Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Early Retirement

So here's me in the latest issue of Star Wars Insider. Talking all about midichlorians. It was nice. 

And so, here's me also just stepping down from the batshit insanity that Star Wars fandom has devolved into since the Disney sale. It seems impossible to post anything - no matter how bland and non-confrontational - about the Wars these days without getting into endless drama and debate. Enough is enough. Never, even in the summer of 1999, have I seen the online incarnation of this fandom in such a state, where one is attacked for everything they do say, or don't say, or insinuate, or whatever. 

The mantra continues. Life is too short. I have neither the time nor energy nor interest in arguing about The Force Awakens or practical effects or canon until the ghastly hours of the morning. But that is precisely what it now requires. Even if one goes out of their desire to simply state their stance and move on, the conflict that ensues is just absurd. Arguments that chase each other around in circles for hours and hours. People keep wanting me too, but I don't even care at this point. 

I also pretty much refuse to take part in a fandom that even partially insinuates that people like Simon Pegg aren't the problem, but people like myself are. 

My relationship with Star Wars, whatever it will be, will have to be personal. I am going to make a sincere effort to divorce it from social media. But again, I've never seen it this bad, with one incomprehensible argument fired against one with no context whatsoever, and really, who needs it? There is no evidence that it is going to improve. It's merely the slow circling of the drain of a once promising fandom.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Square Peggs in Round Holes

So this post isn't going to be anywhere near as long as it originally was going to be. Like a considerable part of the Internet, I feel like I've already written several volumes on the San Diego Comic Con panel. And as always with Star Wars, passions have run pretty high. Enough to make me have to stop and evaluate and remember what I'm actually in all this for to begin with. Or rather why I'm back. 

And it isn't just to spend all day, every day arguing about "CGI" vs. "practical effects."

But I am sympathetic to anyone who feels differently. When someone gets out there praising the production team for - of all things! - actually filming in an actual desert for the new movie, that's a bit much. I mean, sure, we all know the prequels weren't filmed in a real desert, but rather a fake, CGI, air-conditioned one, but come on. 

(What you think that's actual sweat?! No. That was all digitally added later. But argh. It really is sooo easy to let go and rip on this stuff.)

Anyway, there has been some great commentary provided on other sites. If you're on Facebook, where much of my own writing has been, you should check out the Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy page. As always, the Star Wars Prequel Appreciation Society has weighed in with its characteristic style and wit. There is also a phenomenal video on YouTube that deserves your attention, and I'm just not saying this because my book got a shout-out. 

In short, I agree with the commentators.I hope there's not another online fan war on the horizon. If so, I may just be a conscience objector this time around.  #1999

Oh, I had a lot to say about the Comic Con stuff. The puns and the zingers were going to be off the hook. But enough of that.

For the record, The Star Wars Heresies does think Kennedy is way too in awe of the fanbase and gives them way too much credit, particularly given their online behavior for the past fifteen years. And J.J. Abrams' relentless advocacy of "practical effects" is way too overstated, whatever his actual feelings on the subject. One of the high points was definitely Lawrence Kasdan's shout-out to George Lucas and his "genius," but overall it was a pretty lackluster panel, nothing compared to the stuff at Star Wars Celebration. Which perhaps is somewhat inevitable when everyone is on a panel to talk about a movie no one is actually allowed to talk about.

(Sorry to pimp Doctor Who on here, but that panel was way more fun and lively. Plus a new trailer.)

And may I just say, if you really want a good time, just put Adam Driver alone on stage, and he can stare at seven thousand fans, and they can stare back, thus surely resulting in the most awkward, uncomfortable sixty minutes of anyone's life. 

But come on, I'm sure he's going to be awesome as Kylo Ren. It's a delicate balance, my readers. My own journey to The Force Awakens has been complicated. I have criticisms but I have no urge to let my fandom fall to the dark side of negativity. Plus, it would be so nice just to let go and let the Disney era take care of itself, Jedi-style. 

The one thing I feel that is absolutely inexcusable is the inclusion of Simon Pegg in The Force Awakens footage. His crimes against fandom are too numerous to mention, but the main issue is, as Jason Swank of Rebel Force Radio put it, that he keeps being rewarded for bad behavior. 

I was enjoying the footage, I really was, but if you follow me on Facebook, you know I was ready to slug him through the screen the first time he popped up on the set, basically wetting himself with glee. Then again, Kyle Newman's wife Jamie King has already openly expressed the desire to punch him in the face, so at least I'm in good company. 

