So then. Back to the future… back to the past… back to the original science fiction fairy tale which shaped so many lives.
For the record, this being one of those moments when people want to know “Do you remember where you were when…”, I do.
I remember the precise cinema where I first saw Star Wars.
The original Star Wars. The one where Princess Leia was a baby-faced teenager, Luke was “too short for a stormtrooper”, Han and Chewie stole the show and everyone’s hearts, R2D2 and C-3PO perfected electronic bickering, and Darth Vader first *breathed*. The one where Yoda was still in the future, and Obi-Wan Kenobi was the only hope.
I remember walking in through an entrance flanked by two larger-than-life cardboard cutout figures of stormtroopers, I remember sitting back in my cinema chair, I remember… oh… the moment of that opening fanfare, and the screed of writing unfurling into the stars, and then the slow pan downwards, followed by that endless shot of the star destroyer just coming on and on and on and on and breathtakingly on seemingly forever.
I remember that movie very well. I must have gone back to see it five times. I knew it so well that when some time later, at a showing at my University in my freshman year, I was
basically sitting there and speaking the dialogue of the movie with the characters, complete with correct intonation – I was ALMOST able to quote Artoo. It’s how I got a boyfriend, because one of the guys in the group we had gone to see the movie with eventually ended up being far more fascinated by this eldritch girl sitting next to him and quoting the entire movie more or less verbatim from memory than he was by the movie he had gone there to watch.
Oh hell yeah I remember all of that.
I remember growing up a little more and going to see “Empire”, and then the resolution of it all in “Return of the Jedi” The revelations. The mythopoeic arc, the fairy tale. The happy ending (and yes, so shoot me, I LOVED that sitlly soppy Ewok celebration at the end of the original “Return of the Jedi. So there. Yub Nub to you too.)
And then I grew up a little more, and Lucas decided to tell the backstory of Darth Vader.
By THIS stage, understand, I was a writer. I had stories of my own swirling in my head. But nothing I ever twisted and embroidered in terms of the story of Darth Vader – the Anakin Skywalker that was – prepared me for the massive catastrophe that the “prequel” movies were.
I went to see the first one and I was practically speechless with outrage. My husband flatly refused to go and see the others. I went. Because I needed to see that opening screen in theaters. Because I needed the closure. And I walked away shot full of cynicism and disillusionment at what had been done to the story,at the story that had been so wasted. I knew one thing for certain – Lucas couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag and very specifically if he ever feels the urge to write a romantic scene again he should go and lie down in a dark room until the urge goes away.
Everything about those next three movies ended up being messed up, or weird, or ludicrous. There was a point beyond which the willing suspension of disbelief just cannot be taken, and those movies were it for me. I carefully try to forget even what little I can remember from those films. They. Do. Not. Exist.
And then the world turned some more, and the rumors started… and then the rumours became true… and then it was a matter of waiting. And three days before Christmas of 2015, the waiting came to an end.
Han Solo’s Cockpit Jacket, Glyn Dillon – Star Wars concept art from io9
In a packed movie theater, I sat down to watch Episode Vii. It was called “The Force Awakens”… but would it? Would this wake up the beautiful thing that had been rendered so utterly comatose by what had gone on in the interim…?
And the music exploded from the speakers. And the golden words began to spin tinto the stars. And then we were off.
It started, perhaps, a little iffily – yes this was Star WARS and it had always been big bloody mayhem – but OK I could sit through the opening mayhem scenes – they set up some of the characters. I sat there with a grin plastered all over my face because what I was watching was an old friend.
All the things that had made that first Star Wars experience such a seminal one.
Droidtalk (oh, BB-8 is a sweethart. I want one.). Snappy dialogue. Good versus evil. Light sabers. Han and Chewie. Han and Leia (oh GOD, Han and Leia. That reunion.That inimitable quick back-and-forth banter) Jedi mind tricks. The Falcon. As Han put it, “It is true. All of it.” It was all true after all, and it was all I could do not to dance in the aisle.
The new things.
Rey. Finn. The aforementioned BB-8. Maz, the new Yoda. Kylo Ren.
The grand things that reached out and tore at you.
Leia… *knowing*. Han’s caress of his son’s face. The moment when Luke turned back from the sea to face yet another destiny (my but that callow lad from the original Star Wars has grown up into something…bigger, nobler, more tragic. And at least they got rid of that catastrophic haircut.)
All the promise of things to come. Because I want to see this movie again. And I want the next one, now.
Oh, sure, there are plot holes here – some of them you could ram a stardestroyer through if you really wanted to pick at the nits and at the fabric. Some day I might even pick at them. Not tonight, Not now.
I don’t think I will be saying anything that people don’t already know when I say that Han Solo is – always was – the heart of this story. I know half the world has seen the movie already and it isn’t really much of a spoiler any more – and in any event I knew this storyline before I went in and all I can say is thank GOD I did because if I hadn’t it would have gone hard – but the legacy of being that heart always would have been a hard thing to carry.
Let me just say that I am convinced that Harrison Ford understands this – and for him – for that character – it IS all true. His story goes where it has to go, and he offers it all up, and with him in the middle of it all the story of “The Force Awakens” flies like that indestructible and improbably agile ship that he has made synonymous with his name.
Rey may be the bright new star of the franchise, Finn may be a brilliant addition to the “family”, Kylo Ren might well grow up out of that slender black clad frame into a true inheritor of Vader’s mantle… but …
But Han, Han and Leia, they are the beating heart of it all. They are a huge part of why we loved it all in the first place. And for the gift they bring to this movie – for being allowed to have lived, and loved, and lost, and aged, just like the rest of us, the young ones who were young when they were young and lived our own lives for all these intervening years, for being permitted to be… well… as Han said, “true” … for all of that,
I want to send out into the universe a deep and heartfelt thanks. They at once brought back to me the bright memory of the starry-eyed child I once was, and at the same moment they looked into my eyes – adult to adult – with understanding and with empathy and their presence, the things they had endured in their own story-lives, validated the lives we had all been living while we waited for them to return.
I need to see this movie again. I need to memorize it, love it, like I once did to another, a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away.
Thank you, to all who had a hand in this You gave me back something precious, something whose loss I was barely able to acknowledge, something that I could hardly even mourn – but it’s back. You took me back to the wonder.
Alma Alexander My books Email me
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