I want to fall in love again.

poeAll I want from The Force Awakens is to fall in love again.

The first time I saw A New Hope, I fell in love. Not with the film itself, or the Star Wars universe, or even the Battle of Yavin. I fell in love with the characters. I wanted to be like Princess Leia. I loved Han and Chewie’s friendship. I loved the bickering droids. I even loved how evil Vader and Tarkin were. Most of all, I loved Luke Skywalker.

I still love Luke, and the promise of Luke in TFA, even the most miniscule appearance, has me absolutely giddy. I have my theories about what he’s been up to in the galaxy, but I’m trying to go into the film with a clean slate. I’m not expecting him to have children, or to have trained Jedi, or to still be in contact with his friends and family. Basically, all of my worst fears about TFA. However, I have hope that J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan will give us a more interesting story for Luke than Obi-Wan 2.0.

But this column isn’t about Luke Skywalker. This column is about falling in love with a new set of characters. I already have attachments Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron, and I don’t even know them yet. I already want to give Kylo Ren a big noogie. Captain Phasma already scares the bejeesus out of me. I want to know more about Maz Kanata and Supreme Leader Snoke. And General Hux gives me very confusing feelings. All in all, I’m already way more invested in these characters than I was during the prequels–and I like the prequels.

I’m excited to meet all the new characters, yes, but one of them stands above the rest: Poe Dameron. Yes, I find Oscar Isaac painfully attractive. Yes, I have a thing for X-wing pilots. Yes, I loved seeing his parents in Shattered Empire. It was kind of inevitable that I’d fall in love with Poe before even seeing TFA.

Everything we learn about Poe makes me like him more and more. He’s got a cocky streak to him, which is typical for pilots in the Star Wars universe. Unlike Han he’s extremely dedicated to the Resistance, and he’s served the Republic his entire life. I find that sort of dedication extremely appealing in characters–probably one of the reasons I love Wedge Antilles so much. We know Poe is so dedicated to the Resistance that General Organa herself chose to send him on some important mission. From the trailers, we also know that things don’t go so well for him, but I’m hoping his resilience sees him through, just like with Leia.

I relate to entertainment most when there’s a character I really connect with. In the Original Trilogy, it’s Luke Skywalker. In The Hunger Games, it’s Peeta. In Mageworlds, it’s Beka and Jessan. In Legends, it’s Mara Jade. I’m hoping that, with the Sequel Trilogy, my love affair with Poe Dameron is solidified. Not only Poe, but I’m hoping to meet a whole bunch of new characters I fall in love with.

And if Luke Skywalker swoops in and saves the day, well, I’ll be the happiest girl in the world.

Star Wars: Unafraid and Lady Lovin’

Here’s the thing: I am not a movie buff, I am not a film student (anymore), and I almost never have strong feelings about anything. I go into everything with no expectations except cool women and pretty cinematography. You can imagine that a lot of recent films have disappointed me.

The Force Awakens has already given me everything I want, just in the trailers and teasers and TV spots. A female lead, gorgeous shots that are a blend of old and new, and Leia. My God, do I love Leia. I am perfectly content with just the teasers and trailer, and the thought that there is an actual whole movie coming out next week is so overwhelming I can’t even directly acknowledge the thought lest I explode. Or cry. I can’t look directly at the idea, I must tip-toe by the realization that this is actually happening.

But I have no fear (and really, do I ever?) I’m not known for my good taste in films, I unabashedly love terrible or unpopular movies. Can I count the number of times I’ve watched the Prequels? No, but it’s probably a higher number than the OT. The only thing that could legitimately make me dislike The Force Awakens would be awful treatment of the lady characters, but I have such utter faith in the team at Lucasfilm I hardly believe that will happen.

I do have hopes, though. Hopes that Rey and Finn will shine, and will inspire other films to cast women and people of colour in starring roles. Hopes that I will want to watch this movie as often as I crave watching The Hunger Games. I want to fall in love with Rey and Finn and the other characters the same way I have so fallen for their actors, so funny and charming and kind. I want this film to give me feelings so strong I realize I can never love any person as much as I love TFA. Finally, I desperately want to see Han and Leia have sweet moments. I will ship them till my dying breath.

Star Wars has always been an innovator, a leader, an inspirer. As long as I can remember, Star Wars has been in my life—from babysitting me when my parents didn’t want to deal with a bored toddler, to me wanting to be Obi-Wan’s sister with a pink lightsaber when we were pretending to be in Lord of the Rings back in primary. Those orcs didn’t stand a chance.

