Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A New Hope

Disclaimer:I like Star Wars, but I am neither an expert on it, nor an obsessed fanboy. I like to think that I represent the healthier majority of kids from my generation who grew up on the films and daydreamed up some hella sweet light saber duels in my head, but left it at that. I’ve never read the books of the “expanded universe.” I’ve never belonged to a Star Wars message board and I’ve never dressed up in costume as anyone from the films. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Just not for me.

I liked the original three Star Wars films a great deal. I watched each at least a dozen times between the age of five and ten years old.

I left Star Wars behind, like so many childhood things. While I wouldn’t speak poorly of the films, nor did I re-watch them much, if at all, once I had reached middle school.

I left it all behind until the unthinkable happened midway through my high school years—a new trilogy! Three new Star Wars films to bring me back to a galaxy far, far away, even longer ago, and with modern special effects to make the trip worth my while.

Special effects aside, the newer films were bad.

Really, really bad.

At five years old, I overlooked Luke Skywalker’s whininess, instead, looking up to him as a near-ideal hero.

At fifteen years old, I couldn’t ignore Anakin Skywalker’s gift for irritation.

I hated him.

I was so disenchanted with the Star Wars Episodes One and Two that I didn’t bother with Three until my mid-20s. Two hours later, I had that all-too-familiar sensation that I was two hours older, two hours more bitter, and man did the movie that happened in between suck something fierce.

In October of last year, Disney bought LucasFilms. Shortly after, the news followed that three new Stars Wars films are coming, the first in 2015.

Let’s think of it as a new hope.

A new trilogy means a new opportunity to make things right and carry on what, in my mind, Star Wars is supposed to be. The franchise is about far more than laser fights, cool ships, and space monsters. It’s about values.

Kids who grew up on the original three Star Wars films picked up some powerful lessons:
-unlikely heroes might accomplish incredible things. (See: Orphan Luke)
-the truest friendships might transcend superficial and cultural differences. (See: The Han-Chewie bromance)
-a disloyal friend might redeem himself. (See: Lando Calrissian)
-antiheroes are ultimately no less heroic (and probably a fair bit cooler) than goody-two-shoes good guys. (See: Han Solo versus Luke Skywalker)
-warriors must be judged not by their physical height, but by the size of their fighting spirit. (see The Ewoks)

I don’t feel the same lessons came through in the prequel trilogy, relegated to a tragic endpoint pre-determined by Episodes 4-6, and doing little else to say anything meaningful.

Three new films. New characters. A new plot. New messages. New hope.

A new generation of young minds are waiting to be molded. Some will come for the sweet light saber duels. But hopefully they’ll stick around for much more, having reason to one day look back on this new series of films with the warmth reserved for the great stories of our childhood. The stories that make us whole.

I’m ready to believe again. Disney, make me proud.

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