If you have any geek cred whatsoever, then you have already watched the new Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens trailer several times. And if you’re anything like me, you got chills at the end when Han uttered those three words: “Chewie, we’re home.”
Because not only were they home, but for the millions of us that grew up with Star Wars, we too sensed that we were also getting a homecoming to our childhoods as well. For those few seconds, the Star Wars trailer made us all seven-year old boys and girls again. And it was wonderful.
Since George Lucas finalized the deal to sell his Lucasfilm empire lock, stock, and barrel to The Walt Disney Company for $4.05-billion back in October of 2012, there has been great hope—and a little fear/concern—that the Mouse House would be the perfect steward of the Star Wars franchise. Disney already enjoyed a long-term relationship with Star Wars prior to the sale, dating back to 1987 with the opening of the original Star Tours attraction at Disneyland, in California. Disney also has been hosting the multi-day Star Wars Celebration event for years. John Lasseter—the guy that happens to be the chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios and principle creative advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering—included tons of Star Wars references in Toy Story 2. These guys are fans of the films. They love the franchise and they understand the need to respect history, legacy, and tradition. At the same time, they also know how to reinvent and reboot. And that is exactly the kind of lifeblood infusion that Star Wars needs.
Also, Disney and its infamous “Vault” has proved that they know how to release and re-release films—with near perfect timing the franchise became available digitally for the first time just days before the trailer was released—a concept which should please Lucas immensely.
The sale to Disney will probably turn out to be the best thing that could have possibly happened to the Star Wars franchise. Not only did Lucas seem ready to wash his hands of Star Wars, the creative talent and properties at Disney right now are at the top of Hollywood with both Pixar and Marvel in their stable. They’ve got the writing, directing, and movie-making talent to pull off an amazing story and make some terrific films.
Beyond the movies, the possibilities of a Disney-owned Star Wars are pretty awesome. Imagine a whole area/land at Disney World based on the Star Wars universe, similar to what Universal Studios did with the Harry Potter franchise. Go on, imagine it… A dark, indoor coaster based on the Death Star trench run... A harrowing speeder bike chase through the forests of Endor... A snowspeeder attack on Hoth… An indoor ride traveling through the most iconic moments from the films… Lunch with the scum and villainy at the Mos Eisley cantina... Or just a really cool area where you could go and ogle original Star Wars props, art, costumes and other memorabilia. The ideas are truly limitless, and I’m sure the Disney Imagineers will take full advantage.
But this could have all turned to vitriol and trolling if the next movie was a miss.
Fortunately, Disney picked one of the hottest directors around in J. J. Abrams, the guy behind such recent phenoms as Alias, Lost, Cloverfield, Super 8, and the rebooting of Star Trek for the big screen. Abrams and Disney were freed from the lifelong “hang ups,” history, and baggage with the films that Lucas seemed to be chained with. In fact, we learned that Abrams originally turned down the director roll, but after talking to producer, Kathleen Kennedy, about the planned direction for the new films and the Star Wars universe, he said he couldn’t say no. Abrams is also insistent that this film won’t live inside computers and CGI post-processing but will use as many physical sets and actual locations as possible.
This is Star Wars getting back to being Star Wars.
There’s definitely been *a lot* of anger directed toward Lucas since Episode I came out in 1997. From Lucas’ own words, he made the second batch of Star Wars films as the films he wanted to make and see. He wrote them in a bubble, took total control of the writing and direction and seemed to do the whole thing with a cavalier, “To hell with you!” attitude toward the fans that had so dearly loved his movies. They were his movies, and by God, he was going to ram that point down our throats.
Ultimately, Lucas seemed to forget that the movies were no longer for him, they were for us.
With this latest trailer, Disney and Abrams have given us a clean slate and shown us that, sure, these are their movies, but they desperately want us to love them too.
I saw the original Star Wars, theatrically, when I was seven. Since Jedi, I have seen every release—and re-release—in the theater…on opening day. For many of us, Star Wars was far more than a movie, it was a defining event. We grew up with Star Wars. We loved it. We played it. We projected ourselves into it. We loved the story, the characters, the mythos… We made it into something far bigger than just a movie.
And I think that one of the things that most fans really hated about the prequel films was that they ultimately meant it was over. I remember leaving Episode III thinking, “Well…that’s it. There’s no more Star Wars to look forward to now.” Far more than the films, that was the biggest let-down. At least before the films were made, there was always the excitement about the *possibility* of there being new Star Wars. There was always the next one to look forward to.
And now, Disney is putting that excitement back on the table. I, for one, plan on being in line in December. Will you be with me?
Until then, go ahead. Watch the trailer. Again.
John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.