So I will offer a very serious challenge to fandom. We all know about the infamous Phantom Edit, where the very fanboys raging about the joys of film preservation deleted footage from Episode I and edited it to their liking. So this is what I want. The Pegg Edit. I basically want Simon Pegg edited out of this otherwise pretty nifty footage. 

If possible, put Jar Jar Binks in his place, or possibly an animated midichlorian. That would be awesome. 

But in the interest of emphasizing the light side, and wanting to be a positive force in fandom, it was indescribably wonderful to have Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford on stage at the same time. Particularly Harrison. A few years ago, it looked as though Mustafar would have to freeze over before that guy would ever be on a stage at Comic Con talking about Star Wars. And looking as though he were actually enjoying himself, which so many of us struggle with sometimes. 

 That's about all I have to say on the subject. I could go on and on and on about this, that, and the other, but life is too short. And again, I just don't have time to spend on this stuff day in and day out. 

I love Star Wars. I love George Lucas. I still think The Force Awakens will be a fun, entertaining addition to the saga. The new books, comics, and television series have provided some great content thus far. I just wish being a fan wasn't so exhausting sometimes. 

May the Force be with You.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Great Awakening

“There has been an awakening. Have you felt it? The dark side … and the light.”

Those were the haunting, mysterious words that launched the very first teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It has since been confirmed that they were spoken by motion capture aficionado Andy Serkis. Vanity Fair has also revealed the name of his character is Supreme Leader Snoke, a title that is evocative of military status, yet he also clearly knows something of the ways of the Force ...

Before we proceed, a word on the inexorable inevitabilities of the great spoiler controversy must be addressed. With each new photo leaked and each new character name announced, flames of debate rage across the Internet. Some emphatically want spoilers. Some emphatically do not. Adding to the argument is confusion over what even constitutes a spoiler.

The Star Wars Heresies certainly suffered a major loss in energy and enthusiasm, in part due to the black hole of secrecy J.J. Abrams and Disney imposed on the new film, a vortex of blackness from which not even the tiniest of spoilers could escape. This state of affairs for an entire year was a mistake in my opinion, as it opened up a void following endless cancellations and silence. I for one find it difficult to grow excited about a film no one knows anything about, which is why I think it was a bit of a forced hand (pardon the pun) to finally release a ninety-second teaser trailer mere months after production wrapped.

So while I have tried to avoid spoilers such as storyline reveals and plot twists, any new image or character tidbit from The Force Awakens has been welcome. For the record, I’m only offering up speculation here for the sake of entertainment. Even with two trailers, Vanity Fair interviews, and the occasional image leaked online, I feel like I know almost nothing about this new episode. Nor do I really want to.

On the other hand, the veil of secrecy has to be parted a little eventually. Especially in this day and age of social media, where every new photo eventually winds up as background on someone’s Facebook page. And the more information released officially, the more the audience is eased into this new era of the galaxy, not to mention the more control the powers-that-be have over said information. So no need for everyone, Abrams included, to grow sideburns, don bell bottoms, and pretend it’s 1979 all over again, because it can’t work. 

So as I ramble and speculate and theorize a bit here, the official The Star Wars Heresies spoiler policy is going to be framed as succinctly as possible. In short, a leaked photo of Han Solo piloting the Millennium Falcon with new characters Rey and Finn in the cockpit does not constitute a spoiler. A leaked photo of Han Solo slumped over the controls of the Falcon with Rey and Finn standing behind him in the cockpit holding bloody vibroblades does.

Simple enough?

So on to this "awakening" motif, as well as two of the more intriguing elements at play in the galaxy decades after the destruction of the second Death Star, the Jedi and the Sith. Or whatever the next evolution of Force talented beings may be.  That potential incarnation is the most intriguing element of the sequel trilogy to me. 

The release of the episode title for any new Star Wars film is a big moment, perhaps right up there with the first trailer. Episode VII adds to the mythos. The Force Awakens may take a moment to settle into the cultural zeitgeist, but it honestly brings with it not only multiple possible meanings but ties the new addition to the saga into a rich tradition of symbolism. Provided the new generation of filmmakers fish the metaphoric depths of storytelling and folklore as thoroughly as their bearded predecessor would have, the mysterious title can evoke more than its share of mythological underpinnings. 

