Spencer’s Soapbox: Learning to Love Star Wars Again

(Author’s note: Spencer’s Soapbox is a weekly column here on SHH where yours truly tries to spur a conversation on specific topics. Dive in to the latest installment below and check out the previous ones by clicking here.)

I don’t remember the first time I saw Star Wars, but it was years before the “Special Edition,” because I specifically remember the VHS boxes at Blockbuster. There’s no telling how many times my brother and I begged our parents to rent them for us, or how many times our Dad reluctantly agreed but ended up watching the film with us anyway. Then came the theatrical re-releases, the barrage of toys, and finally the new trilogy. I was young enough when the prequels were coming out that they were tailor-made for me, Jar Jar and all. Even as I became a snobby film fan in high school, I would have still put “The Empire Strikes Back” in my Top 10. All that to say that eventually my interest in Star Wars started to wane.

This isn’t an unheard of life prospect. We grow out of things we like all the time, our tastes change, our motivation for even enjoying something might be gone, but something about Star Wars made it different. There was never a time when the door was completely closed for that galaxy far, far away – I was still always peeking through even if I was telling myself I didn’t care about it. So yesterday, when the new trailer debuted, of course I was going to watch it, but in those brief seconds, they made me care again.

Lucasfilm is gearing up to make Star Wars an even bigger juggernaut of entertainment than it has been for the past 40 years. From the comics to the cartoons to the new films – seemingly an annual release for the foreseeable future – the building blocks are there for this to become the Atlas holding the corners of our entertainment world. This certainly has some people rolling their eyes, and I’ll admit to throwing an eye roll in there too, but you cannot deny the passion that people have for this world and the warmth that it spreads across its fans. Couple that with the shear breadth of possibilities and it’s a lot to even grasp.

So how does Disney and Lucasfilm make sure that we don’t get tired of Star Wars? In fact, what’s to keep the magic of the franchise from running out after Episode VII? It’s an easy answer – the Marvel movie method. They’re already banking on this working for them with new films every year, but I mean it a step further. Marvel Studios has made sure that the superhero “bubble” will keep from bursting by making each of their films different from the last, even focused in a non-hero genre. Star Wars must adopt this model and they already are. There’s no doubt the traditional “Episodes” will always be these grand fantasy epics they’ve always been, but these in-between “spin-off” movies need to try new things. The rumored “Death Star plans heist” for Rogue One is exactly what I mean. A heist-Star Wars movie is not something one would ever expect, but it’s got my interest piqued.

Even if none of this is interesting to you in the slightest, you cannot brush away the impact this colossal expansion will have. Films like Star Wars matter because they’re what get kids interested in things. Kids will learn to read because of Star Wars books, they’ll learn to draw because of the designs of the aliens, they’ll learn to appreciate story, narrative, and characters from these films, and they’ll grow up to love movies because of them. The future filmmakers of the world will grow up with these movies and it will make them want to make the great films of the future. Not just blockbusters either, because every kind of filmmaker is influenced by Star Wars, and if we can get another Rian Johnson, Wes Anderson, or Guillermo del Toro out of it then the world is better off for these movies existing.

Star Wars was one of the thousands of pieces that helped form me into the person I am. I can remember the joy I felt from seeing the films at our local dollar theater, how I totally ripped it off for stories I wrote in 4th grade, how we would re-create the movies using our home video camera, the hours spent playing Battlefront, and the countless toys that would litter the floor. My book of Star Wars closed, or so I thought – I had finally accepted that the types of media I really liked were no longer in that wheelhouse (though I’d still see through the end of A New Hope on cable). Then I saw the Millennium Falcon flying through the engine of crashed space cruiser, Darth Vader’s burnt-up helmet, and an old Han Solo in his old hunk of junk, and I knew I was about to crack open that book again.