Earlier today, the second trailer for the J.J. Abrams-directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released to the internet. Unlike the movie's first trailer, which provided no details other than reassuring Star Wars fans that the movie totally exists and will feature all the things that Star Wars movies should have (X-Wings, lightsabers, explosions), this one actually gives us a sense of what the film might actually be about. Namely Luke Skywalker (again played by Mark Hamill) will be passing The Force onto some kid (presumably his own, or the child of Leia and Han Solo), people will be fighting on Tattooine, the Dark Side of The Force has returned, and someone—presumably a grizzled Han Solo and weirdly ageless Chewbacca—will fly the Millennium Falcon into the tail pipe of some gigantic ruin of a spaceship.
With a film franchise as beloved and tied to our culture as Star Wars is, it's less important that The Force Awakens is actually, y'know, good, as much as it matters that it exists. Star Wars is the type of thing that fans (including me) have a bunch of preconceived notions about—we've already decided that we're either going to love it or hate it, and at this point, we're just looking for clues about how we're going to love/hate it and why.
Judging from the trailers, it seems like The Force Awakens is shaping up to be a pretty good sci-fi movie for children, albeit one that's tied to a whole lot of familiar symbols. Seeing noted aircraft crasher Harrison Ford reprise his role as Han Solo—who was the original films' sole complex character with motivations that extended beyond "act good/bad; shoot blaster in corresponding direction"—sent a tinge of joy up my cerebral cortex, and seeing R2D2 do R2D2 stuff gave me a lesser, but still faint, hope that this movie might actually be good.
On the other hand, that might just be the nostalgia talking.
There's not really a nice way to say it—the Star Wars prequels sucked. They were movies for children, full of simplistic cutesy horseshit like podracing and Jar-Jar Binks, meant to separate parents from their money, both through shelling out money for movie tickets as well as action figures. This alone is bad enough, but where the original Star Wars trilogy drew from classic modes of epic storytelling, the prequels featured convoluted plots concerned with trade negotiations and backroom political plots. By the time the third movie, Revenge of the Sith, hit theaters, fans went into theaters begrudgingly, with the knowledge that this was a zero-sum game. Though Revenge of the Sith featured a much more coherent plot than its predecessors as well as that extremely cool lightsaber battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin, for many it was too little, too late. The prequels weren't necessarily concerned with doing things that good movies are supposed to do (namely, be actually good), as much as they were concerned with doing things that Star Wars movies did. As anyone who's ever listened to a middle-period King Crimson album can attest, working only within the context of your own canon is rarely a good thing.
With all of that in mind, I'm optimistic about The Force Awakens. It seems like George Lucas handing the reins off to J.J. Abrams has given the series a shot of life—or at least an understanding that you can't just make a shitty, complicated children's movie, throw in some lightsabers, and call it a day. Whether The Force Awakens actually follows through on the promise of making a movie that's genuinely entertaining as well as remaining loyal to the Star Wars universe remains to be seen. But for now, I'm hopeful.
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