It’s been quite a long time since I’ve written here on my blog… but I remembered something today that inspired me to post this.
Today, December 18th, 2017, marks the two-year anniversary of the night I first saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As you can read in my review, I loved the movie and still do, so much that I wrote a story about it for my Creative Writing class this semester. So, I thought it would be cool to celebrate this occasion by sharing that story here on my blog.
I hope you enjoy! Also, I’ll be writing my review of The Last Jedi here quite soon, so keep your eyes open if that interests you!
“There Has Been an Awakening”
November 28th, 2014. The trailer was released. For days, it was all anyone could talk about.
Anyone who wasn’t me, that is.
I had already made a solemn vow to myself that I would avoid it all. Trailers, news articles, YouTube videos, clothing and toys—anything that gave even the slightest hint at what was to come. It all had to go. I was going dark.
Whenever I tried to explain this to people, they stared. Or laughed. Or simply looked exasperated as they said: “Oh, come on! It looks sooooooooo good!”
I was adamant. I explained to them that this meant a lot to me. For many, it was simply a great series of movies. But for me, and countless others, it meant so much more than that.
“I don’t want to know anything,” I told them. “This movie is really important to me. I want to be surprised. I don’t want any part of it to be spoiled . . . nothing. Not even what the new characters look like! I want it all to be completely new and fresh when I finally see it on opening day.”
It didn’t matter to me that people still sometimes thought I was nuts. All that mattered was that, in just over a year’s time, the Force would awaken once again.
Star Wars. Two small words. So simple, yet so powerful.
I could still recall the feeling I had at the age of five, when my family gathered in the basement in front of our old tube TV to watch a movie together. My dad inserted the VHS tape of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope into the VCR. The lights went off, and my siblings and I joined my parents on the sofa’s pull-out mattress. I stared at the screen in anticipation, not knowing what to expect, not knowing that I was about to experience something sublime.
As soon as the movie was over, I had to let my feelings out somehow. All I could think to do was scream “that was so cool!” at the top of my lungs and run around the house making “pew pew!” laser sounds and pretending to swing a lightsaber, also with accompanying sound effects.
That one night of my childhood changed my life. It was more than just a movie; it was the gateway to my own powers of imagination. It was because of Star Wars that I began making up my own stories in my head. It was Star Wars that opened my eyes to the magic of movies and the power of a good story. Later in life, it was Star Wars that made me fall in love with film scores—and, subsequently, what made me fall in love with music and playing the piano.
Countless hours of my childhood were devoted to Star Wars. I pieced together LEGO kits of ships and scenes. I played video games starring LEGO versions of the characters and events. I pored over books detailing the galaxy far, far way, absorbing gobs of information that the majority of moviegoers didn’t care about.
It was more than a movie. It was a universe that inspired me time and time again in so many ways, from the big picture of the story down to the smallest details: the parts of a lightsaber, the names of the planets that weren’t even seen in the films, all the different alien species, the cross-sections of the ships—you name it, I wanted to read about it.
Despite all this, my enthusiasm for Star Wars faded into the background as I entered high school. I still loved it, of course, but there had not been a new film for years. George Lucas had finished telling the story he wanted to tell, and I’d long since accepted that I would most likely never see any more Star Wars films than the six I already knew. The story was finished.
In 2012, I was a senior in high school, and my world was rocked by the news that George Lucas had sold his film company, Lucasfilm, to Disney. That included Star Wars. And Disney confirmed that new films were on the way, the first of which being the yet-to-be-titled Episode VII, due out in 2015.
I was ecstatic. The story that had inspired me so much, the story I thought was over, was continuing. As excited as I was, I tried to put it in the back of my mind. 2015 was a long way away, after all. However, I allowed myself to be giddy whenever a nugget of news came out about the movie over the next several months.
“J. J. Abrams has been confirmed as the director of Episode VII.” Awesome!
“John Williams will return to compose the score.” Fantastic!
“Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher will reprise their roles of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia.” Woohoo!
“The official title of Episode VII has been revealed: The Force Awakens.” Wow!
I was perfectly happy to enjoy this kind of news. But on November 28th, 2014, just over a year before the release of the new film, it was time to go dark.
I stuck to my guns. Three trailers in total were released over time. I didn’t watch a single one.
Oh, I couldn’t avoid everything. Otherwise, I would have had to disconnect from the Internet entirely, and probably never leave the house either. Neither was an option. So, I did come across a few things.
Within a day of the first trailer’s release, my Facebook feed blew up with pictures of the new villain and his untraditional lightsaber design.
Months later, after the second trailer dropped, I caught a glimpse of some promotional art next to the new merchandise while out shopping. It depicted a young man and woman. The man had dark skin, short black hair, and was wearing a tan leather jacket. The woman had fair skin, dark brown hair tied into three buns at the back of her head, and wielded a staff of some kind. I assumed these must be the two new main characters and lamented the fact that I’d seen them. At the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder who they were and what their stories would be.
With just one image, Star Wars was beginning to inspire me all over again.
Two months before the film came out, the official poster was released. I caved to my desires and looked at it. Mesmerized, I stared at it for a while and tried not to wonder too much about how everything on the poster would play into the film. The main characters I’d already seen loomed large, the woman with her staff and the man now holding a familiar blue lightsaber. The masked villain with the untraditional red lightsaber cast a huge presence, while a mixture of familiar and new faces peppered the rest of the poster: a grizzled old smuggler, a princess turned general, a daring pilot, a trio of droids, and more.
