The next chapter in the Star Wars saga has been unleashed, and it’s going to be huge. The film will break records, it will become the largest film of this year, and possibly the next, and it will be a catalyst driving fans to theaters for the next few years. Other studios will copy it, spinoffs will come out, and we will be emblazoned in a world where Star Wars is a way of life again. Only, it won’t be the same as it was when I was a kid. It’s…well, different. Like a good nerd, I went to the new film-expectations high, and like a good nerd, I felt let down. Was the movie bad? Did it suck? Did we get screwed over again as fans? This is a bit of a review (spoiler free of course), it’s a bit of a history lesson, and most of all it’s a story about me…as a nerd, as a person, and as a father. If you don’t like any of that, it’s not too late to check out now.
Let’s start this tale in 1983, which put me at the age of six. Return of the Jedi was in theaters, and I was taken to see it some months later when I came home from my dad’s house in Ohio, with my mom. My mom wasn’t, and isn’t the biggest fan of Star Wars, but after seeing me roll through the house with Yoda toys, Ewok shirts and Darth Vader sheets…she took me. Speeders, Ewoks, and huge walkers were emblazoned in my dreams for months. The movies had come to an end, but man the saga lived on as things such as VHS and Laserdisc were becoming more and more popular. I watched, and rewatched, and rewatched….and rewatched all the films, loving all…but a special fondness in my heart for Jedi.
The prequels were announced, and by that time I was a father myself. My son was barely two when The Phantom Menace came out. I had someone who loved it as much as I did, and probably even more. Then my daughter came along, just in time for Attack of the Clones. We tried hard to keep her away from Star Wars, as it wasn’t “proper for a girl”…but she found a lightsaber and took her first steps as she “danced” to the Imperial March. Yes, this really happened. As a family, we watched and rewatched the prequels, and originals. They were a constant in our lives, even when things like our actual family structure wasn’t. As their mother and I divorced, the three of us would sit together in my room at grandmas and watch the films just about every other night. Why? Because all three of us were afraid of the larger world we were stepping into. For us, Star Wars wasn’t only something familiar and constant, but it was also something for the three of us. It also helped give us courage to do things that were new and different. It’s cheesy as hell, but that’s how it really was. We united over the films, and over our common bond. During what should have been the worst time in our lives, it actually helped it become one of the best.
Somewhere in there, the films became too much. I stopped getting excited about Star Wars anymore. This was probably because of the oversaturation of it, and the fact that everyone was getting older (myself included). Just when I had thought that I could never again care about the series, Disney buys Lucasfilm. Before we know it, there’s three new films announced, and a director…and OH MY GOD THE ORIGINAL CAST WAS BACK!
I watched with my kids, in giddy glee, as the cast came out during the Star Wars Celebration presentation. We watched the first trailers, and talked about them. Yes, there was something in our family and lives that were missing.
Our friend Michael Aiello was nice enough to share a moment with his son, that just about sums up the joy that Star Wars has brought the three of us.
Pure joy. In it’s raw form. Watch that video closely, it’s not only about skipping school, or doing Star Wars stuff. It’s about that wonder you feel as a kid, and spending time with dad…and the people that you love the most. Sure, you can get that with just about anything, but it’s a lot easier when you have something that everyone enjoys and appeals to you…a common ground to start on.
That’s been my Star Wars experience up to this point. Joy, and love with the people I love most, so going into The Force Awakens, that is what was most important, the family.
So how did we like it? My son and daughter loved it immensely, with my son and I howling, clapping and giggling at the most fanboyish of parts. My wife, not being a huge Star Wars fan and only seeing maybe one (I think it was the one with Yoda) was lost.
Me? Well, it was good…but it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. All the characters were much older than the last time we had seen them, things have not really gotten better for them…as they’re still fighting in a resistance, and Luke Skywalker is nowhere to be seen! My sister asked me with eager eyes how it “felt”, instead of asking how it was with spoilers, and I had to say that it felt like coming home. But home for us is a small coastal retirement community, where everything closes at 7p.m., and we just spent a few years in Orlando. It’s great to be home, but after a while you realize home just doesn’t work for you anymore.
Now, I’m not saying it’s bad in anyway. The Force Awakens is actually really good. It’s a Star Wars film, tried and true. It has aliens a plenty, great dogfighting starships, and some really great effects. The characters are cool as hell, but overall, it’s not what I wanted. And that’s okay.
The Force will be strong with us, always…as Disney is rolling out a Star Wars Spinoff in 2016, then Episode 8 in 2017…and entire Star Wars Land in California and Florida very soon. It’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan, and it’s a great time to introduce your family, and younger generations to the older films first.
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