A day after the trailer for The Force Awakens aired I realized three fundamental truths at the exact same time.
- It was possible to feel 17 again.
- That in the absence of any real sense of story its possible to sway my opinion with a good score.
- That I am teetering on the edge of cautiously optimistic to sure thing.
Am I worried about being horrifically disappointed? Sure. Am I able to rationalize why I won’t be? Absolutely. I am self aware enough to recognize that I am a prime candidate for the J.J. Abrams marketing machine: Give nothing away, but tease just enough that the nostalgia, mixed with what could be, will sweep fans off their feet. Also it has to be good if Harrison Ford said so, right?
However let’s check my (very rare) cynicism at the door and be honest. I know not everyone was impressed with the first and final full-length trailer we got that night, but after the first two viewings I felt a little giddy.
After all, what does cautiously optimistic mean anyway? It means I wanted the movie to be good but was not ready to go all in. So I tempered my expectations and avoided spoilers/speculation. But after watching the trailer I realized I was building up my expectations without really even knowing it.
First. I got a new alarm clock and a light up X-wing. Just a spark, but enough to start a slow, slow, burn.
Second. Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath.
When I first closed the pages of Heir to the Empire in 1996 I was in a different place. At fourteen I had just discovered the world of science fiction and fantasy, and Zahn’s book felt like a revelation. Now an older, wiser, reader I finished Aftermath and was unsurprised when I didn’t feel the same way.
But let me tell you this: Aftermath was good. A clean jump-start to a universe that had started to feel stale and overwrought. Like the Stackpole/Allston books Wendig digs deep into the ordinary heroes i.e those who we see as background characters on Hoth, or flying with Luke in a dogfight on Yavin. It revealed that you can’t just tell the story of the Empire’s demise through the eyes of the decision makers, that it is a more nuanced story from the ground up. After all heroes come in many sizes, and while I love Luke, Han, and Leia I appreciated Wendig’s demonstration that sometimes Star Wars is about more than just the Force.
Side note: If you are an aspiring writer, it’s worth reading his blog, Terrible Minds. It’s encouraging, honest, and provides a very real glimpse of a professional writer’s world.
Third. Chris Taylor’s How Star Wars Conquered the Universe
After I finished Aftermath I decided to pick up a book that I had been sitting on for a few months. Using oral histories and documents, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe follows the world of Star Wars from George Lucas’ early influences through to the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney. In some ways I was trying to build a bridge between what came before and what was to come.
What’s clear from the book is that Star Wars has survived because of the fans. And while Lucas was the “creator” he had angels who shepherded the stories to fruition. In short, Star Wars is bigger than one man.
In his introduction Taylor quotes a magazine article from 2005 by Andrey Summers. Summers says “We hate everything about Star wars, but the idea of Star Wars…the idea we love.” (xviii) It is a sentiment I can get behind. As much as I wish the franchise was perfect it’s not. There are parts of it that I hate: the rusty dialogue, The Crystal Star, Mara’s death (I know the last two aren’t really the fault of Lucas). But it doesn’t make the sweeping operatic nature of the world any less poignant.
Which leads us to…
The Force Awakens Trailer on Monday Night Football
So these three things sparked my excitement and then slowly stoked the fire and by “trailer day” I was running on adrenaline It was fairly ridiculous. For twenty-four hours I wanted to make a paper countdown calendar (similar to the one for The Phantom Menace in my locker senior year). I wanted to buy ALL the tickets, worried about availability (Ha!), all while having an urge to tweet and retweet non-stop (something I couldn’t do in 1999).
I also realized that while the visuals in the trailer were spot-on (not to mention the lovely diverse cast) it was the music that made my fingers tingle and my heart soar. The build up into the modified Han/Leia love theme just heightened the intensity. And while I tried and failed to hear the quiet samples of “Duel of the Fates” (as mentioned in this article), I did notice the way voices and instruments blended together to create a harmonized whole.
In short: spectacular.
Other elements of the trailer that I loved? Han, the consummate skeptic, preaching the truth about the Jedi. That we don’t know what happened to Luke Skywalker. That both Rey and Finn find one another on a desert planet in a parallel to that fateful day on Tatooine, a long time ago, in a galaxy, far, far, away.
So will I make the jump? Can I be sure this is what so many hoped the prequels to be? I won’t know for sure until December 17th at 11:00 pm when I walk out of the movie theater. But for now, I’ll take the wonder and let it do what it does best: set my imagination free.
And just for good measure as of this post’s publication we are now at 46 days from the premiere of The Force Awakens.
I can’t wait.
*Did you spot the Hamilton reference? More on that in a few weeks.