Star Wars fever is sweeping the nation, and of course the excitement is understandable; Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) is the first sequel since Return of the Jedi (1983), that’s 30 plus years! Sure, we got Episodes I through III, but they weren’t sequels, they were prequels, telling the story of how Anakin became Darth Vader. With The Force Awakens we’re getting a true follow up to the story, we’re moving forwards not backwards. We’re seeing what happened to the Rebel Alliance after they destroyed the Death Star along with the dictator known as Emperor Palpatine. I must admit I am extremely curious as to where it’s all going. Thinking about this new film and the excitement surrounding it (trust me, now EVERYTHING is Star Wars) I inevitably go back to the first time I saw Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), because yes, I was one of those kids who grew up with these movies. I played with that first batch of Kenner Star Wars toys. I remember waiting years and years and years for a new Star Wars movie, which Lucas just didn’t want to give us. I remember seeing Jedi beneath the stars at a drive in, with Jaws 3-D (1983) playing on the screen next to it. So after all the nostalgia and years of Star Wars mythology that have passed, we have to ask ourselves, why do we love these movies so? What is so endearing about these characters? How do these movies speak to us, what do they say about society?
If we get down to the nucleus of things, Star Wars is all about the people vs. the evil government and evil governments are a worldwide phenomenon, which explains why people from all over the world embrace these films, yes my friends, Star Wars is subversive. In these films the good guys want to kill the emperor and blow up his floating castle! Stop the dictator who masquerades himself as a leader to the people. It’s no surprise that the emperor’s servants look like Nazi soldiers, they represent oppression. The choke hold that Vader performs is symbolic of the kind of choke that evil governments can have on society. So of course people are going to embrace these movies, they are about what we all want, a good guy leading things, which sadly rarely happens. I screened Star Wars (1977) the other day for an audience and they actually cheered when the death star blew up. I mean, the Death Star blowing up, Palpatine falling down to his death in Return of the Jedi (1983), these moments all symbolize one thing, the triumph of good over the forces of evil. On these movies, the good guys win and it feels so good. But what happens after you debunk the evil government? What government comes in its place? Who will rule now? These questions are never answered which is why I’m so curious as to where The Force Awakens (2015) is going. I want to know what happens after they blow up the second Death Star, perhaps the build a third one? Obviously The Empire isn’t entirely gone, so more than likely The Force Awakens (2015) will be all about how evil simply changes its name and the farce that leads to oppression begins anew.
These films are also a coming of age story. When we first meet Luke he is just a teenager looking to follow his dreams. He is anxious to go see the world, anxious to live his life. Luke has that anxiety one has at a very young age, when you know you’re whole life lays ahead of you and it’s just getting started. He doesn’t know what it is, but he knows something’s going to happen! And same as all of us, Luke has to choose between the light and the dark, which is why I love The Empire Strikes Back (1980) so much. That whole sequence that takes place in the swampy surface of Dagobah, with Yoda giving Luke the fast forward version of Jedi training is one of the most pivotal moments in the whole series. Like Luke, we all have mentors in our lives; we just have to learn to listen to them. Yoda is wise in his ways, he warns Luke about the dangers of being “seduced by the dark side of the force”, which of course is something we can all identify with, that’s a danger that is out there, the dark path. It’s a choice we all have; we can choose to bring goodness into this world, help our fellow man, but we can also choose to be tools of evil. This isn’t just some silly movie logic, its real life advice that young people can apply in their lives during those formative years. As Luke learns in The Empire Strikes Back (1980), evil is sometimes so close to us that it could be our own freaking parents, sometimes it flows through our DNA. We have to be ready to shun it from our lives and move forward in search of our own particular destiny.
As for the films as pure entertainment and visual candy, there’s no denying their awesomeness. I watched the three of them back to back to back recently and had a chance to absorb the whole trilogy once again. The first one is the introduction, and it has a lot of gaping holes in logic that we can see only now, after years and years of being exposed to the Star Wars mythology. Like for example, if Luke is just a farm boy, how come he immediately knows how to fly an X-Wing? He’s never even set foot in one and they give him a whole ship! That’s like giving me a freaking F-14. I’d crash it in less than 12 parsecs. But not Luke, he drives it as if he’s driven one his whole life! Out of the blue he knows all about attack formations and whatnot. Obi One’s lightsaber “duel” with Darth Vader pales in comparison to the kind of lightsaber battles we see today, but what the hell, back in ’77, nobody had seen a freaking lightsaber duel, hell, the mere sight of a lightsaber was amazing! But watching these movies with a good dose of suspension of disbelief is necessary, more so on science fiction films like this one.
J.J. Abraham's directs The Force Awakens (2015)