Where are you headed?

Happy Star Wars Day!

It's meesa!

It's meesa!

I still remember the first time I saw the original Star Wars trilogy. My dad took me to the movie theater for the Special Edition theatrical re-release. He never cared much for going to the cinema, even to this day, so I knew it was special. I’ve only gone to the movies with him a handful of times and most of those times were to see Star Wars. One of the other times was for Pokémon 2000. He only had one comment as we were walking out after the credits: “Son, I’d rather poke needles into my eyes than watch that movie again.”

But this blog isn’t about the awful Pokémon movies (I watched them on Blu-Ray recently; they do NOT hold up). It’s about my love of Star Wars in celebration of May the Fourth!

I was young and impressionable when I first saw the original trilogy in theaters and slightly less young but still impressionable when the prequel trilogy arrived. Like so many fans, watching Star Wars at such a young age shaped my pop culture tastes for the rest of my life. I was blown away by the special effects. I fell in love with the scrappy rebels. I feared Darth Vader. I was thrilled by the space battles and dreamed of becoming a Jedi Knight. I wanted to tear across the galaxy in my own ship, saving space princesses and defeating the Empire.

Star Wars opened my eyes to a wonderful and expansive world full of rich characters and infinite secrets to uncover. The films transported me out of my life, away from a rough divorce, and into a world where the good guys always won. Where underdogs could triumph. Where, no matter how dire, there was always hope for a better future. Through bravery and friendship and dedication, even a scruffy nerf herder could become a hero. These themes are universal. There’s no wonder why Star Wars has worldwide, multi-generational appeal.

While I do think the prequel films are utter shit, I won’t waste my time repeating the popular opinion. This is an appreciation post, and damn do I appreciate Star Wars. And George Lucas, too. He’s an easy target now but it takes a lot of chutzpah to adhere to a vision as strictly as he has. He bravely went back and changed the original trilogy in the 90s. Using new technology, he created new versions that, presumably, are closer to what he wanted Star Wars to be. Messing with such a beloved series isn't a task for the meek. Agree or disagree, you have to respect his artistic fidelity.

He also deserves credit for combining the visual language of samurai cinema, westerns, and World War Two movies with the old school pulps like Flash Gordon. His appreciation for these genres is evident in every frame. Star Wars, simply put, was made by a dude who loves movies. He’s not the best director. He’s not the best writer. He's not the best at working with actors stranded on green screens. But his imagination was rich and seemingly limitless back then. If anything, he should be applauded for creating a love for science fiction in new fans young and old. I know my current obsession with sweeping space operas was a seed planted by A New Hope.

And the franchise isn’t finished. Based on Disney’s current production plan, it might never be. The Force Awakens, for better or for worse, kick-started a new decade of Star Wars films, TV shows, video games, and more.

Obviously, I cried the first time I saw The Force Awakens. I couldn’t believe I was seeing a brand-new Star Wars movie. I felt like a kid again. Everything from the sound of the E-11 blaster rifles to the whine of Poe’s X-wing sounded right. Lor San Tekka's village on Jakku looked like it was ripped straight from Tatooine. Like snuggling into an old blanket, The Force Awakens hit all the expected beats. Sadly, it doesn’t hold up too well if I take off my nostalgia glasses. Watching it again more recently, I’ve realized it’s a very safe movie with few surprises and even fewer risks. I’m sure that’s exactly what Disney had in mind—a soft reboot meant to get the franchise back on track. It worked. Of course it worked. There was too much riding on the movie for it to fail. Abrams played it safe. Would anyone else have done differently, handed the reins of the most popular film series in history?

If I sound cynical, I’m not trying to. I understand the financial and business realities of producing tentpole blockbusters. Thankfully, playing it safe worked. The Force Awakens made a ton of money and sold fans on the new cast and next generation of media. I hope this was Disney’s way of building goodwill so The Last Jedi can be as dark and stylish as the teaser and poster promise. Rian Johnson is one of the best directors working right now. If anyone can deliver a modern-day Empire Strikes Back, it’s him.

Can we talk about The Last Jedi for a second? Hot damn. I frequently lament the lost art of poster design, so imagine my surprise when they released this one. I love everything about it: the Drew Struzan-esque beam of light splitting the composition in half. The deep, dramatic reds. The bold use of white space at the bottom. This is a hell of a poster.

And before you say it, I know I ranted against the evils of watching movie trailers. You’ll just have to take my word for it when I tell you I watched this one by accident. I logged into the Star Wars Celebration livestream and it was already playing. Then, I watched it five more times while trying to retrieve my jaw from the floor. Coincidence or fate? You decide. Either way, it showed more than enough. I won’t be watching the five other trailers coming out between now and December.

In the end, Star Wars is so many things to so many people. I could easily write another 2,000 words about it. I’ll leave you with this: when I was in middle school, I was chunky and didn’t have many friends. Star Wars Galaxies, my first MMORPG, offered me a chance to explore a galaxy far, far away. Michael A. Stackpole’s X-Wing novels let me live out my dream of flying alongside Wedge Antilles. For me, Star Wars was an escape. I don’t know who I’d be without its influence.

Probably someone pretty damn boring.

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