Monday, December 21, 2015

The Force Will Be With You, Always. No, like Literally, Dude.

Today marks the last day that my stream of consciousness will include only six Star Wars films. Tomorrow, I take my first step into a larger world. Or, more accurately, my seventh step. But who's counting? I mean, other than the execs over at Disney? Star Wars: The Force Awakens marks the seventh feature film in the now-legendary franchise, which is simultaneously an inspiring tale of hope and redemption and symbolic of a sort of uber-consumerism with merchandising tendrils worming their way from all manner of action figures to kitchen utensils and appliances to makeup. Fucking makeup!

Ever since George Lucas followed up his beloved original trilogy with the prequel trilogy, which received--to put it mildly--mixed reactions, the future of the saga remained a giant question mark. According to Lucas, his vision of Star Wars included a trilogy of trilogies and presumably orgies of cocaine and hookers dressed as wookies (at least you can always tell whether the walking carpet matches the drapes).

And you know, I was actually OK with the fact that it looked like there wouldn't be any more Star Wars movies. As I've consistently maintained to anybody who would care to listen, as much as I love Star Wars, and as much as it has influenced me in ways both explicit and implicit, what I really want is to be taken on new journeys to new places with new inexplicable sexual tension between siblings (if that's what you're into). Part of what made Star Wars special, part of what makes anything special, is the fact that its moment is fleeting. I think Achilles sums it best in Troy:

I'll tell you a secret. Something they don't teach you in your temple. The gods envy us. They envy us because we're mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we're doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.

So even though my anticipation for The Force Awakens is at an all time high, and much like Will Scarlett in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, I've found myself daring to believe, I'm still not totally sold on the idea that it now looks like Star Wars has achieved some measure of immortality. Even though it's looking more and more likely that I will never behold the Jaws 19 foretold by Back to the Future II, it seems more likely that Star Wars might actually overtake the Bond franchise before I become one with the Force, as Disney is planning not only regular releases of the main franchise but also stories of other characters within that galaxy far, far away, including the adventures of a young Han Solo for some reason.

But despite my cynicism, I've allowed myself to buy into the hype and rediscover my fandom. I've never really let it lapse completely, as evidenced by the numerous action figures and various other memorabilia and collectibles that I've filled my home and heart with, much to the chagrin of my wife and my bank account. But in recent years, I have to admit that my passion has waned somewhat. For all of the merchandising and the business behind the movies, and there is a shitload, there's something primal that speaks to the inner child in all of us. The Chosen One narrative  is appealing because ultimately it's the story of the triumph of the underdog, and we can all apply the template to our lives at some point. Even if it's just for one, brief, glimmering, blaster-bolt of a moment, each of us is the Chosen One of our own narrative. Not all of us get to save the galaxy and do cool back flips and shit, but each of us can find those moments of transcendence.

And I am a Star Wars fan. I realize that now. It's like being in love; it's not something you can really choose. Star Wars has been a part of my life since I was a kid watching Return of the Jedi in my grandparent's basement while the adults were upstairs doing whatever boring shit that adults do at family gatherings. And like being in love, you have to be willing to take the good with the bad. I know people who call themselves Star Wars fans, but really only like A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and parts of Return of the Jedi and completely despise the prequel trilogy. Well, when you only like two out of six parts of something, which is thirty-three percent, to me, that's not a fan. Thirty-three percent is a casual acquaintance. Thirty-three percent is a sad handjob in the bathroom at your high school reunion. Thirty-three percent isn't love: it's barely a passing interest.

In preparation for The Force Awakens, I've recently rewatched the first six films. I'll be honest, I've spent a lot of time hating the sequels. In the collective cultural consciousness, their badness has become legendary to the point that it is taken as indisputable fact. But this time around, I took some advice from Yoda and let go of my hate (or maybe Yoda didn't say it, but it sounds like something he would have said).

Watching the prequels as a fan, focusing on the positive, I found a lot that I actually enjoyed, including the bulk of Revenge of the Sith, which, despite its flaws, I have always contended stood on equal footing with the original trilogy (Yes, I can feel your anger.). In fact, risking the wrath of other so-called fans, I will even admit that watching all of the movies back to back over the past week, I've found that watching the prequels actually enhanced my enjoyment of the originals. And no, not because the original trilogy was so much better in contrast, but because it was actually intriguing watching the entire narrative arc and what each chapter added to the next.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I loved everything Lucas did in the prequels. There was some baffling shit in there to be sure. I'm not at a hundred percent; but I'm a damn sight better than thirty-three. And rediscovering that love, that inspiration, has actually bolstered my spirits, and despite myself, I've found my excitement for Star Wars at a near record high. I've tried not to get my hopes up for the film itself; it's more the experience of going to the theatre, the tradition. Being able to take my kids to see The Force Awakens, being able to share something I love with them, passing on a part of my cultural heritage, that's kind of helped put things in perspective. It's the ability that a cultural text has to inspire that's important, and Star Wars has been a huge influence in my life, an all-pervasive Force of some kind. However The Force Awakens turns out, I can't deny that that spark is still there, always ready to be fanned into a flame, and that even though I haven't felt its heat in a while, it never truly ever went away.

The Force Awakens seems like something out of a dream, but I have this strange feeling, that someday I would find myself at this point, experiencing the next chapter, that it was part of my destiny. Somehow, I've always known.


Post a Comment