I remember seeing The Return of the Jedi as a seven year old. Sure, I’d seen A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. I couldn’t wait for the good guys to bust in and reclaim Han (remember, we didn’t know for sure he could be rescued but we hoped), and for the evil Empire to be destroyed. In those days (the early 1980s), Darth Vader was definitively evil, Ewoks were cute and not too annoying, and Luke was on the rise. The film itself was remarkable, spellbinding, mind-blowing, and without comparison – those boring Star Trek movies with all of their witty banter weren’t even on my radar.
My friends and I ran around the playground battling unseen evil. I was Luke because I was blonde, and he was good; my darker haired friend Jeff was Han; our tall friend was Chewbacca. We had a friend named Leia on whom I had a crush (ironically destroyed by the acknowledgment that Luke and Leia were, gasp, related) but she would only periodically move into the sphere of our imagined Tattoine and Dagobah. We could swing from the monkey bars, careen down the slides, slashing our sticks like sabers and riding our imaginary speeders.
Life was good, and Star Wars was even grander in our collective imaginations, before the war of G.I. Joe and the hassles of the real world (in middle school) crashed in. We didn’t care if Han shot first (of course, he had then) or if Jabba walked (he was a slug, not a lizard); the complexities of life and the disappointments of Jar-Jar Binks had not yet invaded the sphere of our imaginations.
In many ways, that’s the way I want to remember Star Wars. Before the awareness of how Anakin turned bad, and then was redeemed again. Before the world taught us that the rebellion in one galaxy is the ‘right’ in another. Before Jar-Jar and Disney crashed into the simpler model of what it meant to be part of the Force. [I’ll bet you that I hate BB-8.]
That’s why part of me doesn’t want to go to see The Force Awakens.
It’s the part of me that doesn’t want to see my heroes older and fatter. It’s the part of me that thinks Indiana Jones should forever end with Harrison Ford and Sean Connery riding off into the sunset (in Last Crusade, for the uninitiated, before Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) and Mark Hamill should stick to voiceovers.
It’s the part of me that doubts that CGI and grander special effects can top the moments on the playground. It’s the part of me that has only rewatched the original trilogy a half-dozen times, and why I’ve avoided rewatching the terrible first three episodes. [Haters, bring it.] It’s the part of me that doesn’t want complicated politics or a sliding scale of morality to invade the grand, Lewisian-like (or is it Tolkien) epic that says that the good guys are on a redemptive arc and that ultimately, with great sacrifice, they will overcome.
It’s the part of me that has said, quite loudly, if Luke is Kylo Ren, that I’ll start a bonfire of Star Wars memorabilia that will be seen for miles. [No, I won’t raid Target; that’ll just be my own collection.] It’s the part of me that thinks, quite grumpily, that the genius of J.J. Abrams and his Alias, Lost, etc. back catalogue still can’t quite be ready to be canonical.
But then I remember the spring of 1984, walking into that theater knowing that Luke will destroy, annihilate, kill his father who is pure evil. And how the grace-filled redemption of Vader unlocked something in my heart that reminded me that love and forgiveness could be for everyone.
And that spark, some might call it the Force, burns brighter again in my heart.
There’s nothing that could keep me from seeing The Force Awakens, is there?
Do or do not, there is no try.