The concept of awakening is a powerful one in Western mythology. For example, more than one reference is made in Norse stories. There is of course the tale of Brunhilde, who Odin imprisoned on a remote mountain, cursing her with sleep in a ring of flames until she could be awakened again. There is also the story of Heimdall, the watchmen of Norse myth, who was destined to blow on the horn Gjallar to awaken all the gods for Ragnarok and the end of the world. This theme is active in fairy tales to0, ranging from Rumpelstiltskin to Sleeping Beauty.

The same follows through in Eastern mythology. One of the most famous images of Hinduism is Brahma growing out of the navel of the sleeping Vishnu to create the universe again. And of course, the very name "Buddha" means the "awakened one," the one who awoke to the enlightenment inherently sleeping in everything. Not to mention the Taoist musings of Chuang Tzu wondering whether he was a man dreaming about being a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming about being a man. 

In theory, all of this could be forming a viable mythic backbone for the sequel trilogy. After one pushes past the hater tone of the first couple of parts, the Vanity Fair article does an adequate job of filling in a bit of behind-the-scenes coverage regarding the film. If nothing else, it is reassuring Abrams is aware that the prequels have a fanbase, and we can infer he and writer Lawrence Kasdan are hopefully taking to heart the prophecy of the Chosen One, and his eventual bringing balance to the Force at the end of the original trilogy. 

Now that the slate has been intriguingly wiped clean in most respects, it will be interesting to learn what state the Force has been existing in for over thirty years. As noted, it has been brought back into balance and, presumably, the dark side that had so clouded and infested the galaxy during the Clone Wars and the civil war has largely dissipated. In my book, I likened the galaxy-wide mystical energy field to an enormous sea, with countless beings floating around in it, as oblivious to it as fish are to water.  

Still, hopefully things have improved and stabilized enough for a few decades for everyone to notice. 

It would feel like something of a waste if the galaxy has been in nothing but a state of strife and conflict during the thirty year gap. Crashed Star Destroyers aside, the Force awakening at the very least implies a bit of rest, a well-earned cosmic sabbatical for the conflict of the light and the dark. The Force partially slumbering in a peaceful, balanced equilibrium for awhile seems only fair. 

But as the galactic pendulum swings in one direction, it must swing in another. And as simple drama dictates, conflict has to start to creep its way center stage again. That certainly seems to be the way of things in the trailers, with stormtroopers running around and the possibility of some kind of Imperial civil war erupting. 

Along the political spectrum, George Lucas once commented that the end of the Empire would see the uprooting of corruption and fascism, and the real Republic would return in fine form. This strikes me as a potentially slippery slope, with lots of possibility for history and the mistakes of the past to repeat themselves. With the Sith gone and the Force balanced, my own vision of the future galaxy would be a bit freer, maybe even a touch anarchic, with any kind of centralized authority being shied away from for the time being. 

But understandably, the galaxy is complicated, and civil war has left it's mark. A lot of this isn't going to be remotely understood until the post Return of the Jedi novel Star Wars Aftermath debuts in September. Granted, the Empire isn't finished, and the political situation in the Inner Rim is largely a complete mystery.

Judging by Abrams and company's fondness for Star Wars as a "western" set out on the frontier, it is reasonable to speculate a lot of the events in the film are taking place in the wilder Outer Rim of the galaxy. Daisy Ridley's character, Rey, is reported to be a scavenger on the desert planet of Jakku, probably far off the beaten path of Coruscant. Might it be speculated that it's the planet farthest from the bright center of the universe, Tatooine renamed by the fractured Empire or some such?

Thanks to Vanity Fair again, we have likewise seen Adam Driver's Kylo Ren marching new stormtroopers about on an ice planet. It would be interesting if this was a deliberate juxtaposition with the Rebel Alliance's former base on the frozen world of Hoth, only with the bad guys on the run in the far reaches of galactic civilization this time around. Whatever the rationale, those new stormtroopers look really sweet, particularly the chrome-plated Captain Phasma, potentially poised to be the next fanboy favorite ancillary character, following in the footsteps of Boba Fett or Darth Maul. 

From the little we know, it seems the primary conflict isn't going to be another tired military clash between the rebuilding Alliance and the collapsing Empire. The now defunct "Expanded Universe" has beat that bantha to death over twenty years of publishing. From what publicity has been announced at the last Celebration and such, the big battle is going to be between the Resistance, featuring such hotshot X-wing pilots as Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron, and the equally mysterious First Order, which seems more than reminiscient of the Third Reich, what with their title and their fondness for Nuremberg-type rallies. 

