Rogue Element 129: Star Wars: A Fanbase Awakens
Written by Avril Brown
“Star Wars. I burn for Star Wars.” – Simon Pegg
During the preview for the trailer for ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ (’cause that’s a thing now), Simon Pegg, actor, comedian, writer and nerdling extraordinaire, said those words and simultaneously voiced the opinion of millions of fans across the globe. Since 1977 men and women of all sorts have, on some level or another, burned for ‘Star Wars.’
My own ‘Star Wars’ adventure began in the early ’80s where watching and re-watching ‘A New Hope’ on Betamax remains one of my earliest and most cherished memories. While I’m sure I clamored to sit for repeated viewings of various other films, I remember feeling even at such a young age that watching ‘Star Wars’ would never get old.
No cinematic experience has really come close to touching me the way the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy did and still does. I suppose the combination of seeing them (a lot) at an impressionable age coupled with an equally appreciative audience helped mold my love and devotion towards the films. If I hadn’t had such a cool father and sister who loved the movies and were willing to watch them whenever I wanted, I wouldn’t know and adore them as well as I do.
For me ‘Star Wars’ is a practically perfect story. The trilogy is not three separate films; the movies are three chapters of one complete, immensely satisfying tale of adventure, romance and friendship. I never sought out the books, comics or any other extension of the universe, despite my obsession with the films. I just loved my ‘Star Wars.’
Because THAT, in essence, is what makes ‘Star Wars’ so lovable: everyone is free to take away from it what they will. You want a good guy hero? Enter Luke Skywalker. You want a bad boy turned hero? Hello, Han. Craving a female protagonist who kicks ass at everything? Well, I would say bow before Princess Leia but she’d just say get out of her way, she’s got a rebellion to lead.
Crazy creatures great and small, lightsabers, epic space and land battles; good versus evil, love and friendship overcoming all odds; humor and hope in the face of darkness, respect for all living things; ‘Star Wars’ is a world you hope to find in your dreams.
The reason I’m harping on about this is I’m trying to explain what it’s like to see a new ‘Star Wars’ movie from a fan’s perspective; or at least, this fan’s perspective.
When the trailer arrived for ‘Phantom Menace,’ the first of the prequels, man, I was PUMPED. I got tinglies from head to toe; I couldn’t remember being so excited for a movie. My dad pre-bought us tickets at a theater thirty minutes from our house so we could get the full digital experience and we waited in line for over an hour to get the best seats possible. I was ready for a new ‘Star Wars’ adventure to take me away…
…and then I came crashing back to Earth in a painfully disappointing fashion. I’m not going into why I loathe the prequels so, mostly because there are way too many reasons. Quite frankly I’m happy to pretend they don’t exist, or at least I was until a recent discovery which brings as much agony as it does entertainment. Michael Barryte of Belated Media created a ‘What if?’ story for all three prequels, and damn, they are GOOD. Like, a lightsaber-to-the-soul good because you wish to the stars and back they were the real deal. The ‘Star Wars’ universe would be brighter, fans would be happier and even the hype for ‘The Force Awakens’ would be different if it was following truly excellent ‘Star Wars’ movies rather than embarrassingly bad ones.
Sadly, this is not the world we live in and I, like many fans, was trepidatious upon learning about an upcoming new batch of ‘Star Wars’ flicks. Burn me once, etc., and even though the trailer-teaser was somewhat inspiring, as was hearing the original cast was on board, I remained cautious… for a time.
The more trailers, rumors and reviews that spilled forth, the more I dared to hope that maybe this one would be like my ‘Star Wars.’ So I went forth with my fellow fans, a burning in our hearts as we cheered upon seeing the giant writing on the wall. We all laughed at the first joke, whooped when we saw the Millennium Falcon and hailed the return of Han Solo and Chewie. We all fell in love with ‘Star Wars.’
Yes, ‘The Force Awakens’ is an excellent ‘Star Wars’ movie. It told a lively and funny story in classic ‘Star Wars’ fashion: friendships form over the mutual saving of asses, powerful heroes arise from unlikely places, the good guys take away the bad guy’s weapon and it concludes in a satisfying yet clearly open-ended way.
‘The Force Awakens’ more than succeeds in its mission of telling a story both for the old and new ‘Star Wars’ fans. The almost overwhelming references to the original three stopped just short of the line between, ‘I like what you did there’ and ‘Ok, that’s enough now.’ The familiar characters receive decent screen time and story arcs and the new faces are passionate, playful and easy to root for.
The visual effects were truly attractive and there was a Force level of balance between computer graphics and cool costumes. The original three had some incredible special effects which appeared seamless and, for the most part, have held up over time. However, when they ‘revamped’ the trilogy with added CG it looked lopsided and jagged; one of these things was clearly not like the other. The prequels were essentially all CG but at least it was consistent. ‘Force Awakens’ combines the latest in digital design with some awe-inspiring alien ensembles.
Sure there were some cheesy scenes, but that’s also so ‘Star Wars.’ (I still cringe when watching ‘A New Hope’ and Han says in the face of the encroaching trash compacter walls, “One thing’s for sure: we’re all going to be a lot thinner.”) Unbelievable at times? Um, duh, it’s an epic space opera (according to Wiki’s definition of the genre).
But was it fun? Did it tell a terrific story that a majority of fans can get behind? The mind-boggling box office records ‘Force’ is STILL setting, even weeks after its release, should be proof enough the answer is ‘Hell yes!’ (So enough of those sour grapes Mr. Lucas, if you please)
I saw it twice in the theaters and enjoyed the hell out of it both times, but what I’ve come to realize is while ‘The Force Awakens’ is a wonderful ‘Star Wars’ movie, it’s not my ‘Star Wars.’
And that’s ok.
I’ve never felt the need to seek out ‘Star Wars’ fanfiction the way I have almost every other nerdy obsession in my life. My desire to read more Rogue and Gambit led to my initial discovery of fanfiction, and ‘Spuffy’ (Spike and Buffy) insured I’d never leave. My life was essentially over when I realized the appeal, nay the truth, of Dramione (Draco and Hermione of ‘Harry Potter’).
‘Star Wars,’ however, has always remained just ‘Star Wars,’ and while ‘Force Awakens’ did this galaxy and its beloved inhabitants justice, a part of me will always consider it a separate entity from my ‘Star Wars,’ rather than a continuation.
I am quite content with this compromise, for while I left my heart in Tatooine, deep in the belly of the mighty sarlacc, where my love for the original three will slowly burn for a thousand years, ‘A Force Awakens’ has birthed a new love for young lightsaber-wielding heroes, and I cannot wait for the next adventure.
After all, the Force will be with me…always.