Unless you live in a galaxy far far away, you are probably aware that the new Star Wars film debuted this week.
Since not everyone will have seen the film, I’ll avoid giving away any plot points. But this film returns us to the 1977 roots of Star Wars, when the film sat in the top box office spot for 40 weeks in a row.
What made the original movie great?
In Luke Skywalker we had the petulant teen who was stuck in a small town/world. He was an orphan whose aunt and uncle are killed minutes into the film. Having a young male protagonist without parental figures is always a good move in storytelling, since parent figures might actually protect you. And where’s the fun/danger in that?
The ultimate bad guy was Darth Vader, who had once been a promising pupil to the wise old man, Obi Wan Kenobi. Like Lucifer, fallen from heaven, the Star Wars bad guys were once good guys.
It’s hard to remember in 2015, but there was intense speculation prior to the third film (Episode VI) regarding what Luke’s secret past involved. This is something that Episodes I-III lacked, as we knew Luke’s mother would end up dead and his father would end up being Darth Vader. So there was merely the dread of finding out how this terrible event occurred.
If this movie, as currently constituted, could have followed Episode VI, then life would have been sweet. We return to the time when the adults are relatively absent and a new generation must find their way in the world. There are mysteries galore, and enough questions are left unanswered that there had better be at least an Episode VIII.
The downside is that nearly 40 years have passed, and what would have blown us away in 1977 is just one of dozens of amazing offerings. Hollywood storytellers have learned with great exactness how to play audiences to squeeze the most emotion from us, because if the emotion is sufficient, we will pay, first at the theatre, then at the DVD/BluRay market, and then for streaming video. Not to mention all the merchandise.
Star Wars returns to the lovely world where women are fully capable, like the Katherine Hepburn movies of days of yore. There are still times when the men are surprised by competent women, but that merely highlights that they are men who are prepared to protect if need be, rather than men who take women for granted (even in all their bad-guy-busting amazingness).
Star Wars also returns us to a world where children are cherished, and children who have been separated from parents resent this separation.
In Star Wars, friends are loyal. Sometimes they are loyal to the point of stupidity, but such tension (e.g., between loyalty and stupid) just makes the show delightful.
Above all, evil and good are fighting one another, with terrible consequences likely if good fails to conquer.
Unlike Episodes I-III, we don’t know how this new set of films in the Star Wars franchise will end.
And that is a good thing.
[Update – a few comments have spoilers, so I’ve made those “pending” and have put this post on mandatory moderation.]