Sure, the First Order may be a broken remnant of the Empire. And the Resistance may be a Rebel-Alliance inspired movement, which is struggling without Republic protection in the Outer Rim. But at least it's a little new, with updated X-Wings and refurbished TIE fighters. 

Speaking of the First Order, admittedly one of the biggest concerns here at the Star Wars Heresies was the handling of any new nemesis in follow-up movies. For one, simply bringing back the Sith would potentially negate the destruction of the Emperor and Anakin returning to the light side. And we all know Lucas has been adamant that the Sith are a very specific lineage, and a very specific tradition. Dark side users aside, only two Sith there are, no more, no less. And that thousand year cycle of brutality and violence was finally broken in Return of the Jedi.

But on the other hand, how does one not resurrect the Sith as a threat? Anyone would be hard pressed to best Darth Sidious in terms of personal and galactic evil and oppression. And as far as Darth Vader goes, it's surely equally impossible to top the single most iconic villain in the history of cinema. 

If certain random rumors hold true, the filmmakers at work on the new trilogy may have found a reasonably clever way to maneuver around this problem. The poster boy of evil in The Force Awakens is undeniably Kylo Ren, who we have already seen brandishing a tell-tale red lightsaber and throwing around Force pushes in the new trailers. Speculation has it that he is actually a Sith wannabe, a Darth Vader fanboy, a galactic copycat killer of sorts who goes around snatching up dark side artifacts. Possibly like that primitive-looking crossguard lightsaber or even the aged, melted Vader mask given a close up in the second teaser trailer.

This could possibly alleviate a few problems. To begin with, it would supply the film with the inevitable dark side bad guy, but reasonably count for his retro, somewhat familiar evil look, black mask and robes and all. Yet at the same time, Kylo Ren is obviously missing an official "darth" in front of his name, thus he's not a direct part of the Sith, and that lineage remains successfully destroyed.

Not to mention, let's face it, the idea is just suitably creepy. 

The other big question mark is the light side of the coin, the Jedi. It will be really intriguing to see what is done here. There are a few Force ghosts floating about in the ether of the netherworld, a trick only light siders can accomplish, as depicted in the Lost Missions arc at the end of The Clone Wars. I for one would love to hear a philosophical discussion with Qui-Gon Jinn and, given Liam Neeson's voice over work in animated series, it is not out of the realm of possibility. Perhaps the most dramatic ghostly exchange could be with Anakin Skywalker himself. 

Despite stirring up fanboy tensions, it is perhaps likely that this was the original plan, thus explaining Lucas' insistence that the Force ghost at the end of Return of the Jedi be edited to include Hayden Christensen. 

Whatever the state of affairs in the Force netherworld, there is only one remaining physical Jedi left that we know of. When we last saw Luke Skywalker, he had thrown down his lightsaber, defeated the Sith through his father's redemptive love, and was encircled by old friends on the moon of Endor. This presents its own set of dramatic challenges, not the least of which is the new Jedi Order of one renouncing violence and succeeding, as a counterpoint to the old Jedi Order feeding into war and failing. 

The narrative's depiction of the Jedi and violence is unknown, as is Luke's story. Again, if some rumors and speculation hold, the first film may very well be the "Search for Luke Skywalker." The new Jedi is rumored to have gone into an exile of sorts, traveling "upriver" like a retiring soldier, or riding off into the galactic sunset like a cowboy. 

Whatever the story, it already sounds far more right than Luke just immediately establishing a new Jedi Order on Coruscant and, again, just repeating the mistakes of the past. With all the prequel saga in place, it would seem ridiculous to simply cobble together another bloated, dogmatic order, with one foot in the mystic current of the Force, and the other snared in the bureaucratic traps of government. 

While Yoda did impress the importance of passing on his new wisdom, he never explicitly instructed Luke to rebuild the old Order. The point was largely that Luke became something new, with hints that the Jedi had moved from a religion of law to one of love. At least at the end of the last film. And if this next episode is being read correctly, Luke passing on his knowledge and abilities will be on a much more personal, intimate level, as he himself learned from Obi-Wan and Yoda. 

The recapped lines he spoke in the trailer are already legend. The Force runs strong in his family. He has it. His father has it. His sister has it. With the mysterious promise that "You have that power too." 