Along with the new poster came the final trailer, and some people were expecting me to have given up by this point and watched it. They were wrong.
Some said I was (and still am) obsessive. “I don’t know why you make such a big deal out of this. It’s just a movie. Just watch the trailer, man, it looks awesome!”
But I refused. The time was almost here, and all I wanted to know when I finally walked into the theater was one thing and one thing only:
I am about to see a brand-new Star Wars movie.
The rest would follow.
And follow it did. After years of waiting, of hoping . . . it was finally time. It was finally December 18th, 2015, a date I had obsessively been counting down to for months. I shivered along with my younger brother, my three younger sisters, and one of my two older sisters as we braved the biting, chilly wind to enter the theatre. I took in the familiar smell of popcorn and the sight of the purple carpeting as we approached the left hallway in which, I guessed, the line had already begun to form.
We had secured our tickets two months before. But I wanted to get the best seats possible. So, being the nut that I am, I had suggested that we get to the theater an hour and a half early, hoping we would be one of the first in line.
The plan worked. As we turned into the hallway, we saw that there were just four or five people already there. As my siblings and I got in line behind them, I grinned from ear to ear. Shortly afterward, three of my friends arrived and joined us: Abby (fellow nerd), Stephen (my best friend since before high school), and Eli (who had dressed up as director J.J. Abrams for the occasion, his hair spiked up and large thick glasses framing his face).
Everyone was here and accounted for. Now all we had to do was keep doing what we’d been doing for years.
I didn’t mind too much for a while. I talked and laughed with everyone who had come with me, but all the while, anticipation grew to bursting point in my chest. As the minutes snailed by, a real crowd formed, and the enthusiasm in the air was tangible. Around 7 o’clock, I hopped up and down a little on the balls of my feet. Showtime was at 7:30. Any minute now and they’d open the auditorium doors.
I gasped as I watched the theater workers do just that.
Now it really, truly was time.
My companions moved with me amid a buzz of excitement. As we walked through the doors into the dim theater, I literally shook with nerves.
“Oh my gosh,” I said. “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh—”
“Are you excited, Matthew?” Eli asked, grinning.
“It’s happening,” I told him, my eyes wide. “It’s happening. This is real. This is really happening.”
I could hardly say anything else as we all found near-perfect seats around the middle of the auditorium. Not too far back, not too close, and not too far off-center.
The ads were a blur. The first couple of trailers passed without much thought on my part.
And then, I made a decision that almost ruined everything.
I didn’t really have to go at the moment. But I wasn’t taking any chances. I hated having to leave the theater to pee, and there was absolutely no way I was going to leave the theater during this movie. Not wanting to take that risk, I got up and left to use the restroom, thinking I still had plenty of time before the movie actually started. There would be at least another five trailers or so.
As I speed-walked back into the auditorium, though, the lights were dimming down.
As quickly and quietly as I could, I scrambled back to my seat. My companions looked relieved. They had clearly been panicking too, knowing how much I would hate missing even one second of the movie.
And just as I sat back down in my seat, it began. The word “Lucasfilm” slowly faded in and out on the screen in silence, and a hush fell over the crowd around me.
I held my breath as the next few words appeared.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .
I covered my mouth with my hands. I didn’t blink. I didn’t breathe.
And then, the orchestra blasted out of the speakers as the huge yellow words zoomed into the infinite field of stars.
I smiled. I clapped and cheered along with everyone else. The joy was tangible. My smile only got bigger as more words scrolled slowly up the screen.
THE FORCE AWAKENS
Luke Skywalker has vanished. In his absence, the sinister FIRST ORDER has risen from the ashes of the Empire and will not rest until Skywalker, the last Jedi, has been destroyed.
With the support of the REPUBLIC, General Leia Organa leads a brave RESISTANCE. She is desperate to find her brother Luke and gain his help in restoring peace and justice to the galaxy.
Leia has sent her most daring pilot on a secret mission to Jakku, where an old ally has discovered a clue to Luke’s whereabouts. . . .
For the next two-odd hours, I could hardly stop smiling. Just about everything was pitch-perfect.
I loved the two new main characters. Rey was strong, endearing, hopeful and vulnerable; Finn was brave, funny, and wore a big bounding heart on his sleeve.
I loved the new villain, Kylo Ren, a young man struggling with standing in the shadow of Darth Vader—his idol—and who lashed out unexpectedly with fierce venom.
I loved the new daring pilot, Poe Dameron, who was equally at home with wisecracks as he was with swashbuckling acts of heroism.
I loved the droids both familiar and new. I loved seeing Han, Leia, and Luke again. I loved the story, which felt familiar but with plenty of brand-new touches and twists. I loved the filmmaking skills on display: cinematography, lighting, editing, sound design, music.
And a couple of times, I was so awed by something that happened that I wanted with all my heart to leap out of my seat and scream for joy.
In other words, Star Wars was back.
For many people, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was just a movie. A good one, absolutely, but just a movie. For me, it was a rekindling of my childhood, my imaginative spirit, my love of great stories.
When I walked into the theater, I was a twenty-year-old college sophomore. For the entirety of the movie, though, I was once again a starry-eyed five-year-old sitting on a pull-out mattress in the basement watching an old movie on VHS with his family.
The Force had awakened, and it was with me once again.