It's hard to explain or even quantify the incredible impact that Star Wars has had on my life. From the day Dad recorded the 10th anniversary airing of it off the TV in 1987 I've been hooked.
Before the movie came on there had been an anniversary special hosted by Mark Hamill that went into the affect Star Wars had had on American culture over the past decade. I'd watch it and rewatch it, along with the movie, transfixed as to how such a thing could have so much power over so many people. How one movie could shape a whole culture.
As The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983) were released to video, they were added to our ever-growing movie collection to be watched over and over again as well. My love for the original trilogy bordered on religious fanaticism. I wasn't interested in collecting the figures or posters or anything like that; it was ideals that drew me in. The forces of good battling against a horrible evil, and not always with clean-cut success. The princess had wit and nerve, the heroes had flaws, the formidable villain had a heart in the very end.
All of that was compelling, but it was the calm and wise Jedi who were the role-models for my growing years. Them and the ever-stoic Vulcans from Star Trek (yes, I love both fandoms). I was prone to emotional outbursts as a child, and both the Jedi's and Vulcan's unruffled demeanor showed me how to remain calm is trying situations (not that I was terribly successful, but it was something to shoot for!)
I started reading the Expanded Universe novels in my mid-teens. Though some were better than others, they at least gave me more Star Wars and I was eternally grateful.
The Phantom Menace (1999) came out while I was in college.
More Star Wars!!
Watch the movie Fanboys (2009) if you want to remember the hope and anticipation leading up to the release of Episode I. I played hooky from school the day it came out. I was fourth in line for tickets and first in line for the actual movie. I'd waited my whole life to see a new Star Wars movie in the theater! I will admit I saw it several times on the big screen and watched it several more times on DVD, but with it's Jar Jar, midi-chlorians, and stiff acting, it didn't satisfy. It wasn't till other people admitted the blasphemous statement that they didn't like it that I realized there wasn't something wrong with me. Yes the pod race was fun, that lightsaber battle at the end along with Duel of the Fates will forever hold a special place in my heart; but it wasn't a good movie overall.
I'd felt let down.
The following two movies were even more abysmal for me.
They didn't follow the story I had created in my mind over the years of what the prequels should have been. The story-line of Episodes I-III could have been so much more compelling. So much less awkward, so much more bright and beautiful. But they weren't and I was sad.
The release of the MMORPG "Star Wars: The Old Republic" at the end of 2011 gave me a new hope (see what I did there?) Though I never played the game beyond a few minutes on one of my brother's accounts (as I had quit WoW cold turkey a few years before and vowed to never play another MMORPG), I was giddy with delight. The opening intro cinematic is still beautiful, still powerful, still everything I had wanted the prequels to be. It assured me that there were others out there who knew what Star Wars was supposed to be! Maybe someday it would really happen in movie format.
When Disney acquired the rights to the Star Wars franchise a year later, I was worried and dubious like other fans. Disney's promise to release a whole crap-ton of Star Wars movies ASAP wasn't exactly cause for celebration; but I remained hopeful when looking at what they had done for Marvel (X-Men was another beloved fandom of mine).
The first few trailers for Episode VII didn't pique my interest at all. I'd been hurt before and I wasn't interested in repeating the same old feels. It wasn't going to be "The Truce at Bakura", so what did I care?
Then. THEN! that famous trailer with the reverently delivered lines of, "Chewy, we're home!" was released and for the first time in years I felt excited for a Star Wars movie. Maybe, just maybe The Force Awakens would be okay!
An oh it was!
It was so okay!
I had tears in my eyes throughout most of the movie (I've only seen it once sadly; not opening day, but opening weekend. First showing on a Sunday; and the theater was packed!). Finally I felt like I was seeing a real Star Wars movie on the big screen! The fact that it parted so drastically from the Expanded Universe was actually a breath of fresh air. This next trilogy is going to be new to die-hard fans and newbies alike. We will all be gazing up at the screen in wonder, no one knowing what would happen next. It's a thrill I wasn't expecting, but one that I was so thrilled to experience!
So am I excited for the next one, along with the other spin-off films lined up?
You bet! Though I'm being cautions: as much as I liked it, Episode VII is riddled with plot holes and superfluous characters that may or may not have any purpose in subsequent films.
Though I know we won't get the delightfully subtle philosophy that was interwoven in the original trilogy, I have no doubt the following movies will be just as pretty as The Force Awakens.
I've accepted that the Star Wars franchise has been delegated to the "popcorn flick" and frankly I'm okay with that. It still provides me with music by John Williams. It still provides familiar characters, themes and settings while introducing new planets, creatures and people to love and hate, the names of which I'll never remember.
There's the Force, there's lightsabers, there's Jedi.
I'll be there in the front-ish row with my overpriced popcorn soaking it all in.