And that's where the real speculation begins. Is he referring to John Boyega's character Finn? His image is the first new face seen, popping into frame wearing stormtrooper armor and a frantic look of considerable distress. If the Force is awakening, he could pass for one just snapping out of a dream, maybe scoring a violent hint of a "larger world"?

The odds on favorite may be a certain scavenger from the world of Jakku, though. 

Everyone seems eager, myself included, to see a female lead take the reins. Kathleen Kennedy even played up that angle on stage at Celebration. It would open up a new world of mythic and symbolic possibilities if it was Rey who possessed that familiar power. Not only would she be keeping with the tradition of beings with major Force potential being found in lowly, isolated places and starting their journey from humble beginnings, it could also be wonderful to have a full-fledged mother of the Force in that long ago, far away galaxy ...

P.S. Welcome to the family, you three.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Disney

While it's true I did not attend Star Wars Celebration this time around, I am proud to announce I finally took a real vacation. And best of all, it was Star Wars themed. Over Memorial Day, my friend Layla and I stayed at the wonderfully posh Swan Resort at Disney World. And as Qui-Gon Jinn so eloquently put it, "Nothing happens by accident" so, yes, it just happened to correspond with Star Wars Weekends.

That weekend, Ashley Eckstein, Warwick Davis, Silas Carson, and Vanessa Marshall were all in attendance, with the whole event hosted in style by the irreplaceable James Arnold Taylor. It was a fabulous time, albeit hot and humid and uncomfortable on the morning of the opening parade, and let's just say it's best to shy away from Downtown Disney on Memorial Day weekend. All in all though, our primary complaint was simply that we only had three complete days to spend down there. 

Still, the experience is highly recommended. And it did help with my conversion to the Disney era of Star Wars. May the Force be with them. Please. 

So on a not so long weekend ago, in a state not too far away ...

Not exactly staring off into the twin suns of Tatooine, but the view from the hotel did offer a tantalizing promise of taking our first step into a "larger world" ...  

Our own version of Docking Bay 94 and, might I add, the only way to travel. I don't know if she can reach .5 past lightspeed, but she's definitely got it where it counts.

Our entrance to Hollywood Studios was clearly under tight Imperial supervision.

Fortunately, since we're both librarians, this did provide the requisite "Chewie, we're home" moment. 

And while there may be no such thing as "luck," we did happen upon a few familiar faces. Even if some of them were wearing masks.

And we ran into some new friends, too.

And I may have to agree with Han here. Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side. Having a toy one again made me far happier than perhaps it should have. Not to mention it made a really cool noise. Pew pew!

Speaking of merchants, beware Tatooine traders bearing gifts, because they're usually expensive.

So merchandising may be more on the "dark side" of the Force, but there was no way in Mustafar we weren't going to snag those The Force Awakens t-shirts faster than an angry wampa swatting at a tauntaun. And we hadn't even made it to the aptly named Darth Mall yet!

Suffice to say, we did eventually. So one of the best things about Disney? All the shops will ship your loot back to the hotel so you don't have to carry it around with you all day. One of the worst things about Disney? Same thing.

Still, Layla was understandably proud of her fashionable R2-D2 hat, not to mention patriotically sporting those Rebel Alliance colors.

But nothing like a giant walker stomping through the woods to get your mind off the inevitable credit card bills.

Escape was made possible, courtesy of Star Tours and C-3PO.

So we blasted into hyperspace and scored a trip to Hoth and Naboo, but on the last Star Tours trip, I'm fairly certain I visited three planets, not just two. Every now and again, my faith in Disney does bounce too close to a supernova.

Along those lines, here's Han to remind us that texting in hyperspace ain't like dustin' crops, boy!

But at the end of the day, all you need is a good strong hug from a Wookiee. As if a Wookiee would or could hug any other way.

Let's face it. Naboo was probably far more cool and tranquil than Orlando at the beginning of summer, but props to the queen for balancing that headdress and keeping all the makeup on in humidity that was probably far more comparable to the swamps of Dagobah.

Admittedly, it would have been nice that day had we gotten a taste of the snow plains of Hoth as opposed to simply a snow speeder, but it was still nifty and pretty screen accurate.

Eventually though, we found some shade and sat down for "An Ewok's Tale" with none other than the Ewok rock god himself, Warwick Davis. And we even got to see clips from his most impressive home movie, Return of the Ewok, which he had shot on the set of Return of the Jedi back in 1983.

