San Diego Comic Con is over, and if you’re reading this then you probably saw the amazing footage released at the Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel. Sure, there’s hype. Sure, the media machine is over-clocked and running full tilt. Sure, there are a lot of rabid fanboys (myself among them) who can’t wait to see the film. But beyond all that, this time around it felt somehow… different. It’s an intangible thing, a subtle thing, but like the Force this thing surrounds us, penetrates us and binds the fandom together.
We saw hints of it in the teaser trailer. X-wings blazed across the screen and the Millenium Falcon over blue skies with TIE Fighters firing madly. Goosebumps welled on our skin. Could it really be our beloved Star Wars had risen like a Force Spirit from lingering disappointment? “Let’s not be hasty,” we told ourselves. “We remember back when the first teaser came out for The Phantom Menace. Stay calm.” Besides, we weren’t sure about that new funky lightsaber.
Then the second trailer was released. A familiar voice reminded us that “The Force is strong in my family.” A familiar visage, its sins burnt away in a warrior’s funeral pyre looked out at us. The hand of an old friend, now cybernetic and inhuman, reached out. It’s funny, I remembered Princess Leia’s words as I recalled this long-forgotten joy swelling up in me – something I remembered in feelings and images. Something I thought I’d set aside. Then, three words seemed to set it all free: “Chewie, we’re home.”
At San Diego Comic Con the final confirmation arrived. We saw real actors, real effects, and most of all real affection in everyone involved for this creation. Star Wars was fun again. To paraphrase Ben Kenobi “That’s a feeling I’ve not felt for a long time – a long time.”
Abrams talked about the sureality of it all and thanked the fans in his first breath. Over and over again, we saw love – honest, sincere and innocent – for Star Wars. We saw “Bubba Joe,” a real, physical Star Wars alien walk on stage. It was real. It wasn’t a cartoon rabbit or a tennis ball covered in fancy graphics. It was present – with us right there.
As the panel continued we saw new heroes arrive and old friends return. Again, they felt real. It didn’t feel like Hollywood shmooze. Even the notoriously curmudgeonly Harrison Ford was wearing a smile and said it was more fun than he expected. That’s as close to fun as we’ve seen out of Ford in decades. Boyega, Ridley, and and Issac were energized and seems excited to be part of this legacy. Fisher and Hamill were thankful, perhaps even dare I say proud, to be back.
Then we saw the SDCC 2015 promo reel. Real sets, real actors, real everything – and everyone seemed to genuinely enjoying themselves. Sure, it could be Hollywood hype and fanboy hope – but I prefer to believe that Star Wars is fun again. Since 1999 it felt like the Star Wars saga might have been devoid of that. It had blasters, lightsabers, droids, and countless other call backs to the original trilogy – but something was missing and many fans felt that Star Wars had become diminished for that loss. Some even felt somehow betrayed.
“Nothing’s changed, really. I mean everything’s changed, but nothing’s changed. That’s the way you want it to be really.” Mark Hamill’s words sum it up perfectly.
But it takes more than the love of the creators to make it fun again. It takes us – the fans. Have faith. Believe. “Let go your concious self and act on instinct.” As fans, we can let the sour taste of previous films sour our palette an make us paranoid. Or, we can choose to love Star Wars again. Go on, give it a try. Let it be fun again. You won’t regret it.