Yes, I’m a Star Wars fan. Maybe not JJ Abrams level, “dressing as an Ewok for Halloween” type fan, but still.
I’m old enough to remember seeing Star Wars in a Torquay cinema in 1977. I remember my Luke Skywalker action figure with the push out yellow (yellow??) lightsaber. I remember my trusty Han Solo blaster with its asthmatic laser noises. I remember, for three whole years after Empire Strikes Back, refusing to believe a certain character was a certain other character’s father, before Return of the Jedi came out and proceeded to blow my fragile little mind.
I also remember the prequels. I saw The Phantom Menace six times in the cinema not because I loved it, but because I couldn’t accept the fact that I didn’t love it. (The trailer was really good! Plus it took me half the weekend to download it with my cutting-edge 56k modem, and even then the Quicktime video was so small you needed an electron microscope to see it.)
So with The Force Awakens publicity carpet bomb now in full effect, I have some wisdom I would like to dispense in the customary Yoda / Tim Keller mode. Disappoint us, our idols do. The higher we build them up, the more betrayed we feel when they don’t match up to the unreasonable expectations we’ve set for them. This is equally true for a marriage, a vacation, a career, or a movie.
And they are unreasonable expectations, aren’t they? Read the message boards of certain movie websites, and there’s already a wearying slew of angry criticism for a film that hasn’t even come out yet. “It doesn’t feel like real Star Wars. It’s too derivative. It’s empty fan-service. Kylo Ren’s lightsaber is impractical.”
So I can pass on your demands to the production team, can I just clarify? You want something wholly original, but which feels like Star Wars. You want something that feels like Star Wars, but which avoids elements from the earlier films, because that would be derivative. You want to be pandered to as a fan, but you don’t want to know you’re being pandered to. You want fantasy, but fantasy that makes complete practical sense in the real world.
“Most people, if they have really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, or first see Star Wars, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, no Star Wars film can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers, or Star Wars films. I am speaking of the best possible ones, like The Empire Strikes Back. There was something we have grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. I think everyone knows what I mean.”
(C. S. Lewis, edited slightly for clarity)
It’s intriguing that we carry inside us this longing for the sublime. We’re frequently told we’re little more than glorified mutations, so how on earth do we know about perfection – especially when it’s something that has never actually been seen in the wild. (Except for that one time…). It certainly helps get me over the “Lucas destroyed my childhood” angst when I realise that not even the creator of Star Wars could have made the perfect Star Wars prequel.
So, fellow fanboys and fangirls, here’s the big reveal. The biggest Star Wars spoiler of all isn’t crouching out there somewhere on the dark side of the internet. Inside us it is. We’ll take it into the theatre with us on Thursday, and maybe even to the grave with us. The biggest spoiler of all is demanding more of something than it can give. Whether it be a marriage, a vacation, a career, or a little movie about a galaxy far, far away.
But no doubt I’ll see you there. One minute past midnight, Thursday 17th December. Waterloo IMAX. I’ll be the one scoffing ProPlus and whispering to my neighbour, “It’s just not the same without the Fox fanfare…”