Always entertaining, at one point Warwick reenacted his attempt to sabotage Kenny Baker so he could snag the role of Wicket and have a scene with Carrie Fisher. "Food poisoning." Right!

As usual, that bundle of energy and talent and enthusiasm known as James Arnold Taylor seemed to be everywhere. Much like with the celebrity interviews at Celebration, he handled all the ones here with style and grace, and also performed his legendary show on voice acting, "Talking to Myself."

And there he is interviewing Silas Carson. Carson played both the Jedi Master Ki-Adi-Mundi and the trade baron Nute Gunray in the prequels, and thus had the awkward experience of filming two death scenes in the same day during the shooting of Revenge of the Sith.

During his interview with Vanessa Marshall, there was a screening of the epic trailer for season two of Rebels, not to mention a scene after the crew of the Ghost encounter Vader. Never, ever pass up a chance to see Star Wars on the big screen. 

There were all kinds of tasty snacks at the Galactic Dance Party, though these were the only ones guarded by the Inquisitor. Rounding out the fesitivites was arguably the greatest firework display this side of Endor after the second Death Star was destroyed.

But alas, all good things must come to an end, whether it be the Clone Wars or Star Wars Weekends. Clone troopers were there to escort those of us out who needed that extra bit of coaxing ...

Fortunately the rest of the year is not exactly going to be skimpy when it comes to all things Force-related. New Rebels, new tie-in books, and no doubt a final movie trailer at some point. I for one am counting down the days until The Force Awakens midnight madness sales in September. 

All I can say is, if they're going to be marketing a Kylo Ren and First Order stormtrooper bedspread, a Force Awakens alarm clock seems obvious. As a co-worker noted, it already has a built-in tag line. "Let the Force awaken YOU." 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

You Can't Go Home Again

(But You Kind of Do Anyway)
So this has been a long time coming.

For the first time ever, Star Wars kind of fell out of my life after the Disney acquisition. Some of you know my own personal drama over the past few years. There were some profound shifts in my life, so much so that I even lost the one constant that had been with me since I was born.

Star Wars had been a perpetual source of comfort and inspiration to me, that galaxy far, far away at once as alien and familiar as anything I’d ever known. John Williams’ Force theme just hummed away as the background music for much of my life. The saga itself was always there to wrap up in, a warm little security blanket if ever there was one.

But things changed. 

As for my forays into Star Wars writing, the main thrust of this blog seemed in danger of atrophying. George Lucas finally walked away from it all, retiring to a new life and a new marriage. The saga was now in the hands of many who seemed quite eager to return to form, the original trilogy that we all admittedly loved and idolized, with all its “practical effects” but not a Gungan in sight. Lucasfilm was no longer the maverick little independent studio calling all the shots, with an unprecedented amount of creative control in the hands of one often often misunderstood artist.

So The Star Wars Heresies were slowly but surely fading into irrelevance (though the book of the same title is still quite good and you should all buy a copy immediately). My disconnect from everything that was going on was a very real and tangible thing. Plus, there was honestly lots of real life stuff happening that made going online and arguing over a saga that was about to be reborn into heaven only knows what seem chronically unappealing.

To put it frankly, I had lost a home, albeit a fictitious one existing a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. One populated by Jedi Knights and Sith Lords, accented by the snap-hiss of lightsabers being activated, and forever living and breathing by a mystical energy field known only as the Force. But it truly had been as much home to me as anything, as sure and as true as that familiar feeling forming in the pit of your stomach whenever Tatooine was onscreen. 

And home is a big thing. Maybe the biggest thing. But more on that later.
Without a doubt, the biggest explosion of unparalleled Star Wars goodness for me personally was Celebration VI. In a year that was unbelievably miserable for me personally, those were four or five of the best days of my life. Whether posing in a fake bacta tank or playing chess aboard a mock Millennium Falcon set, watching new Clone Wars episodes or getting a tilt of the hat from none other than Dave Filoni himself, there was no bad there. And getting shot around in hyperspace on Star Tours only added to the utterly immersive experience. 

But honestly, by the time Celebration VII was set to roll around, I wasn’t really even interested. My connection to the Force had been seriously severed. Anytime new content entered my field of vision, I couldn’t really see it. It was kind of like being lost in a snowstorm on Hoth, without a Tauntaun to guide you, or any visions of Jedi to offer up any hope. Perhaps that’s a bit bleak, but you get the point. 
Even hosting a Star Wars Reads Day event at the library I work at didn’t do much to boost my energy, though Star Wars bingo was admittedly a lot of fun.

