I like movies that swell the heart with some kinda wonderfulness, jiggling cells on their axis in heightened animation and forcing the beam of a smile across an upturned face awash in film-glow. It’s kinda rare, but the new “Star Wars” had just such an activating affect on me, igniting a powerful nova of imagination and nostalgia.
As the opening credits roll on “The Force Awakens” and John Williams’ soul-deep anthem bursts forth, expectant breath arrests in my chest as I flail toward my seatmate with unbidden glee. My in-dwelling little girl, sometimes dormant within the husk of an adult, leaps to attention, pupils dilated, hands clasped in worship, 8 years old again. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing wrong with this film. Not a thing annoys me, which is surprising considering its hyper-driven hype and my propensity toward easy annoyance.
British badass Daisy Ridley is believable, excellent and wholly worthy of participation in this newest chapter of the franchise. Her chemistry with John Boyega is sweet and genuine, and I fall hard for the loveable droid BB-8. The real gold of this film, however, is found in the return of old friends and loves and heroes. I nearly weep when Harrison Ford enters the frame as the elder Han Solo, taking command of the Millennium Falcon once again after so many lost years. Carrie Fisher, a little worse for wear after some hard living but regal nonetheless, walks forth as the grand matriarch Leia, and I nearly die of admiration. What little girl born of the late 70s or early 80s didn’t want to be Leia? She was up there, man, owning it, sexy as all hell, seething with attitude and intelligence. My kinda non-Disney princess. R2-D2 and C-3PO are met with squeals of delight and never before have I wanted so badly to crawl into the wet-dog arms of Chewbacca for a smelly Wookiee embrace. I’ve missed him. I’ve missed them all more than I could’ve possibly realized, and perhaps their revived presence reminds me that I’ve been missing a forgotten part of myself.
Despite sitting in a theater full of half-dead emotionless assholes, I cheer and clap and cheer and clap for the return of each long-beloved character with zero restraint. If I have one complaint about this film it’s this: I want more. I want Yoda and Ewoks and Jabba and I want them now. Take me to Kashyyk, home of the Wookiees; Endor, forested playground of the Ewoks; and Dagobah, Yoda’s swampy abode. It’s intoxicating to have these imaginings alive again, and it gives me great hope for our ever-evolving New Republic and our own Rebel Alliance (you know who you are).
Someone recently posted on Twitter that he wished people would get as excited about real life as they are about “Star Wars.” To that, kind sir, I respectfully reply that in many ways, “Star Wars” is real life. It’s art and joy and magic. It’s the hero’s journey and the balance between light and dark. It’s hope and promise and rebellion and pride. It’s myth and koan and fable, creativity and imagination and the very essence of aliveness we so desperately need in the world at this time. I love that my friend Zen dressed in costume for opening night with her husband and three sons to share in the full-circle excitement together, parents and children equally ecstatic, their imaginations firing like particle accelerators.
I remember going over to my friend’s house as a kid to sneak into her older brother’s OFF LIMITS bedroom, a shrine to all things boy: KISS rock paraphernalia, Garfield, G.I. Joe and a mind-exploding collection of Star Wars figurines. I wanted those Star Wars toys with the fire of a thousand suns and eventually acquired the Ewok Village, the Millennium Falcon and an AT-AT Imperial Walker at a neighborhood garage sale. Score!
At least in regards to my own geeky friends, Star Wars seems to have united us since childhood in a collective obsession with space, sci-fi and fantasy. We’re the kids who grew up with Tron and Dune and She-Ra and He-Man in the golden age of arcade video games like Galaga. We’re Trekkies, Jedis, dreamers. Star Wars has been coalescing our spirits into a colorful nebula since 1977, and the memories triggered by “The Force Awakens” are potent, bringing forth tears of nostalgia and an appreciation of a childhood spent freely dreaming of the galaxy.
It’s nice to be reunited with the familiar music, faces, voices, names, lingo, lands, worlds and planets. I love them all and I always have. Cheers to you, J.J. Abrams. Proud you should be of your resurrection of something so precious to me and to so many others. May the Force continue to be with us all.