After having a couple of days with the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer (yes, I took some time with it. Lit candles and shared a steak and I talked to it for a bit). I realized something. I realized that this movie could not have come out at a better time.
The Original Trilogy kicked off with A New Hope almost 40 years ago. George Lucas gave us a world and a story that we could lose ourselves in. It set in motion a cultural tidal wave of sorts. It became a movie a part of almost everyone's childhood and it didn't matter if you saw it during its original theatrical run or if you, like me, saw it on an old VHS.
For many people, like myself, Star Wars is something that's really important to their identity. I'm guessing it's the way some people feel about Harry Potter (I've never seen the books or paid attention to the movies while they were on). It gave us new myths and new folklore. Star Wars gave me a way to start a conversation and make new friends at school. It was something that gave me a sense of who I am and how I should live my life.
Then, in 1999, the Prequel Trilogy came out and kind of, well, smashed my world up. I couldn't understand what was going on. They took out all of the cool things that made Star Wars and replaced it with things that didn't make sense. I watched all three of them in the theaters and fell asleep during each one.
I enjoyed the lightsaber fights when they happened but the pacing and the actual narrative was horrible. I couldn't get behind it. And for years it left an awful taste in my mouth. The more and more I aged the more angry I got at it. I don't even consider it a Star Wars movie. It's like something some guy just did to ruin me and my brother.
I found more solace in the Extended Universe (video games and TV shows) instead of the movies. The world (the real one) became much like the world in the movies. We were left without the Force, so to speak.
And now, 10 years after the tragedy that is the Prequel Trilogy, we're getting a new set of films, starting with The Force Awakens. And at first glance that seems like a ridiculous title but it's definitely appropriate. Like I said earlier, we've been out of touch with mainline Star Wars stories for a decade. Star Wars wasn't at the center of the pop-culture lens for the past 10 years and now, it is again.
And there are some key moments in the trailer that remind me of this. The first is when Han Solo is reassuring the new cast members that everything they heard was true. That the stories (essentially the Original Trilogy) were moments in history in the Star Wars Universe. It's analogous to the way we live our lives today. We spend hours in school talking about our history and even 40 years ago (which isn't that long of a time in the grand scheme of things) we feel like our past is something that we watch on television and not something that actually happened unless we physically meet someone from that time the same way the new cast met Han Solo.
And the second moment (that honestly gives me goosebumps every time I hear it) is the voice over that occurs at the end. "The Force it's calling to you. Just let it in." Even though we haven't heard or seen from the Star Wars franchise, it's like it's telling us that it's been here the whole time. That we have been the ones to neglect it.
Sure the Force, Jedi, and the Sith aren't real. And they won't ever be real. But they do represent real things. Real ideals. They're modern-day folktales. They're what we look to when we need guidance (I don't care how cliche or ridiculous that sounds, it's true for me).
So now, after all this time, we need Star Wars more than ever. Not only because it's something I grew up with and go and see no matter what the outcome is but because it'll be the folktales for my nephews and future children. They'll (hopefully if the movies are good) will give them guidance and faith in something other than themselves. I hope, for this set of movies, is that they'll influence the next generation as much as the older ones have influenced me.