The Force Awakens TODAY
December 18, 2015!
In the days leading up to Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, And There Came A Day presented links, images, videos, art, memories, laughs, theories and thoughts leading up to the big day… which happens to be TODAY, my birthday!
ENJOY and may the Force be with you, always…!
WHAT STAR WARS MEANS TO ME
My goodness, 365 days of counting down are behind me. Why is this thing we call “Star Wars” so powerful in my life? Why does it have such a hold on me? I put some time into considering this and have put my thoughts “on paper.”
In 1977, I was seven years old and in the first grade at Parr Elementary School, a short walk around the corner from the house in which I grew up. I don’t remember my early elementary school years as being anything but wonderful – I am not fixated on any dark issues from those days. I liked my teachers, my classmates and my friends.
I do remember, vividly, playing “Star Wars” on the playground that year. I remember playing “Star Wars” more than I remember anything else we ever played on those fields and that blacktop. I was a tall kid in 1st grade, far taller than my classmates, and I had an unkempt shock of red hair (still red, still unkempt). Maybe this is why, when we played “Star Wars,” I was always assigned to play this cat named “Chewbacca.”
See, unlike people who say they can recall exactly when they saw “Episode IV – A New Hope” scroll up a movie screen (that’s a BIG tell, by-the-way: anyone who relays that to you as part of their memory the first time they saw Star Wars in ’77 is either lying or has faulty recall “Episode IV – A New Hope” wasn’t added to the opening crawl until the film’s re-release in 1978) I don’t remember when I first saw the movie. That revelation may surprise a few people.
I remember where I saw it: the Cooper Theater in Denver. There are two movies I know that I saw there: Star Wars and Superman the Movie and, at both, my parents purchased the movie program for me. Remember those? I wish I still had the one from Star Wars. It’s going for about $30.00 on ebay right now.
And, not only do I remember seeing the movie at the Cooper, I also remember going to the Yum Yum Tree – a buffet restaurant in Denver, close to the theater. My mother doesn’t remember us going there, but I certainly do. I remember being at the restaurant overly excited about what we’d just seen.
I am sure I was insufferable.
I know in the years to come at birthdays and Christmases, my desire for Star Wars toys must have been insufferable. I wanted – and got – so many of Kenner Toys offerings from the movies, especially from Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Action figures and the Millennium Falcon, an X-Wing Fighter and the Death Star, I had more Star Wars toys than I knew what to do with! Thanks Mom (and Dad, because I know you loved giving me this stuff and, though you teased me about my “collections” until the day we lost you, I choose to think you thought it was all very cool!) for providing me all this stuff – most of which I still have.
Star Wars was a part of my childhood and to say it was a formative part of my childhood is not too strong a statement. That could be said of many, many children. Star Wars was formative for entire generations of children.
However, it never lost its hold on me. When Timothy Zahn’s terrific Heir to the Empire series made waves in the early 1990s and climbed best seller lists, I bought and devoured the books. When Kenner released new Star Wars figures at about the same time, I shelled out my cash. When the prequel trilogy bowed at the end of the 20th century, I was one of those idiots going to 4:30am showings before work.
The central question has to be “why?” What hold did Star Wars have on me my life over? Why am I beyond excited to see The Force Awakens? What does it all mean?
Nostalgia is an easy answer and it is part of the equation. Anything Star Wars brings me right back to growling on the playground as a 1st grader and Super 8 filming my Millennium Falcon crash landed in our sandbox (it survived the beating) and freezing my Han Solo action figure in a cup of water after seeing The Empire Strikes Back. Those were good, fun times and they tie me to a place and to family. My dad warning me that my Han Solo would be ruined when it was thawed out (it wasn’t). My using the family movie camera to shoot my Millennium Masterpiece. My friends and I running wild on playgrounds. Nostalgia has such a big hold on us, doesn’t it? It’s why, in terms of entertainment, everything old is new again (Don’t believe me? The posters for the new Ghostbusters movie were released as I write this.) Nostalgic connections are not the only answer, though.
Let’s admit that Star Wars was a revelation and that The Empire Strikes Back is a great movie. Let’s admit that Han Solo is cool, that Luke Skywalker, especially in A New Hope is such a geek that even a guy like me thought he could be him, that Princess Leia is so tough and smart that it is hard not to admire her, that Darth Vader is the classic movie villain perhaps of all time. So just in terms of its movie-ness, Star Wars was going to have an impact and a long lasting one at that.
However, there is more. There is more to the Star Wars than its component parts. There is more to the story than the Anakin/Luke Skywalker character arc. There is more to it than the post-film, Joseph Campbell heroic myth interpretations.
Let’s be honest, the Star Wars stories are simple. Further honesty: they were intended, primarily, for children. They are, therefore, painted in the broadest of strokes. They are cut and dried. They are black and white. We know why the characters do what they do. We know the hardened Han Solo will come to Luke’s rescue. We know the Dark Side has less power than the Light Side. We know that good will triumph over evil (somehow, even the end of The Empire Strikes Back is upbeat). Good wins. Evil loses. This is one of the many reasons – perhaps the most important one as far as am I concerned – that they maintain their power.
The Star Wars films (and I’ll include The Force Awakens in this without having seen it at this writing) inspire because they tell moral tales. They stay with us because they set up parameters between good and evil. They resonate because even the greatest evil can be turned back to good. They move us because they tell us there is a force beyond us – a force we can access and commune with – that is rooting for us to be good.
The Star Wars movies are special to me because, unlike any other mythology of which I can think, they are infused with hope.
To say that crowd-pleasing entertainments on the scale of the Star Wars phenomenon really work because they inspire hope is, well, inspiring.
Beyond Han and Chewie and Luke and Leia and Finn and Rey and Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, Star Wars remains close to my heart because my heart, at its best, wants to be full of hope.
The Force will be with us. Always.