How I Learned to Stop Worrying and love Star Wars: The Force Awakens [Part I]

As the joke has been made often, I will use it here: this is the tale of my own “Journey to The Force Awakens.” I figure that if it’s good enough for a marketing campaign, I can piggyback it here.

All of this preamble is to prevent its dominance through the other parts of this series I’m releasing through the coming days. I’m taking you through my own mental and emotional acceptance of The Force Awakens as a legitimate, artistic work worthy of recognition as part of the Skywalker family saga.

It was a strange pathway there. And it’s too big for one blog, hence the series.

First Some Context

Though I was excited for it, the release of The Force Awakens never truly met the 1999 anticipation of The Phantom Menace for me. That film was released to a world that had spent decades lionizing and fetishizing Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, and I was one of the foremost evangelists for that “Original Trilogy.” I spent more time studying and analyzing those films than I did on schoolwork; if they’d offered classes in college, it would have been my major. If I’d studied them less, I’d have had better grades.

All that said, I didn’t fetishize the “Original Trilogy” in precisely the same way that much of my generation did. Also I didn’t pivot into the sophomoric cynicism that made the average fan append every praise with “Yeah, well, except the Ewoks.” I didn’t just cite Joseph Campbell as an influence after hearing it ad nauseum through retrospectives, I slogged my way through The Hero with a Thousand Faces in between games of Magic: The Gathering. I watched THX 1138 and dropped $100+ on the letterboxed VHS set, likely by playing my dad for a sucker and leeching some cash in increments (my mom would have stood in the way).

I even read George Lucas: The Creative Impulse, an official biography crafted with the loving care you’d expect from a fluff piece about Five-Year harvest quotas sponsored by Pravda. It was very doubleplus ungood!

In short, I was one of the stalwart defenders of the entire “mythos.” I was satisfied with the six-film series, and its ancillary materials. I was content.

I never understood how much of an outlier I truly was until The Force Awakens was being released to a world nursing a large, open animosity toward The Phantom Menace and its sequels, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. I won’t re-prosecute those arguments here, only mention that I’ve written volumes already.

Enough of This Palaver

The first big challenge with The Force Awakens was, for a fan like myself who liked it all, from Cloud City and Naboo to Tatooine and Gungans, if I would continue to love it now that Lucas wasn’t driving things.

It’s certainly a good place to start the journey.

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