It’s a lousy mall, really. It doesn’t have all that many good stores. It doesn’t have great restaurants in its food court. Or good ones, really. The parking sucks at Christmas. The Easter Bunny last April smelled like vinegar. The last Santa was thin. But it has stadium seating, and it’s now a really special place for my kids and I because on December 17th, we’re going to the first show of Star Wars: The Force Awakens there.
It’s been a strange time to be alive. Since our first view of Tatooine, every single foundational American institution has betrayed us. Everyone you hoped was honest turned out to be a liar. From WMD’s to Enron to Penn State to Catholic priests to steroids in baseball to the subprime lending disaster. It’s all a giant bucket of people who have no shame about lying, a society that not only rewards people for sex tapes, but deifies them, and a government that has single digit approval ratings, but somehow manages not to be extricated at the business end of a million fed up pitchforks.
And so we turned to entertainment. But the things we trusted there were likewise ruined in service of the almighty dollar. Never in my wildest nightmares did I think anyone, any benevolent creative type, would allow the indignity that was visited upon Indiana Jones. It was almost too much to be believed. I almost can’t talk about it. And at the very eye of that storm, at the precipice where identity and hope meet, that’s where Star Wars exists. And that’s where the greatest harm was done. Where something so fragile and wonderful, more of a shared idea, really, was turned into little more than a disgusting corporate action figure money grab.
When I walked out of The Phantom Menace I was confused. I barked at one of my friends who shit on it. I thought he didn’t have the proper ‘respect’ for George Lucas. I mean, we did get to see a young Obi-Wan, right? We got to see Liam Neeson with a lightsaber, right? A Zabrak with a mean-ass face did get sliced in half, right? The truth of the matter is that it took me years to develop the proper amount of scorn for the prequels. I kept wanting to believe that something so wonderful couldn’t be stained so badly. That something that was closer to religion for me than any of the actual religion forced down my throat could remain unblemished by greed and frankly, stupidity.
But it wasn’t.
The Star Wars franchise diminished and moved into the west, and much of the innocence of my childhood moved away with it. I accepted the new normal of podracing and Jake Lloyd jawing with Sebulba and irritating Gungans and that the ‘Master Jedis’ who accompanied Mace Windu to arrest the chancellor could be so easily dispatched. I accepted that my thriving business on the shores of a river that ran through Theed on Naboo that sold Aurelian Fruit to weakened Jedis in the MMO Star Wars Galaxies was probably as close as I was going to get to Star Wars purity in my lifetime.
There was the Robot Chicken Star Wars, of course. That helped. I kind of couldn’t believe the stodgy Star Wars powers that be let those guys get away with that. Neither could they, apparently. An animated show called Star Wars:The Clone Wars hooked my kids and I, and I was able to share my love of the Star Wars lore with the next generation. We watched as the fingers of George Lucas seemed intentionally absent, where storylines seemed to blossom organically, like Anakin’s growing frustration with bureaucracy that mirrored my own. We saw girls with lightsabers for the first time. Can they even do that? Is that allowed? Ahsoka Tano and Asajj Ventress had compelling storylines, and my daughter got to dress up like a female jedi for Halloween.
Then came a resounding disturbance in the Force, like millions of people calling out all at once and then sighing with relief. Disney had purchased the greatest franchise of all time for some obscene amount of money. And those of us who had been walking the Jundland Wastes since childhood wondered if this was R2 toiling across the desert to get us a message. Has our long exile finally come to an end? Is it time to come back home?
With the release of yesterday’s trailer, I’d say it is.
The scope of the trailer felt exactly right to me. Huge and tiny. Powerful, far reaching battles and small one-on-one moments, all of which will shape the Star Wars legend for our children, and ultimately for our grandchildren. In the time it took to watch the roughly two and a half minute trailer last night I felt a sense of relief, and finally a little peace.
In the midst of the most divided United States ever, we are all able to be one with the Force. It’s something that can’t be seen, heard or touched. It’s just something you know. It’s something you feel as you frantically spend two hours refreshing Fandango and entering your credit card information like a mad hacker. There is no try, you think. Do or do not. When it finally spits out your tickets to the first show on December 17th it’s like hearing that cantina jingle for the first time. It’s a return to sanity and innocence and justice that we all can experience together, and possibly a sign of hope to come in differing sectors of the American landscape. If we can fix the worst catastrophe in the history of cinema, what can’t we all fix together?
Obviously, this is still a product and Disney didn’t fork over lifetimes of generational wealth as a vanity purchase. This franchise will print its own money for a hundred years. But thankfully it’s now in the care of custodians who have experienced our loss and our disillusionment. There’s no doubt they’ve made great strides toward recapturing the beating heart of what makes this franchise so timeless. It’s a salvage mission for the very soul of something that was once great, something that was sullied and misappropriated and marred, but may just be great again. I can’t wait to be a part of it.
May the Force be with you.