Awakening the Force

I am a Star Wars fan.  I say that like someone else might say “I am Catholic” or “I am Jewish”.  Not that I attend one of those weird “Jedi churches” or think the original films are some kind of holy scripture (though I have occasionally written “Jedi” under “religion” when it has come up).  But it is the central fact of my being.  I am a Star Wars fan.

And like most central tenets, it’s my parents’ fault.  The year was 1997, and I was ten years old; prime Star Wars-appreciating age.  The Special Editions of the original trilogy were in the theater, and they thought I should see them.  I remember being hesitant.  I can’t say I put up a strong fight against it, but I can recall thinking in my small, ten-year-old way; “How good can a twenty-year-old movie be?”

Describing something as a “turning point in your life” is an often overused expression, but that’s precisely what this was; there was my life before seeing Star Wars, when I only cared about dinosaurs, bugs, trucks, and the standard little boy things; and then there was my life after seeing Star Wars, when I began to metamorphose into the adult nerd I am today.  It opened me up to science fiction, film history, and art in general (though I’m still terrible at that last one).

Just seeing the movies could have been the end of it, but my parents were doting enough to encourage my obsession as I purchased and was gifted all kinds of Star Wars toys, books, video games and novels.  Most of that stuff is sitting back home in various boxes, waiting to either be worth something, or (more likely) to be passed on to the next generation of Star Wars fan.  And for two years, I marinated in the two decades of Star Wars history, until the “prequels” started coming out.  They catch a lot of flak these days, and in some cases rightly so, but when you’re twelve, and watching new Star Wars?  I loved them.  It feels weird, though, to think of them as “my” Star Wars.  I always considered myself an original trilogy fan, though I realize now that is mildly presumptuous, since I wasn’t even born when those movies came out.

But even through the shellacking we all took when the new films (1999’s The Phantom Menace in particular) failed to live up to the unbelievable hype, I remained a staunch LucasFilm loyalist.  When other people were throwing George Lucas under the proverbial bus, I was going to see the Clone Wars animated movie and still buying ludicrous amounts of merchandise and collectibles, even though I was in college and fairly broke.

Sometime before the Disney buyout, however, I kind of drifted away.  I became a lapsed Star Wars fan, to borrow Catholic terminology.  There wasn’t all that much going on in the galaxy far, far away at that point: the Clone Wars animated series was about it (and it was ending), except for the novels I’d stopped reading, and I was distracted by my move to Alaska.  I stopped listening to the Star Wars podcast I’d followed for years.  Superheroes were the new hotness, and I was definitely all about them.  Somehow, I had forgotten my roots.  You can tell; when Disney bought the rights to Star Wars and announced a new trilogy of films (not counting spin-offs!), I talked about it for a paragraph.  Ho-hum, looks like there’s going to be some more Star Wars, that’s cool I guess.

But something happened this spring.  Premiering at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, a teaser for The Force Awakens hit the Internet as I was idly browsing before work.  I was almost late that day, because I spent an hour re-watching that 106-second trailer.  It had tapped something deep inside, reminding the dormant Star Wars fan within me what it used to be like:

It was almost another turning point.  I had been going down the generic “Superhero fan” route for so long it felt comfortable, but it wasn’t me.  I like the Avengers movies, but I live Star Wars.  I may have forgotten that for a while, but this brought it all back.  I’m reading the new Marvel-published comics, and the “Journey to the Force Awakens” lineup of books (though the present tense in Aftermath is taking some getting used to), and I’m hanging on to the every word of Jason Swank and Jimmy Mac over at RebelForceRadio again.  I’m playing The Old Republic again, and am excited about the potential for Battlefront on my PS4.   And for the first time, there’s mystery!  For me, at least, the biggest flaw of the prequels is we know where it’s going.  Anakin Skywalker is going to become Darth Vader, Obi-Wan and Yoda have to survive to go into exile, the Emperor has to make his move to take over the Galaxy and destroy the Jedi.  We’ve already read the ending of that story.  But something new, something set after everything we know?  That’s exciting.  Who knows what will happen, which characters will get killed off, or what shape the conflict will take?

In the run-up to the new film, the new guardians of Star Wars announced an effective reboot of the EU (“Expanded Universe” to the layman), which I’ve talked about before, but it makes a lot of sense.  Do you alienate the average joe viewer who never read a Star Wars book by making the thirty-odd years of excellent, fair, and terrible novels required reading, or do you alienate the “1%” who has memorized the chronology since 1983?  I may be in that “1%”, but I’m also more than happy to see a rewrite of the post-Return of the Jedi history.  The new books and comics have been (for the most part) pretty good, and have re-introduced a lot of the little things that made the EU good in the first place, so there’s really no loss there.

Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn is from 1994, and is a fantastic book, but a lot of it had already been made obsolete by what we know from the prequels (particularly how the Clone Wars worked), so there’s no reason to hang on to it anymore, at least as part of the stories we see on screen.  Doesn’t mean we should burn our copies of the book or anything, it’s just not going to have any bearing on the new stuff, unless we are specifically told otherwise.  By the way,  I think a re-working of that story with the information about the Galaxy we have today would be amazing.  Think about it, Disney.

After the release of the latest trailer, my anticipation is almost at a fever pitch.  School breaks for winter that week, so I’ve got plane tickets back to Anchorage for a few days, during which I intend to see The Force Awakens as many times as I can, between my other obligations, of course.  Katrina can’t take the time, since just before Christmas is when the post office needs her the most.  But she’s given me her blessing for this pilgrimage, to worship at the altar of Star Wars.  It feels good, it feels right, to be doing so again.

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