"The Force Awakens" and How JJ Abrams Will Blow My Mind
"There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?" I was born in 1986, a few years after "Return of the Jedi" was released, so I was essentially brought into a post-Star Wars world. Sure, it was still very, very popular and very much ingrained in the culture, but even at my young age, it never dawned on me that we would ever see more movies. Thankfully, I had family members that were pretty die hard fans, and I ultimately have them to think for sharing it with me starting at such a young age. I remember being fascinated with the Kenner toys. My mind was blown every time I'd get to just glance at my cousin's "still mint" collection. Instead of playing with whatever toys kids played with back then, I was fully immersed and content in simply sitting and looking at Star Wars action figures. Having said I never expected more movies, in my mind, the only way to continue the saga was to create stories with these awesome toys. What exactly happened to Luke and Han and Chewie and all of these unbelievable charactersafter the Battle of Endor? Did the Empire just fall and there was peace in the galaxy
and everyone just went their happy way? Did Han and Leia get married and have kids? There were always a million questions going through my mind. And I'm the kind of guy who loved even the minor and background characters. What kind of adventures did Nien Nunb go on after helping pilot the Falcon? Did Admiral Ackbar become a hero for his leadership? My childhood was filled with watching this trilogy ad nauseum, pouring over every scene, becoming so engrossed in the mythology and the universe. So imagine my shock when, as a kid, things like the "Thrawn Trilogy" came out. But alas, movies were never made. Then "Shadows of the Empire", with a great video game, but still no movies. Then of course news of the prequel trilogy. Still not necessarily the most amazing thing, but it meant new Star Wars. I was versed in what back story we knew about. We knew that there were the Clone Wars, and the general idea of Obi-Wan and Anakin and Anakin became Darth Vader, etc. All interesting stuff, to be sure. I won't go into my opinions on the prequel trilogy just because that could be an entire article in itself, and I don't hate them, but they weren't really what we all deeply wanted. Cut to Disney buying Lucasfilm. I immediately knew it would be a great thing. I'm not in the school of thought that sequels or remakes tarnish the originals of anything in anyway.
Everything should be looked at as an original thing. Being a fan of horror movies, I'm used to seeing modern remakes and reboots that don't hold a candle to their original's, but I don't think it lessens the source material. I don't think any less of the orignal "Nightmare On Elm Street" just because I thought the remake was pretty underwhelming. If anything, it just makes me appreciate it even more. So I was okay with Disney owning Star Wars. At this point in time, it was clear that George Lucas was willing to just sit and let it rot, and at least now it was owned by people that would do something with it. There were the predictable critics crying about how we'd constantly see Vader with Mickey ears or how Disney would drive it into the ground to make a buck. When news they had plans to create a new trilogy, holy crap! Could it be that they were gonna tell the story of what happened to this universe after what happened 30 years ago? And not only that, we'd get standalone movies, which are now called "Anthology" films. So far "Rogue One", a film about a group of rebels trying to steal the Death Star plans, and an untitled Han Solo origin story, are the ones we know about. As long as they continue to get quality people making these, I'm all for them. Speaking of quality filmmakers, when it was anounced that JJ Abrams would be writing and directing "Episode VII", it was the perfect choice. Geekdom clearly sees him as one of "us", and he'd never been shy about his devout love for Star Wars, and he has the talent to do it justice, lens flare and all. So far so good. Then we get news that Lawrence Kasdan is going to help him
write it. Can this even be real? The guy wrote "Empire" and "Jedi"! Now we had to assume they would pick up the mantle and carry on the legacy. Imagine the palpable excitement when the cast was announced, as the original cast was returning, along with a new group of actors that were a huge breath of fresh air. Andy Serkis, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaacs, and John Boyega? Wow. So after all the rumors, the casting announcements, conceptual art leaks, etc., we got a very short teaser that blew the world's collective mind. It was new enough to be excited about going somewhere new and fresh, but still evident that it was from the world we knew and loved. Just enough to get us excited but giving more questions than anything still. I had the great fortune of getting to go to Anaheim to the Star Wars Celebration back in April, which will probably be hard to top as the greatest experience in my life. Leading up to it, there was a feeling we would get a new teaser or trailer, something. As luck would have it, we were graced with a new teaser that caused many a nerd to shed tears. Even if we knew the originals weren't coming back, this movie looked phenomenal. Kylo Ren being a badass, BB-8 rolling around, actual Storm Troopers shooting and flying from practical explosions! The Chrome Trooper, whom we know to be named Captain Phasma, Rey and Finn running from TIE Fighters bombarding from the sky. Even if this were made in a world where there was no Star Wars, this movie would still be Star Wars. Then to put a bow on it, we get a closing shot of Han and Chewie, on the Millenium Falcon, with Han uttering the now infamous line, "Chewie, we're home...". I'm very willing to admit that I cried like a baby. Hell, the tears started welling up literally in the first shot of that downed Star Destroyer in the desert, with that music playing. That one opening image alone, in a way, answered almost 30 years of questions for me. Having just seen a crashed Star Destroyer and an X-Wing in the desert, your mind tells you "so *that's* what happened!", *that* is what this world looks like now. I'm going to refrain from talking about any rumors or potential spoilers, just because in all honesty, we DON'T really know anything for sure, or even "pretty sure". We're slowly learning that different character's rumored names were generally in the ballpark of correct, certain leaked shots of concept art have been somewhat on the nose. But in all honesty, we really know nothing more than JJ Abrams or Lucasfilm or Disney has allowed us to know through teasers or magazine articles. And that in itself, is an amazing feat. We live in a world now where everyone has instant and immediate access to everything. It's a 24 hour news cycle, we all have the entire knowledge of the entire history of the world on a device that fits in our pocket. As I'm typing this, we are literlly currently receiving images that our explorer took while flying over Pluto earlier today. Yet we know so very little about this movie. And that is AWESOME! They've marketed this movie in such an ingenious way, and I'm baffled as to how they've kept everything so secretive. We haven't even seen one image of Luke Skywalker, we just this week finally caught a glimpse of Leia for the first time, and we don't even know anything about the characters that actors like Andy Serkis and Max von Sydow are playing. But I'm not sure I'd want it any other way. We're so used to getting spoiled and knowing everything about everything. With video games, for instance, between beta testing, YouTube clips, Twitch streams, E3, game reviews, we know pretty much everything there is to know about the game before it's released. Playing it is just a formality. So I want to enjoy this wait for "The Force Awakens" for everything that I can get out of it. I don't really consider it a spoiler to know a character's name or to see what a creature is going to look like. Knowing that this is a tangible return to the universe, knowing that those are real deserts they filmed in, that those Storm Troopers flying from the force of an explosion, those are real stunt men, really taking part in that action. BB-8 is a real thing! I don't think I'm the only one that felt burned by the extreme overuse of CGI and green screen in the prequels. When I watch a movie, I want to feel like that's in a world that is real and tangible and lived in, not like I'm watching cut scenes from an XBOX game. At age 29, I can honestly and literally say I've been waiting for this movie my entire life. I have so many questions and ideas about what happened to my favorite characters, and it certainly looks like they'll be answered. If this were George Lucas making this, I'm not so sure at all that I'd be this excited and/or confident. But like the mantra that so many of us have taken up over the last year or so says, "In JJ we trust"...