By Ray Lucas
IN BETWEEN the hustle and bustle of the Christmas holiday and New Year’s parties, my family and I had a chance to catch a small independent film with not a lot of exposure – Star Wars: The Force Awakens. OK, maybe you have heard something about this story from a galaxy far, far away. If you haven’t it’s likely you’ve been under a rock on the storied planet of Jakku for the past few months. Regardless, with the film breaking all sorts of movie records I began to think, why has this movie captured the imaginations of so many?
For me, it was a nostalgic return to my boyhood. I was in third grade when the original Star Wars debuted in 1977. I saw it twice at the late Showcase Theatres when there was no expectation of seeing it again on DVD, much less On Demand a few months after it ran on the big screen.
By the time my favorite Star Wars installment was released a few years later, The Empire Strikes Back, I was an “all in” fan and like so many of my friends had collected action figures and starships, like the still popular X-wing and Tie Fighters. My brother and I would chase each other around the house making laser blast sounds and recreating epic battles between the Jedis and Darth Vader.
Looking back, there were few theatrical stories that engaged me in the way Star Wars did. Maybe it was just being the right age at the right time? However, I, like so many of my generation, grew up understanding that there was something magical about this story of The Force.
I was excited when the prequels arrived just in time for my now-teenage children to get into the films when they were young children in the early 1990s. Yet, honestly, the movies were so poorly done they never caught on as their predecessors did. Jar Jar Binks and the next three Star Wars movies never moved the needle to create the same type of Star Wars excitement I had experienced as a child.
Enter The Force Awakens. My wife, our children and her father were invited to a special opening weekend showing of the film by the Craig Eberle real estate team along with hundreds of others. The theatre was filled with a mixture of excited long time fans as well as Star Wars novices, all hoping that the magic would return in this new story. I felt eight-year-old goose bumps from the first notes of the musical score as the “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” opening scrolled across the screen through to the cliffhanger ending that left me with questions that must wait to be answered by the next film.
My wife and I enjoyed the film so much we went back the same weekend to see it again, this time with our four-year-old son. We were afraid he might be a little scared by the villain Kylo Ren, but he pleaded for us to take him. He cheered during the space fight scenes and raised his hand to join in the light saber battles. He suspiciously had to “go potty” during the three to four scenes when the Dark Side became a little too dark. Even young brave Jedis get scared sometimes.
So to answer my question – why has this film captured the imagination of so many? Maybe that question is answered by the sight of my younger sons battling each other around the entire house with homemade light sabers made of Hot Wheels tracks. They finally received proper light sabers a few days later from Santa, who I’m sure is a big fan.
Maybe it has something to do with my wife and daughter showing up to the premier with their hair up in Princess Lei buns and being joined by others dressed up and just as excited for the movie. Maybe it’s seeing my 15-year-old son and his buddies waiting two hours for the first showing that wasn’t sold out to see the epic on the big screen for a third time.
Or it could be that my entire family, in the weeks prior, sat together in our living room and watched episodes one through six together. I’m not sure why exactly, but Te Force Awakens has created a galactic bond in our family bringing together four- and eight-year-old boys, teenagers, 40-something parents and 60-something grandparents in a way even the great Yoda could not have matched with all of his powers. The force is strong in my family.
Ultimately, I guess all of us are drawn to epic stories pitting the forces of good versus evil. Star Wars has tapped into this power in a unique way.
On Christmas morning, surrounded by dozens of other toys, my four-year-old son chased me around the living room flying his pre-school version of the Millennium Falcon. I’m pretty sure I even heard him calling to Chewy to check the engines while he tried to blast my spaceship carrying Darth Vader into the Christmas tree. I am absolutely sure he was spitting all over me while making his laser blast sounds. Pssew! Pssew!
And there, racing our starships around the house, is the secret to why Star Wars is so powerful. These moments of galactic play have allowed me to go back in time to my eight-year-old self and share a bit of those epic battles with my four-year-old son. This is a weird and wonderful version of time travel that even the most powerful of Jedi have yet to discover. Not bad for a movie.
May the Force be with you!