Star Wars: The Force Awakens released just a couple of weeks ago. Like many Star Wars fans I was there opening night. But as I purchased my tickets, I was stunned at how fast the time had passed by from when Disney bought the franchise from George Lucas back in 2012 and announced the next trilogy of films. I have been almost totally disengaged from the built-up to this movie. Yes, I checked out ever trailer and most every article I happened across, but I wasn’t jittery with excitement the way I was for The Hateful Eight this year.
Upon realizing the nagging apathy I had been feeling toward the new film, I looked back at my time as a big Star Wars fan and noticed how far I had drifted away from a franchise that, at one time, totally consumed me. I was excited about The Force Awakens but not in the way I was for The Phantom Menace, sixteen years ago. While I know Lucas has nothing to do with The Force Awakens (and thank the goddess for that), I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I would be disappointed by the JJ Abrams films.
Part of the reason for my foreboding is that I don’t trust Abrams as a filmmaker at all. From my standpoint, he has been hit and miss. However, let’s be honest, the Star Trek movies did felt more like Star Wars movies that they did Star Trek movies. More importantly, I think my reservation about The Force Awakens and my drifting away from the franchise as much more to do with two things: the timeframe in which I grew up, and the fact that, on the whole, I didn’t like the last six Star Wars movies very much.
I came to this realization last week after talking to a couple friends who were really excited about The Force Awakens and big fans of Stars Wars as a whole. In conversation with them I could see just how far I had fallen out of the Star Wars universe and how much my nerd knowledge had suffered for it. This was an unsettling shock for me since I can clearly remember a time when I was living and breathing the Star Wars universe. So what happened?
In between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace there is a gap of sixteen years. In the time at lot of Stars Wars stuff happen that weren’t on the big screen. That’s the time in which I grew up; that’s the time I came to the love the franchise. Yes, I saw the original trilogy on TV, and for the most part loved them. How could I miss them? They were re-run on TV all the time; but that wasn’t the bulk of the Star Wars stuff that was around.
Not by a long shot.
Most of the Star Wars content that I was into took place in the time between Episode IV and Episode VI. (I understand that there is plenty of other Star Wars lore that takes place all over the Star Wars Galaxy and all at different times, but that was my era of choice.) They came in all forms of comics, games, and books. I was into the games of the time: X-Wing, Tie Fighter, X-wing Alliance, and others (who remembers Rebel Assault 2?!). To some extent, I read the comics like Shadow of the Empire and The Dark Empire, and to a lesser extent the books.
This is what made the Star Wars universe so deep, and is what I became immersed in. There were so many planets, people, ships and things that I could hardly keep it all straight—and that was the fun of it all. I was way more invested in this part of Star Wars than I was the movies. In fact, when it comes to the movies, I don’t like all that much.
The movies, however, had flaws and their flaws bothered me. In fact, I seem to have had an opposite reaction from pretty much everyone on the planet when Vader reveals he is Luke’s father. I was really young, and I had no idea what was coming as I watched the film. Even though I was just a kid, when I got to, “I am your Father,” my reaction was: “Oh! Wait what!!? That’s @#$%ing dumb.” I mark this line as the fall of the film franchise. From there on out the movies were no longer the main show, just the necessary component for the universe to exist.
Sixteen years is a long time. It is really important to note this because I think unlike many other Star Wars fans, those of us who grew up and came of age before the prequel films are last to have an unpopular perspective on Star Wars. When those prequel films showed up, everything changed.
Suffice to say I thought all three were crap. Utter boring, lame, silly crap. I can still remember the terrible disappointment I felt walking out of the theatre after The Phantom Menace back in 1999. The two follow ups didn’t help. Revenge of the Sith is only saved by the fact it was almost non-stop action. These three prequels drag that quality of the film franchise down as whole. So much so that it basically made me not care anymore. It became too hard to defend the franchise from its critics. So I gave up. Besides, The Lord of the Rings films were released from 2001-2003 and stand as a counter point to the Star Wars prequel films, at least in my mind. It too had a readymade universe, much better thought out, and for me, totally supplanted Star Wars.
That being said however, I still feel the Star Wars draw. Now with the new movie out, and even with my totally and complete disappointment in it (still orders of magnitude better that the prequel films), I find myself wanting to revisit the universe that I loved as a young teen. Ironically, much, if not all, of the expanded universe, all the games, comics and books that I used to read are now expunged from the canon. However, (lucky for me) lots of the extra stuff that I liked is the expanded stories that happen before Return of the Jedi.
So this all being said I think I have turned a corner went it comes to Star Wars, or at least come to new realization. I think no matter how the new trilogy ends up, I will still be a fan. Just the other day I picked up some models for the Star Wars: Armada and X-Wing table top games. At its core, what George Lucas got right, amid all the crap he got wrong—and very right, at that—was that he created a wonderfully rich universe and allowed it to grow, a universe that has enthralled millions. One of the Star Wars great strengths, oddly enough, was that Star Wars isn’t very well thought out. Unlike the world of Tolkien, that is pretty well set, anyone can graph on to the galaxy of far, far away anything they want.
In Star Wars there’s something for everyone.
-by Joseph De Paul