However, things finally did begin to resonate with me more. For one thing, Dave Filoni was still around, protégé and padawan of George Lucas himself, a man who knew the saga inside and out, and could wax philosophical about the Force as eloquently as any Jedi Master. While more or less unimpressed with the debut of Rebels and the utterly indecipherable schedule the Disney channel had it on, I began to hear encouraging rumblings. I downloaded most of the episodes on the Play Store and, by the time the first season was up, I was hooked. 

While the animation had obviously suffered from Clone Wars, the crew of the Ghost slowly became more than the sum of their parts over the course of the season. This wasn’t simply Firefly with cowboy Jedi. Darth Vader showing up at the end was thrilling as always, and the Rebel Alliance blasting out of hyperspace with Bail Organa in the finale was a moment impossible not to cheer. The amount of gravitas the series built up was surprising, as well as the rare sense of genuine peril that happened when five characters and a droid banded together to thumb their nose at a galactic empire. 
Not to mention the last minute return of a certain beloved female character. The fire of the Rebellion might have been spreading across the galaxy in the story, but the news of a long lost padawan returning spread across the Internet just as fast. “Ashoka Lives” is certainly two of the most reassuring words to come out of the Wars in a while, and they also started healing a lot of old wounds. 


The season two trailer looks even more amazing, and from what I’ve heard, the premiere was well worth the four hour wait at Celebration. If only Hasbro could actually get some toys on the shelf, all would be well on the Lucasfilm animation front. 

It also didn’t hurt that The Star Wars Heresies book got a shout-out in two consecutive issues of the Star Wars Insider magazine. Not only that, but the content in general seemed to have vastly improved. The connecting symbiosis of the Force appears to be flowing much more smoothly between the official channels and fandom. To see friends and fans and fellow writers contributing and posting content in the official magazine, as well as on the blog, never fails to bring a smile to my face. That is new and fresh and extremely gratifying.

Of course, the biggest news is undeniably the launch of a new sequel trilogy, as well as stand alone films debuting once a year. This has been the focus of endless debate and discussion, with the most optimistic in fandom citing the template that has proven so successful for Marvel Studios.

As for me, I’ve been hesitant. My interest level took a long time to be peaked, which is good, especially given the stranglehold of secrecy that has existed around Episode VII. I suppose my biggest concerns have been that all of the mythic weight and depth imbued in the film saga up until now would be largely lost, as well as just the general oversaturation of the market. 

Those concerns still linger, but then we finally scored a title. The Force Awakens. For the record, I do like it, as it does carry a bit of mythic mystery about it. Then we snagged an actual teaser trailer, with John Boyega popping into frame, resembling one really disoriented stormtrooper. For the record, the teaser did capture my attention pretty exclusively, especially the closing shot of the Falcon skimming the desert surface with TIE fighters buzzing by. And yes, I also like the look of the hotly debated crossguard-lightsaber, apparently an ancient Sith relic that looks primitive and dangerous and not entirely stable.

Happily, the new droid BB-8 also seems to imply that a bit of that Lucasfilm whimsy and silly will be left intact, the little robot zooming about like an electronic beach ball.  #DareToBeCute


I suppose I should and perhaps will provide actual commentary on all this stuff, but that will have to be at a later date. 
But guys, it was the second trailer that launched in front of thousands of screaming fans at Celebration VII that finally got me, that whittled away all my defenses. It blew away my skepticism like the Death Star blowing away Alderaan. 

While I was at work Thursday, I knew the JJ Abrams/Kathleen Kennedy panel was taking place in California. Rumblings in the Force indicated that a new trailer might debut, and I am, and probably always will be, a sucker for trailers. Sure enough, I found it online. 

With no ability to wait till I got home, I basically sequestered myself in the middle office at work as soon as I could, closed the door, killed the lights, broke out my earbuds, and proceeded to watch almost two minutes of footage from The Force Awakens. There is so much to be said about the content. 

For now though, I’ll just admit it was one of the most magical viewings of anything ever. Hearing Luke’s voice echo his lines from Return of the Jedi was a borderline religious experience. I watched it two or three times and finally just had to leave the computer. I had to honestly just walk around a bit in an effort to process the images I’d just seen, and the sounds I’d just heard. 
For the rest of that afternoon, screening after screening after screening was held in that middle office, with me making the setting as cinematic as possible. Sadly, no popcorn was on hand.