The OT showed me that I could be a princess and still be in space with cool ships and guns. The PT inspired me in part to take up politics so I could be like Padme, inspiring change in a country I felt so strongly for (a failed venture, that in part lead me back to falling in love with Star Wars.) The Clone Wars gave me Ahsoka, who I love so dearly I am actually astounded by the depths of my feelings. Abrams is wrong, Star Wars has always been for everyone.

I want the new films to give me, and all young girls coming into this fandom, women (note the plural) to look up to and give us hope for our futures, or inspiration for our present. This is really all I am hoping for: a positive force for women and girls of all ages. I don’t care if Rey is a Skywalker or a Solo, I only care that she is everything Star Wars has been needing for over thirty years, and that she’ll be someone for little girls to look up to and love.

I also really want Finn and Rey to hold hands. Romantically. Oh God, please don’t be related.

Fun Times in Space Land

I have a lot of hopes for The Force Awakens, as I imagine all of us do. I hope that the characters are done justice by the script, I hope that listening to the soundtrack will bring me to tears, I hope that BB-8 (oh, BB-8, rolly droid of my heart) is on screen for a significant portion of the film. But my biggest hope for TFA is quite simple.

I hope that The Force Awakens is fun.

Really, really fun.

As it is, I’m so hyped up for TFA that even if our worst nightmares come to pass and it is terrible (God forbid), I probably won’t notice for at least two months. I want The Force Awakens to be a movie I associate with the word “fun” long after the initial glow of “hooray a new Star Wars movie” fades.

Now, fun certainly isn’t necessary for a movie to be good or even enjoyable. The Hunger Games movies are good but not what I’d call a fun time. Grave of the Fireflies is brilliant but in many ways it is the opposite of a fun movie. I don’t want The Force Awakens to be a good, serious movie.

I want it to be a ridiculously fun space opera that makes me smile, even if some plot points are eye-rollingly silly, or if some lines are very easy to mock, or if it mixes up units of distance with units of time. I want to have a blast watching this movie again and again and again, for decades to come.

Star Wars has always been fun and I don’t want that to stop being the case.

The Force Awakens: A New Hope

Star Wars was my life growing up.  I could quote all of the movies, and then one Christmas an aunt bought me Shards of Alderaan as a gift, and I realized there was an entire expanded universe out there for me to read.  And holy cow, did I read them.

I’ve talked about what it was like to grow up as a geeky teenage girl before, and therefore why it’s so important that Star Wars feature women.  At that point, Lucasfilm hadn’t yet been sold, and the prospect of Episode VII was still something that would never ever happen.

And yet, here we are.  We stand ten days away from Episode VII, which, to all appearances, features a lead female character.  It features an African-American actor as one of the leads, and a Hispanic actor, and Jessika Pava, the Hapa Pilot Queen of Bria’s Heart.  The commercials for tie-in products have featured girls challenging antiquated gender roles–one using that exact phrasing, mind you. The Campbell’s soup commercial for the Star Wars chicken noodle soup features a little boy and his two dads.  A Disneyworld commercial shows an adult African-American woman playing with a lightsaber.  This Halloween, I saw X-wing pilot uniforms for little girls.

Matthew made a compelling argument in his TFA hopes column that Star Wars has been a signpost for the way the movie industry moves.  If he’s right (and I see no reason to think he’s wrong), it’s a good time to be a Star Wars fan.

As most of you know, Shane and I had a Little Jedi (though my Imperial sympathizing husband might give her a different name) at the end of August.  She is a beautiful little girl who had a Wonder Woman onesie for Halloween, complete with shoes (with capes on the back).  My best friend cross-stitched the Avengers logo on a onesie for her.  Brian and Nanci bought her a BB-8 plushie.  Shane and I bought her a DC friends Golden Book.  One friend works at the Marshall Space Center and sent NASA merch.  Another friend sent Superman and Batman bibs.  The very first thing I got for her–and the way we announced that we were expecting a little one–was a Green Lantern onesie.  Oh, and we’ve already shown Little Jedi her first episode of Star Trek.

This child is already close to peak geekiness, and she hasn’t even learned to crawl.

But as she gets bigger, she’s going to have options.  She doesn’t have to go hunting in the boys’ section for t-shirts with Green Lantern symbols.  There is an entire line of Star Wars clothing for girls, thanks to Her Universe. She will see girls playing with Star Wars toys on television.

So if there’s one thing that I hope for out of TFA (other than a really awesome Star Wars movie), it’s that I hope that the incredible combined media power of Disney, Lucasfilm, and the Star Wars franchise continues to have an impact on the way our society sees girls, women, and their interests.

My little Jedi deserves that.

