With The Force Awakens just around the corner, I’ve been pondering what it means to be a Star Wars fan…
You don’t have to be a Jedi Master to see that the anticipation surrounding this new movie transcends anything we’ve seen before, film or otherwise; preview trailers have zoomed around the internet faster than the Millennium Falcon can complete the Kessel Run, and the pre-ticket sales (US$50 million and counting) pretty much speak for themselves. The fresh-faces that adorn the posters – John Boyega and Daisy Ridley – have been transformed into household names overnight thanks to a marketing campaign that has splashed their gorgeous mugs across every magazine cover, bus stop and ad break possible. Simply put, the impact this film is going to have is massive, and it couldn’t be a better time to be a fan. But what is it about the series that resonates so clearly with people everywhere?
|Humble beginnings: Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker|
gazes off at the horizon
Star Wars’ reputation for revolutionary visual effects and blockbuster storytelling is deeply ingrained in our collective cultural zeitgeist – from the opening shot of Darth Vader’s (James Earl Jones) immense Star Destroyer pursuing the vastly outgunned Rebel blockade runner to the nail-biting Death Star assault, George Lucas’ Original Trilogy opened our eyes to a vast galaxy of outstanding visual effects and creative filmmaking. But, and this is a big but, I’d argue that this isn’t the most influential element of Star Wars’ rapidly broadening legacy.
Neither is it the memorable characters, dialogue or visual design. We all know of Han Solo, his snappy one-liners (“Wonderful girl. Either I’m going to kill her or I’m beginning to like her”) and his iconic costume, but again, this isn’t the most persuasive argument for justifying the popularity of Star Wars.
No, to me, there is something even greater that ties all this together, an underlying set of values and themes that elevates this work of fantasy into something tangible and observable. It’s real and ethereal, alien yet instantly familiar. I am of course talking about a force, or should that be the Force with a capital F, that promotes Lucas’ work from mere films to a pseudo-religious experience.
In the first full-length trailer for The Force Awakens, the whispery tones of Luke Skywalker are used to illustrate how the mystical ties his family shares with the titular all-encompassing power is what ties together the entire series: “The Force is strong in my family” he says. “My father has it. I have it. My sister has it. You have that power too.”
|The next generation: Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega)|
and BB-8 are attacked by the First Order
You see, much like how the Force binds together every living creature in the Star Wars universe, so too does it create a vast, meaningful shared experience for Star Wars fans across the world. Not because it allows us to move objects with our mind, but because it moves emotions in our heart. You only have to look as far as the #ForceForDaniel campaign that raced across social media last month to see the real world impact that this “hokey religion” can have.
Tasked with petitioning for Daniel Fleetwood, a terminally-ill fan to see the new film ahead of schedule, Star Wars fans across the globe joined forces to create one voice; a united force, if you will. After succeeding in garnering the attention of Disney, Lucasfilm and The Force Awakensdirector JJ Abrams, Daniel was granted his wish of viewing the new film. He sadly passed away just five days later, but the significance of the campaign wasn’t lost on anyone.
|A poster for The Force Awakens from|
Disney's D23 conference
Star Wars isn’t simply a film, nor is it just a cinematic landmark that redefined the genre. It’s a journey that millions of people have and will continue to experience and collectively share – whether they queued around the block back in ’77 or crashed a website or two racing to buy tickets in 2015.
For me, the significance of the Star Wars series has grown over time; at age 8 it simply meant glossy posters adorning my bedroom walls, as well as dozens of action figures, LEGO sets and Micro Machines littering the floor. Now, at age 22, it means something far greater than just the toys (although they are still pretty awesome). It means fond childhood memories, exciting films and cool characters, but also a sense of community that other series’ simply can’t manufacture, no matter how many films they crank out.
May the Force be with us all.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in cinemas across Australia this Thursday (December 17th). My review should be up on this blog around Saturday evening.
This article was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.