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Something wonderful happens a month from today: The Force Awakens opens, which is an awkward phrase, but what is Star Wars without a little awkwardness?
I still own an original vinyl copy of the Star Wars soundtrack, purchased with my own money in 1977. It was the fourth album I ever bought, preceded by a folk album by Valdy, a Bill Cosby album, and something by Abba. I was a weird kid.
I used to blast Star Wars on the stereo and stare at the pictures inside the double-spread – because it was a double-album, you know; it must have taken weeks of paper routes for me to afford it. I would sit there and listen and recall the drama from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
Or to be specific, Halifax. That’s where I first saw Star Wars. I was the first person in my Grade 6 class to see it, possibly my entire school. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve told people that. In terms of cool, this is where I peaked. If I ever become single, it’ll be part of my dating profile.
Star Wars is my Woodstock. Star Wars defined how my generation would henceforth demand to be entertained. Star Wars became the yardstick. At church camp that summer, some kid argued with me that Logan’s Run was better than Star Wars. Logan’s Run? Church camp? Yeah, I was awesome cool.
Like that moment of cool, Star Wars would never be replicated, not even by the sequels. Empire was dark; I mean, Han and Leia? Gross! Jedi was okay because the Death Star was back. But Star Wars would always be the best, and I had the soundtrack to prove it… and the posters, and the magazines and the R2-D2 model kit.
Years later, I couldn’t get excited about the prequels. Times and movies had changed. We had become numb to spectacle. But a few months ago, I watched the first teaser for The Force Awakens, and as the Millennium Falcon burst onto the screen accompanied by the opening blast of John Williams’ score, I got goosebumps. I felt giddy. I couldn’t wait.
In preparation for the new film, I decided to watch all six Star Wars again. As I started with Episode 4 , my son, now 20, informed me that he had never seen Star Wars. Never seen Star Wars! Gasp! A new hope. Sit right down, son.
He lasted three minutes.
“Maybe you have to be 12 to get it,” he said, and left the room.
And that’s when it hit me. Star Wars is not that good.
The concept of The Force is as flimsy as Mark Hamel’s acting, the dialogue Jar-Jar stinks, and if you call your ultimate genocidal weapon a “Death Star,” you are not a despotic empire to be taken seriously.
But that very simplicity may be why full-on adults like me are so excited about a new Star Wars. In an age of atrocities complicated by politics, religion and culture, we’ve seen too much of the Grey Side. We long for a pre-ironic age when good and evil were clearly defined, and redemption was not only possible but easy, even for someone who blew up planets for a living.
For kids who grew up with Star Wars, the force is strong in this one, and that force is nostalgia.
I know I should have a bad feeling about this, that there’ll be more cardboard characters and stilted acting and Luke Skywalker is going to go all Atticus Finch on us, but who can pass up the chance to be 12 again?
And if I could manage to be the first person in my office to see it, I will once again be cool.
An audio version of this piece aired on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway.”