Wednesday, October 21, 2015

That trailer. You know the one.

Chances are the Force Awakens trailer has polarized everyone you know. Star Wars is a beloved franchise, and we've seen it reinterred and badly molested enough times to get the heebee jeebies every time someone brings up some new property designed to capitalize on it. Is it possible that the Force Awakens just... might... be... good?

Well, yes.

Yes indeed. Here's my reasoning and my argument. Disagree if you will.

The galaxy far far away that this trailer reveals is one that is badly broken. The promise of the Rebellion was not fulfilled. The First Order, the junta inheriting the power of the Galactic Empire, is a real and dangerous force. The heroes of the old Rebellion are missing, dead, ineffective, or still fighting.

In many ways, the world of the new Star Wars mirrors our own world. The Rebellion, the organization steeped in Jedi tradition which values passivity, inaction, and peace most of all, is akin to the forces taking shape in the mid-sixties and early-seventies that left us the world of broken promises and shattered dreams of the post-Boomer generations. We are living in the shadow of that fallen Empire much like the characters in the film.

Indeed, the returning war hero who is disillusioned with battle and the scavenger living at the fringes of society speak directly to the economic crisis and the leadership failures we experienced since the turn of the century.

The movies as we remember them seem to be the legendarium of the new Star Wars. They may not even be literally true; the ghostly swell of the majestic music, the wonder in the eyes of Rey and Finn as Han recounts the old stories... these are the hallmarks of a past that is seen now as something hallowed and sacred. For Finn and Ren, that past is the equivalent to our very own and very real viewing of the movies as children. They are our counterparts in this broken world.

This is not only a post-9/11 Star Wars, but a post-imperial Star Wars; the collapse of the old empire has left the galaxy unfocused, the subject of internecine warfare, strife, and sorrow. There's even an argument to be made that the rebels did the galaxy a disservice. After all, at least under the Galactic Empire there were periods of relative peace. Now, with the fractured remnants of imperial juntas and rebel successor-groups, there are warlords who command with absolute authority. The imperial bureaucracy was racist, crushing, and wholly awful... but it was a system. The new galaxy looks, from the few things we've seen, more like Chechnya or post-Roman Europe than it does like the bright new dawn of the old Expanded Universe...

And that's all to the good. It's complex, there are stories to tell, and it mirrors our current anxieties. These are the hallmarks of good storytelling, particularly when we're talking about Science Fantasy.

So, am I excited? I'm not ashamed to say yes. I'm willing to be disappointed.

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