment felt when those prequels failed to match the spirit of the original trilogy and when those films lacked chemistry between the actors or featured no engrossing story (save for the darkest moments of “Revenge of the Sith”). How could George Lucas (the man who conceived of this entire story) have failed so miserably to recapture the magic?
When Disney purchased the rights to the “Star Wars” property I was a bit uneasy. The mega-corporation had already acquired the Muppets and Marvel Comics universes — how could the lure of a lucrative franchise help create any movie that was more than just a vehicle to sell even more merchandise? Would we be subjected to more disappointing dialogue or a barrage of special effects masking no gripping yarn?
Yesterday afternoon I took my sister to a matinee of “The Force Awakens”. I do not want to give any spoilers but will tell you that this movie (despite all of the hype, record-breaking daily attendance and endless merchandising deals) will make you laugh every time Harrison Ford delivers a Han Solo line reading and will break your heart in unexpected ways. Though there may be moments that ALMOST seem like we are about to go down the dreaded path we have been on before it never happens — cute moments or vaguely ethnic stereotype aliens fit into the context of the movie without detracting from the enjoyment.
I was also personally struck by the way this sequel almost matched “A New Hope” in its structure and sequencing (in much the same way that the underrated “Superman Returns” echoes 1978’s “Superman: The Movie”). This movie will throw surprises your way that no pre-release Internet theorizing could predict and will not answer every question raised during its running time. What it will do is remind you why you fell in love with this galaxy in the first place and it will make you yearn to see the next chapter (the way you used to). Experience “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” for yourself, and get as close to your childhood as you can without time travel or looking through your own family photographs!