We are a little over a week away until Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters. It is amazing to think that an actual sequel to the classic original trilogy is being released. We’ve had video games, books, and countless amounts of material from the Expanded Universe to answer the question of “What happened after Return of the Jedi?”, but now we’re getting a full-fledged movie! It is unreal to think about.
Star Wars has been near and dear to my heart for my entire life. It is so embedded into my soul that I honestly can’t remember a point in my life where I didn’t know what Star Wars was. I can’t recall the first time I ever saw the original films. I just always knew about them and loved them. Star Wars, to me, was like the ultimate fairy tale. It had action and adventure, science fiction, fantasy, romance, drama, comedy, great characters to follow, and just about everything you could ever want in a story. To me, the Star Wars Trilogy is about as close to perfect as a film series can possibly be. I love those movies, Ewoks and all.
The hype and the anticipation have been off the charts. Ever since the excellent teaser trailer featuring Han Solo’s “We’re home” line, fans’ excitement has been filled to the brim. And yes, I have to admit that overall, the film does look promising, but I can’t help but also recall similar hype for another movie.
You may have heard of it. It was called Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
In 2015, we remember that film as a massive disappointment and a betrayal of the legacy left by the original trilogy. In the late 90s when the film was being hyped for release, the hype was similarly insane to what you’re seeing now. Merchandise was everywhere, people’s excitement was through the roof, and it was the must see movie of 1999. We spend so much time hating on Jar Jar Binks and Jake Lloyd that we almost forget that before the movie came out, we were saying things like “Oh wow! A double sided lightsaber! Darth Maul looks awesome!” or “Oh my God! That poster of Anakin with Darth Vader’s shadow! That looks so cool!”. In fact, the hype was so strong that some people didn’t want to admit the movie was bad. Roger Ebert gave the film four stars, and reviews were generally positive. It was like there as a case of mass denial going on. Who could believe there could actually be a bad Star Wars movie. I don’t think it was until some time had passed and around the time of the home video release that I started seeing a complete and total backlash against the film.
The faults with Phantom Menace are so numerous that I could sit here all day talking about them. Fortunately, I don’t have to because its been talked about ad-nauseum and you can find countless reviews online. (I personally recommend the Red Letter Media review). However, even if Phantom Menace had been a good film, living up to that massive hype was a tough order to fill. The hype surrounding the film was insane and there was no way it could have lived up. Reality is almost never up to par with the imagination and I often wonder if the disappointment for Episode 1 would have been there no matter what they did. Even if Jar Jar wasn’t in the film and the story and acting were better, it still would have been compared unfavorably to the original films.
I can’t conclusively say that The Force Awakens is going to be a good or bad film. I hope its good. I want it to be good. Most of what I have seen so far looks promising, but there are no guarantees in the entertainment business. It’ll be disappointing to many people if it is bad and it’ll be disappointing to many people if its only good.
Are we getting the key members of the original cast? Yes. In John Williams scoring the film? Yes. Are Lucas’ questionable creative decisions and over-reliance on CGI being left out? Yes. Do the new characters and settings seem cool? Yes. However, that doesn’t mean all new problems won’t arise and you could be disappointed in other ways. Right off the bad, I can tell you my biggest fear is that they basically just remade the original film but with new characters. A protagonist is isolated on a desert planet and ultimately drawn into the bigger conflict that involves ANOTHER Death Star. We have Han playing Obi-Wan, Rey playing Luke, Kylo Ren playing Vader, BB-8 playing R2-D2 and so on and so on. I’m just basing this off of what I’ve seen, but it really does seem possible that they just took the first movie and swapped in new characters and different names for the planets.
That is one way the film could go wrong. Sometimes the film makers get so attached to the preexisting material that they spent too much time referencing it out of nostalgia. Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem comes to mind in that regard where they started referencing visuals from the earlier films to a point where it didn’t even make sense within the context of the story.
There is also the idea of unreasonable expectations. Will Force Awakens be as good as the original trilogy? That is highly unlikely but I hold the original trilogy up so high that it is difficult for me to imagine a Star Wars film that can match them. What is a reasonable expectation to have? Well, for me, if JJ Abrams can deliver a film that is better than Episodes 1 and 2, I’ll be happy. I’m not asking mountains to be moved here. The love story of 2 was Twilight before there was Twilight and the mere mention of mitichlorians makes my blood boil. I am setting the bar low here, but if JJ makes a movie better than those two, I’ll be a happy fan.
Will Episode VII be good? I don’t know. None of us will know anything until the movie comes out. All I’m saying is remember what happened with Episode I and keep your expectations reasonable. Bad Star Wars movies can and do exist, so don’t set yourself up for disappointment again. I’m not trying to be a negative nelly, I am just asking fans to keep a level head and not get their hopes up too much.
Regardless of what happens, I’ll be there opening night. I’m hoping for the best, but I’m not going to bank on it either.