I recently had a rare and exciting experience. I am one of the few people who was able to see the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens as both a newcomer and super-fan.
How you may ask? Elementary, my dear Watson.
I saw the new movie in theaters, fell in love with it, and then proceeded to watch all six other films (in chronological order) over the course of a week, topping off my marathon with a second viewing of the new one. In the course of seven days I went from new audience member to knowledgable fan, and was able to experience the franchise as both. With such a condensed time frame, and with the experience still fresh in my mind, I thought it would be a good time to explore what this new film, and the series as a whole, means to both fans and newcomers as well as why Star Wars in general has garnered so much global (if not galactic or universal) love.
Although I can now call myself an enraptured fan, I did not set out to be one. Part of my Christmas shopping this past year was for a special someone whom I found out had been a Star Wars fan for years and yet owned not a single one of the films.
Naturally, I had to correct this.
As a result, I ended up accompanying this person to see the new film. Then, post-Christmas morning, watching all six of the films with him. Our holiday week was capped off with a second viewing of Episode VII.
The end result: I. Love. Star Wars.
However, I did not set out to fall in love with this series. On the contrary, I thought I would be indifferent about it. However, after a week of intense Star Wars boot camp, I’ve found myself staying up late looking at wiki articles about minor characters and reading amazing fanfiction.
So really, for me, the only question that remains is: why do I like Star Wars now? The series has been out for decades, in both cinematic, animated, and comic formats. The characters are universal. The major plot twists are well known. So why had I never given this series a second glance until now?
Let’s start at the beginning.
As a long-time fan of things like The Avengers, I am a sucker for science-fiction, but with one stipulation: the sci-fi can’t be the most attractive feature. Sure, a cool space setting, or even an alien-ravaged New York make for a great backdrop, but it’s not going to hold my attention (let alone my love) for long.
What I crave most out of any fandom is character development. I want characters with whom I can sympathize, by whom I can be enraged, with whom I can celebrate and, in their darkest times, for whom I can pray.
Put these kinds of fictional people in a tight, well-crafted story (I don’t care how cliche it is), and I’m yours for life.
I can only assume the reason I never saw the Star Wars movies in their totality before this (last?) year was due to the fact that I am the only fan fanatic in my immediate family. All the fandoms I discovered (and quietly cultivated late at night with a flashlight under the sheets) myself. Star Wars just never came up on my radar.
It’s here now, though. BIG time.
Though yes, I see all the problems with the prequels, I’m still examining them from every angle to try to understand the characters better.
I can’t get enough of the original trilogy, whether it’s Leia’s powerful defiance, Luke’s earnest compassion, Han’s I’m-Making-It-Up-As-I-Go attitude. They are all characters I can project myself onto, moving though a world I desperately wish could exist.
Artistically, the Star Wars franchise has a flavor all its own (not counting the prequels). The visuals (while now outdated) are their own and only contribute to the look and feel of the world. Everything feels strange, familiar and self-contained. I really do feel like I’m hearing a story from another galaxy.
This new installment is no different. The world is completely its own. I felt immersed in the sands of Jakku, and spent several hours researching the topography of the region. How did those wrecks get there?
In the same way the original trilogy’s characters grabbed me, I found myself completely invested in this new slew of characters. I Want Finn to find peace with himself, Poe to keep light-heartedly fighting the good fight, and Rey to be the next Jedi. I even find myself feeling sympathy for the villain, Kylo Ren. Whatever the next installment holds, be it Jedi training, a queer canon relationship, lightsaber battles or even redemption arcs, I will be sure to be in line on opening night.
While the series may follow heavily used literature and film cliches (Episode IV is literally the classic hero’s journey), this series breathed such shockingly new life into the tropes that I hardly recognized them. Prior to seeing these films, I often wondered why people were so passionate about them. Now I get it. This series is easily likable without trying, and features some of the most intense world building (more like universe building) I have ever seen. Despite how unbelievable it all is, I find I have no trouble believing in any of it.
The most important aspect of the new installment, however, is how it fits in. I saw this film both as a newbie and a hardcore fan. No matter what I knew about the previous films, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to see the rest. I enjoyed it so much I saw it again, in the span of seven days. Though Star Wars was already a huge franchise, with a fanbase the surrounds the entire globe, this new film is both attracting new fans while reinvigorating the old ones. A month ago, Star Wars was the farthest thing from my mind. Now, I keep refreshing my page to see if the DVD release date has been revealed.
I am now an official Star Wars fan, and my only regret about it is that it didn’t happen sooner.
May the Force be with you, friends. It’s now certainly with me.