A New Hope for Star Wars

This is a big weekend people. The future of Star Wars is at stake. I’m not talking about whether the film will be a box office smash. Why, that already happened in a flash!

Instead, I pose a simple question: can this new entry to a classic franchise resonate with people as thoroughly as the original films did? More importantly, will the new characters make us glad that we get to relive our childhood innocence once more and prevent the film from succumbing into an overhyped nostalgia trip?

The answer? We’ll see.

By now, you’ve probably caught on to the fact that this whole Star Wars thing is a pretty big deal. Your best friends are going to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens this weekend. Your grandpa is going. Even your grumpy co-worker whom you never talk to is going and he actually has a smile on his face (if they were all able to get tickets, of course). Some things never change, and Star Wars is as much of a cultural phenomenon now as it was in 1977.

I’m not talking about just the movie. I was in Target the other day and saw Star Wars band-aids for sale. That’s right, band-aids! The merchandising wasn’t exclusive to first-aid products, either. You could buy wrapping paper, ornaments and baby clothes featuring emblems and logos from the Star Wars universe. If you can imagine it, the marketing boys over at Disney will gladly slap a copyright on it and bring it to a store near you.

I’ve seen commercials for new Star Wars toys, car commercials set to Star Wars music and NFL power rankings depicting each team as a Star Wars character (Disney does own ESPN too, so why the hell not I guess?). You can’t escape the Jedi mania here or there, you can’t escape it anywhere… sorry, I tend to go all Dr. Seuss when I’m trying to describe something ridiculous.

Kevin expertly conveyed the exhaustion that the hype machine can cause and even I have to admit that it can all be a little overwhelming. When you can’t turn on your TV or get on your computer without seeing R2-D2 or Chewbacca or any of the other litany of characters, you may ask yourself what the big fuss is. When people are threatening to kick their friends in the nuts if they spoil The Force Awakens for them, you may wonder whether this obsession is healthy or not. But I ask you this dear friend: why do all of those people care so much about a movie?

To answer that unequivocally would require me to speak for all of the billions of people who are going to see The Force Awakens, but regardless of each individual opinion, I think such mass hysteria generally only occurs when people are overcome with a desire to satisfy their inner-child. That’s the time in our lives when our memories are the purest and we look back on things we experienced with an irrevocable fondness. For a lot of people, that’s what Star Wars provides. A chance to exit our mundane lives and re-immerse ourselves in the adventures that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

Me personally? I love Star Wars. As the ultimate mashup of my two great loves, science fiction and fantasy, I had no choice but to love it. I suppose you could say it was my destiny, but the truth is I was drawn to it because of the characters. When you can walk into the toy isle at Wal-Mart and buy a Luke Skywalker action figure all these years later, that tells me that these characters were as important to other people as they were to me. And that is the challenge facing the new movie that the prequels ultimately failed at: 30 years from now, will there be enough interest in these new characters that they will still be making toys of them? Time will tell.

But I’m excited to find out. Although I agree with Kevin to an extent, I’m willing to withstand all of the relentless advertising if it means we are getting a movie that is worthy of the frenzy that it has created. Most of the Star Wars faithful probably feel the same way. For now, keep your head down, be wary of spoilers and if you are on the fence, just give The Force Awakens a chance. Meanwhile, I’ll be here, praying that this new generation of heroes prove that all the hype was worthwhile.

Help me John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, you’re my only hope.

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