On the eve of a new era in Star Wars history, the author takes a short detour into uncovering his relationship to the franchise at large and the new films in particular.

On the eve of a new era in Star Wars history, the author takes a short detour into uncovering his relationship to the franchise at large and the new films in particular.

It’s premiering in Los Angeles this very minute to great fanfare and an enjoyable red carpet (thanks in particular to Carrie Fisher and Oscar Isaac). I shy away from getting too far into the weeds in most polite conversations around Star Wars by remarking how my relationship is ‘complicated’, just so people understand what they’re about to get into. I don’t think they quite understand, nor that they care. And good for them.

Despite much evidence to the contrary, I don't hang too many of my wants and needs on Star Wars or its continuing life as a franchise. I’m the fan-equivalent of a deep history archeologist, not a pundit or an evangelist. I'll mock-gasp when someone proclaims to not have seen them, but on the whole they take up surprisingly little of my life. Maybe when I have children? Don’t get me wrong, I'm very excited to get to experience the old characters in a third trilogy (hopefully) almost in the way Lucas originally promised us back in the 70’s, but when I heard on a recent podcast that someone already marathon’d all the films and TV shows and booked their first three viewings, that's a fervor I can’t quite recognize.

They’re funny films, downright strange at times, and of course exhilarating. I fear the new films might lose that strangeness in the same way that the Star Trek reboots increasingly tilted into frantic action over the franchise’s low key origins. Much for the eyes and ears, little for the soul. Abrams is a talented filmmaker, even if I often find his films noisy and occasionally false in the way pastiche can be. I figure it’s probably good he soared his oats on Star Trek, especially given how much (too much?) of Star Wars he imbued those films with. I imagine it might have forced him to dig deep for new, interesting material.

From the trailers it looks like a rip-roaring adventure, although a glimpse of a droid here, an alien there, has me questioning the seeming retro direction. But then I can also honestly say that I'll probably never be fully satiated either way. Childhood and cultural swells can’t be bottled. Yet to be sure, I applaud the guts to take on something of this magnitude. I’ll be enjoying it on Friday, even if I needlessly nitpick on Saturday.

I think often of how Lucas must see this whole thing. Through my work with Kitbashed I've come to empathize with Lucas — possibly a crazy stalker, or slightly obsessed biographer kind of empathy — which has changed how I view his work. Disney is a good home for a franchise, yet part of me wants to travel to a parallel dimension where Lucas remains at the reins. The prequels didn’t live up to expectations, but for him to have been so marred by fan reaction as to have backed out of his life’s work, breaks my heart.

The original films are inarticulably dear to me, much less overtly so than my metric ton of books on them would suggest. I don’t feel ownership over them, or the kind of kinship that so many other fans seem to have for the franchise at large. It was a visceral thing when I was younger, speeding after one another through the nearby forest on our bikes, but today it’s an intellectual playground. A lens through which I can view creativity, cultural shifts and the history of fiction. Luckily whether the new films are bad, good or even great, I have my Star Wars and if these new films can bring a new generation theirs, fantastic.

My hope is that they can manage to remain personal films to the people making them, and that they remain goofy, yet steeped in our storytelling traditions. And above all quell our search for the undefinable, which has brought us back again and again since May 25th, 1977.


The Force Awakens

Michael Heilemann

Views From a Ridge

Michael Heilemann