Keeping Expectations Low for The Force Awakens

Being a fan of Star Wars is hard. You have to recognize that for all the fun it gave you, it’s also created a mass of boredom and Gungans. So very little of the Expanded Universe is done right. So much of it is a pastiche of the magic that made the first movie such fun, and the second so deliciously dark. Even Return of the Jedi isn’t quite up to the level of its predecessors.

We all got suckered into believing that George could whip up a new story and it would do what we wanted, show us the Galaxy Far Far Away in a new light, with new heroes. And it could have been, but for the fact that George never cared about writing the damn thing so that it made sense, or about the wry moments of humor that humanized the sturm und drang. So the prequels alternate between glaring continuity errors and dull conversations interspersed with interminable lightsaber duels.

But we want to believe that Disney would do better. That J.J. Abrams, who, whatever his merits or faults as a filmmaker, grew up on this stuff like we did, could helm a Star Wars story that would be a story (with a protagonist and a plot and credible character arcs). So now, we’ve reached peak Episode VII excitement. So Kyle Smith’s take in the New York Post: “Sorry Star Wars fans, you can’t get your childhood back” is worth reading as a tonic to the hysteria.

Succeeding generations saw “Star Wars” when they were 10, or 8, or 5 years old. That you is gone. You can’t lose your virginity twice, you can’t believe in Santa Claus again and you’ll never regain a child’s sense of wonder, even dressed as a Jawa.

But that’s all it’s worth. The argument that we can’t enjoy Star Wars anymore because we’re too grown-up was nonsense back in the summer of ’99, when Episode I “Gushers” told Episode I “Bashers” that if we just turned on our “inner child”, we’d see that The Phantom Menace was perfectly fine, and it’s nonsense today. I don’t particularly want my childhood back. I do want a story that I loved to be continued in a way that does justice to it, and the reasons that I loved it.

Now it might be that Abrams can’t think of anything more useful to do than give us a warmed-over retread of A New Hope. That’s old hat for anyone who’s read the Thrawn trilogy and wondered what was the big deal about it.

Fortunately, Smith and I can find common ground:

The best we can expect from the new “Star Wars” is not that it’ll compare to seeing the first one, but that it’ll be a competent piece of craft, a diverting excursion, a successful trip to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters.

That is all I want.


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