The Greatest Story Ever Told
My earliest memories go way, way back to when I was 2 and 3 years old. One of the most vivid memories from that era was watching Star Wars IV: A New Hope at the drive-in theater with my folks. I was not quite 3 years old. When you’re a little kid, everything around you is literally gigantic, larger than life. In my memory Darth Vader’s massively huge head filled an enormous theater screen that took up the entire night sky. That image was seared into my brain. I had nightmares about Vader for years afterwards.
And for years afterwards I was obsessed with all things Star Wars. I’ve watched each installment of the original trilogy at least 100 times. For my 16th birthday, all I wanted was a party at the local Holiday Inn, a Molly Ringwald-esque kiss from a guy like Jake, and a VHS set of the Star Wars trilogy. When I turned 21, the prequel trilogy had been released so for that birthday I asked for a complete box set of all Star Wars movies to date. Two years ago, I received the Blu-ray version of the movies from my husband for Christmas. As a testament to how much I love Star Wars, I can say I actually enjoyed the prequel trilogy.
Star Wars kicked off my lifelong love affair with the fantasy and scifi genres, and a fascination with blending technology and mysticism. It remains for me one of the most enthralling stories I’ve ever experienced. I won’t expound on the awesomeness of Star Wars storytelling or moviemaking or cultural influence; many others have already done that. What I will say is that what makes Star Wars Star Wars are its fans—the readers, the movie-goers, the gamers, the cosplayers.
You do not have a story without an audience; you have a soliloquy. A story without its audience is like a lake without water. Of course to make an interesting story, an I’m-gonna-have-this-tatooed-on-my-butt kind of story, it has to emotionally resonate. And that’s what Star Wars does so well. Teenage angst? Check. Rebelling against authority? Check. Oppressive father figure? Check. Loving the bad boy? Check. Heroic feats by the underdog? Check. Check. Check. Check. Star Wars has emo in spades.
Ultimately a story is not as much about the characters within it as much as it’s about the relationship between the characters and the audience. The point of telling a story is to get a reaction from someone, otherwise you wouldn’t share the story at all. It’s only in reflecting that story does it become something truly meaningful. The power of story lies in it its ability to move us. Without an ‘us,’ nothing can be shifted.
The first time I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I went with my husband and a couple of friends. I was ecstatic, and all the thrills and chills I'd anticipated were there. The second time I saw the movie, I went to the theater by myself. Alone, in a dark room with a bag of popcorn and without the distraction of close bodies nearby, it was easy for me to sink into a profound sense of homecoming. I felt quite nostalgic, as memories of the many hours I’d spent steeped in Star Wars during my childhood washed over me. Flashbacks to all those fantasies about becoming a kick-ass rebel warrior gallivanting around the universe with my star fleet in tow. Pinning up my long brown hair in over-the-ears cinnamon roll buns. Dreaming about finding my own Han. Reminiscing about a time in my life when my biggest foe was a man with a black cape and a bad chest cold. As the closing scene in Force Awakens faded to black, there were tears in my eyes.
In an article discussing the creative process that Roger Guyett, head of visual special effects, underwent for Force Awakens, Guyett explains “…a lot of people don’t think hard enough about what they’re doing. They’re creating a piece of the movie, yes, but, at the end of the day, they’re trying to create an emotional reaction in a human being.”
Yup, Mr. Guyett (and Mr. Abrams), you successfully had me emotional. Whatever the critics might say, I love this latest chapter in the Star Wars saga because it moved me.