Let’s be honest, though. We were all essentially reacting like Matthew McConaughey in that viral video from Interstellar. Just as thousands of fans were doing at Celebration Anaheim, so was the rest of the world doing on the internet. There was laughing, cheering, crying, and maybe just a touch of hyperventilation. 

The main thoughts that I personally wanted to express on this post go a little something like this. 

Yes, Lucasfilm as we know it is over. As is Star Wars. Some people are extremely happy about this. Some people are less so. For the past year, I have wrestled with my own feelings or lack thereof. I have tended to fall into the latter category. Part of me would have been okay had Lucas decided to wrap up the saga with a nice, tidy bow, finish the Clone Wars, release all the films in 3D in the cinema, and simply make a graceful exit. No one could have said the run hadn’t been extraordinary.

But you know what? He didn’t. Whatever direction things go in now, that’s the way things are going to go. The Maker could have locked up all those lightsabers and droids and wookiees and troopers and emphatically proclaimed “no more.” But he didn’t. He sold the franchise to Disney, and gave the continuing saga a thumbs up. Even if it didn’t include his creative input.

As Lucas himself has said more than once, Star Wars is about “letting go.” As Shmi Skywalker told Anakin before he left Tatooine to begin his new life as a Jedi, you can’t stop change, any more than you can stop the suns from setting. That really is a profound image, and Lucas demonstrated the reality of it by opening up his galaxy to another set of filmmakers.

And for better or worse, that’s what’s happening.

Yes, I would strongly prefer the sequel trilogy to be based on Lucas’ story treatments. Yes, I would want all six films to be treated with the same level of deference and respect. And yes, I would like it if the new stories to be told dictated the new course at hand, rather than what fans think they may or may not want.

But you know what? If the Maker can let go of all this, maybe it’s time for all of the fans to do the same. Part of what burned me out on the Wars is all the drama and stress and second guessing that goes hand-in-hand with this fandom, like a mynock glued to a power cable. I have no desire to stare down the barrel of fifteen years of “whole saga” fans shouting about how JJ Abrams “raped their middle adulthood” because he thinks of Star Wars as a western or doesn’t like as many digital effects or probably isn’t going to offer any screen time to Jedi discussing midichlorians.

Sometimes, I think our younger fan selves would look at us and declare us legally insane.

Life is far too short not to simply take a minute or two to just enjoy stuff. And that’s what I loved about the new trailer. For the briefest of moments, all our adult posing and posturing was out the window, and we were just united in the joy and wonder and magic of the whole thing all over again. And that’s what it’s all about. 

So if the current trajectory of the saga is to break out the new X-Wings and TIE fighters - as opposed to Naboo starfighters and droid control ships - and have them blast away at each other for a few movies, I can live with that. And if I found myself unable to do so, then it really is time to do what I was kind of planning on doing, and walk away from Star Wars altogether.

But after that trailer, I got my Jedi groove back. No, it may never be what it once was. But that’s just the way of things. The way of the Force. The suns are always going to set.

What interests me most about the trailer is the last line. This was the crowd pleaser. Han Solo and Chewbacca showing up in an older reflection of an iconic pose from A New Hope was the moment that put a tear in many an eye, including my own. This is our childhood, alive and well, and in the Millennium Falcon no less. While I have absolutely no urge to go back to my childhood, this is tugging on some very real, deep, primordial stuff in all of us.

To those who are arguing Abrams is doing some major emotional manipulation here, I can only smile and nod. Of course he is. And I don’t even blame him. Like most of us, maybe he’s just trying to get back to that place where it all started. Whatever his take on the things that came after the original trilogy, I have little doubt the chord he was trying to strike in all of us with that moment honestly exists in him as well.

Quite frankly, he just wanted to go home again.

That place that is as much a promise as a memory, that is as familiar yet as ethereal as the strains of the Star Wars theme itself. For me, it worked. It resonated. Amazingly so. And that he got there in just a two minute trailer is no small feat. It’s at least enough for me to want to follow him wherever he goes, to see how close he can get us to that fabled, holy galaxy that Lucas dreamed up in his imagination in the seventies. 

“Chewie, we’re home.” 
I hope so. It’s a place we’ve all spent a long time looking for.