Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Star Wars Awakens

The trailer has hit. The new movie is less than two months away. Star Wars is back. The universe that has intrigued our own world for nearly forty is looking to have a new beginning. What does it all mean?

I've had an up-and-down relationship with the Star Wars universe over the years. It always seems that the height of my interest piques when the rest of the world is tired of it. Born in 1982, I apparently "saw" Return of the Jedi at a drive-in, but despite a great memory of things as a baby, I don't remember it. Instead, my conscious memories of Star Wars begin in 1987. At a flea market held as part of a local church bazaar, my father and I found a box of Star Wars figures. They were purchased for me, and my parents promised to show me the films (on BETA!) over the next few weeks. One particular figure intrigued me. When we got home I held it up and proclaimed that it "looked just like Billy Dee Williams!" My dad and aunt both confirmed to me that it was indeed Billy Dee. I'm still not sure where I knew him from to even make the comparison.

When I did see the movies, I loved them. What also helped my fandom is that the merchandise was either dirt cheap on clearance or easy to be found second hand. You see, in the hottest days of my own interest in the brand, Star Wars was dead to the rest of the world. A forgotten milestone in cinema. There was little-to-no new merchandise being produced as the movies were finished at that point. In elementary school most of my peers had no idea what Star Wars was. A few thought that I was referring to "Spaceballs." Others thought it was "Space Wars."  Aside from a few kids who were lucky enough to be exposed to it as I was, the adventures of Luke, Leia, and Han were lost on my generation.

In the mid-1990s, merchandise slowly revved up again. Kenner began remaking the action figures, and Lucasfilm even created an "everything-but-a-movie" story called Shadows of the Empire that generated some buzz, especially with the Nintendo 64 video game. That, coupled with the release of the "Special Edition" versions of the original movies, brought Star Wars back into vogue.

Then came the prequels.

The following isn't going to be your average prequel complaint session. My only real personal anger towards them is that they didn't come sooner when I could have fully enjoyed the toys and all of the other tie-ins. Sure I went to see them and enjoyed them, but I felt cheated. I was at an in-between age. I had other interests and I simply wasn't as immersed as I would have been had they arrived even five years earlier.

Then came the unnecessary hate.

In a move that I rarely make, I let an overrun opinion sway me. Even though I remembered enjoying the movies in the theaters and when they hit home video, the constant bashing of them in media made me think that I actually didn't like them. Yes, I always remember thinking that long, convoluted ways were taken in some instances in order to link the old and new stories, but I was otherwise impressed. They looked great, had excitement, and covered the origins of so much that I grew up loving. Did they look the same as the originals? Not always, but we must also remember that the original stories were largely confined to just a handful of planets and locales. Would that have been different had the technology been available in that 1977-1983 span? Maybe. But the confinement of the originals just furthers the idea of a war torn universe. It was dark, utilitarian, and under complete control of the Empire. The prequel years began in the exact opposite time and style.

This is also the time that a lot of what I consider "toxic fandom" began to pop-up. You don't have to enjoy all of the films, concepts, or characters to be a fan, but wishing death on people because they "ruined" your childhood by doing something that you didn't like in a fictional movie? Please. You may not have a clue as to the things I'm referring to here. If that's the case, you're better off and I shall pay it no more attention.

Even though I'd had all six films on DVD, I rarely watched them. Between things going on in my life and that media-born lack of love for the prequels still stuck in my head, it wasn't until 2011 that Star Wars truly came back into my life. When the Blu-Ray collection was released, I felt as if I was discovering all six movies again for the first time. It isn't at all odd for me to watch the whole story about twice a year, in either the "chronological" or "release" order, depending on my mood.

And now, The Force Awakens. My favorite of all of the films has always been Return of the Jedi. The nicely wrapped up ending always worked for me, but now we're going to learn that it was apparently only temporary. As of this writing, we still don't know much of anything regarding the film, despite what is said to be the final trailer released just days ago. Leaks have suggested some major story turns and the secrecy surrounding the entire project only helps fuel those fires.

I was not blown away by the trailer, although I enjoyed it. I still cannot conceptualize the film in my head, which I guess is a good thing. From what has been shown, the visual feel is a mishmash of both the original films and the prequels, which is what I'm guessing is the intent. After all, we want the themes and characters from the iconic original trilogy, but they must branch out into a larger world if their stories are to continue. I've also noticed that the lighthearted charm that was peppered throughout all of the other movies is nowhere to be found in any of the previews that we've seen. I'm sure that it will pop up somewhere, otherwise it wouldn't be Star Wars. It's going to be an interesting ride.

I won't lie and say that the marketing has completely passed me by. I gave into temptation and picked up a few of the action figures of the new characters. Hasbro decided to return to the basic "Kenner style" for the 3 3/4 inch toys, and anytime that I can relive some nostalgia is a good day for me. For a few reasons, I'm not sure when I'll actually see the movie, but I don't think that I'll be disappointed. Just like the originals and the prequels, this is a new view of the Star Wars universe. Familiar yet foreign. Comforting yet edge-of-your-seat exciting. The creators knew all that they had to do in order to please everyone who will be watching.

May the Force be with them...