I’ll be counting down the days until I see The Force Awakens with a series of remembrances and observations about the franchise. Today, the waiting ends.
Well this is it. The end of twelve days of writing. The end of ten years of waiting. The end of the wondering and the speculating. Tonight, I’ll know.
It’s easy to point to the lessons of The Phantom Menace today. We were just as excited, and had waited even longer. Things looked just as promising. But the difference for me is that the prequels, no matter how good they had the possibility of being, were locked in to a set series of events. The Republic had to fall. Anakin had to turn to the Dark Side. The Jedi had to be, if not totally destroyed, at least broken. All of these things had to occur, and we were waiting to check them off one by one as they happened. The how might still have been a surprise, but the what was set in stone back in 1983.
What’s more, we’d been building up our own histories and theories in our heads for sixteen years. We’d all imagined how the Clone Wars played out. We pictured the epic duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan. We all had our own way thinking things played out. So in a way, we were bound to be disappointed by what Lucas eventually came up with, since it wasn’t what we’d lived with since the end of Jedi. In a lot of ways, it wasn’t our Star Wars. It was for the kids who came along after the time of the original trilogy. These would be the films they grew up with, that would inform their knowledge of the lore.
The Force Awakens feels like it’s for us. Yes, there are plenty of new characters. But the old ones are on hand to pass the torch. It feels more like a homecoming than a history lesson. And we have no idea where these characters are going. There’s no set sequence of events to adhere to. Anything can happen. Well, within the dictates of Disney for these new films to make as much money as possible, anyway. And there’s been no Jar-Jar moment, no thing in the run up to the release that’s made me narrow my eyes and think, “Hmm, that might be trouble.” It’s been a near flawless marketing campaign.
So what am I hoping to see tonight? I’m hoping for a great opening crawl. I don’t want to see any “the taxation of trade routes is in dispute.” Give me “It is a period of civil war” or “It is a dark time for the Rebellion.” Pull me in. Follow up on the promise of “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.”
I’m hoping the old characters feel like the old characters. I don’t want to see an updated Han Solo, or a new conception of Chewbacca. Not that I don’t want the characters to have grown and deepened. I just want them to be recognizable, not some new writer’s idea of how they should be. Having Lawrence Kasdan on board will help a lot in that regard; if anyone knows these characters outside of Lucas, it’s him.
I’m hoping the new characters fit, both in the story and the Star Wars universe. They’re going to be around for two more movies. We’d better enjoy their company. They have forty years of accumulated affection to compete with, so it’s a tough challenge.
I’m hoping we get more 1980s John Williams than recent vintage John Williams. Not that Williams hasn’t been doing fine work over the past decade, but I want recognizable character themes interweaving with one another in interesting ways. Give me that sweet sweet leitmotif.
I’m hoping for a movie that works as a complete story but that also sets up the rest of this trilogy, and that does both in a satisfying way. Too many franchises take their later installments for granted and end on a cliffhanger that doesn’t feel earned. Now Star Wars‘ future as a franchise isn’t in doubt, but just because they know we’ll be back in two years doesn’t mean they should get lazy and use The Force Awakens as a two-hour prologue. Send us home with a sense of conclusion AND with an appetite for more.
I’m hoping for a good audience. Enthusiastic, but not obnoxiously so. Although if there isn’t a huge cheer when that fanfare starts up at the beginning, I’m going to be very disappointed.
I’m hoping that it’s a good movie. Not just a good Star Wars movie, not, “It’s good, but…” I want to be over the moon for this thing. I want to walk out and feel like I could buy another ticket and go back in and watch it again right then and there.
But most of all, I’m hoping that I feel like that little kid who watched spaceships battle in the night sky almost forty years ago. That’s the magic of Star Wars. That’s what I’ve been waiting for.
Tonight, I’ll know.
The Twelve Days of Star Wars