Star Wars: Only Sith Deal in Absolutes

My feelings on Star Wars are often complicated. So much of my love for the series is tied up in what we don’t strictly have any longer in canon. Like the rest of us, I started with this series in the films but I did so in the early 90s. This was at a time before the remastered editions in 1995, before the special editions in 1997. Star Wars was something that I watched on television, typically about once a year around Thanksgiving. They were shown in marathons and I remember them being hosted by Billy Dee Williams.

All that is to say that Star Wars was one of those films that I appreciated in the same kind of way you enjoy holiday films. As I got older and the films became more available, they came to mean different things to me. When I was very young, I enjoyed them because they were just cool! Laser swords! Blaster pistols!

I was eight when the THX editions were released, and this is where I really got my connection to the series. I saved every penny I could find to scrape together the $30 it cost to buy the box set. Here, it began to mean something different to me. Instead of just being entranced by the spectacle of it, I enjoyed the story: a young man achieves a destiny he never knew about growing up, fulfilling the same kind of dream that many have at that age.

As a teenager and adult, I still enjoy the films but, again, in a different way. They’re fun and served as a wonderful base from which to build a deep setting with so much potential that was capitalized on by authors like Timothy Zahn and Mike Stackpole.  All that having been said, I have developed some nit-picky things over time about it that I will soundly admit are very particular. Twenty years of MST3K will do that to a guy.

There is one issue I have with the films, though, that I think is truly legitimate.

So, coming to the theme that all of us are pursuing in the time up to the release of The Force Awakens, what do I hope for in the new films?

Star Wars, especially the original trilogy, watches like an anti-Imperial piece of propaganda. Everything in those films is portrayed in black and white, all good or all evil and the only in-between is really Han in the first film and he still manages to overcome his mercenary nature and become a permanent fixture of the good side.

What I want is nuance.

The lower down the scale of power someone is, the closer to their communities they will be. Leadership of the Empire is oppressive and evil, but the employees of the Empire are people. There were accountants and cooks and maintenance workers on the Death Star who likely had no idea that there was a plan to fire on Alderaan. In a setting where the market is at least partially a command economy, the best work that many people will be able to hope for is with the government. People are what make up the parts of the Empire that civilians are going to interact with every day, and individual people will be good or bad. It can’t have been all evil or the Alliance to Restore the Republic would have been made up of more than a handful of worlds.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; The Empire was an oppressive regime, but it kept the lights on, the economy was stable, and trade was safe from pirates. Some people have to have been content with it. The universe as we knew it in the prequel films was one that showed us a setting where things worked, but honestly, not well. The Republic was trapped in gridlock, the will of the government was carried out by a non-governmental, quasi-religious order based on a group of people with a genetic quirk and no civilian oversight. At some point, I will have a whole rant about the ridiculously poor management and rule of the Old Republic, but now isn’t the time for that. The important thing here is that any organization that is looking to restore the Republic exactly as it was is looking through the rosiest of tinted glasses.

We’re going into a whole new series here. The expanded universe may have been relegated to a wholly separate canon, but instead of seeing it as a loss, we should look at it as an opportunity for more shades of gray in the primary continuity, where we have heroes that are more torn over their actions and have to question the methods or motivations of their leaders.

Nuance, subtlety, depth. That’s what I hope for. Star Wars has been a film series meant for younger demographics, not solely, but it’s always been a focus. I want a more adult series. Not to say that I don’t want there to also be films that are fairly lighthearted like what we have had before, but Disney is making more than just numbered films and I hope that they take advantage of it. They’ve proven that they can have a variety of tones across a single setting with the Marvel Cinematic Universe; now, I just want that applied here, also.  At the risk of being accused of advocating for gritty, grim-dark realism, some entries could use some grime.

I got into Star Wars as a child, but I grew up. I just want to see Star Wars do the same.

Star Wars: Industry Prophet

My hopes for The Force Awakens are somewhat broader than simply hoping the film is entertaining, or that it ushers in a new era of quality Star Wars live-action content the likes of which hasn’t been seen since 1980. Each Star Wars film, good or bad, has had a considerable impact on not only the pop culture conversation, but on the disposition and direction of the film industry itself. The idea that The Force Awakens will be no different seems a foregone conclusion. My hope, then, is that the resulting shift is a positive one.

Look out New Hollywood, the Stormtroopers are coming!

New Hollywood was NOT trampled under the jackboots of the Stormtroopers, despite what some critics and historians claim.

Even claiming the Star Wars films were responsible for those shifts in the industry is an oversimplification. The first Star Wars film, in 1977, is often cited as the death knell of the “New Hollywood” era, a period auterists tend to look on as a golden age of cinema, when filmmakers were given the creative freedom to realize their artistic visions without much, if any, studio oversight. Easy Rider, The French Connection, Taxi Driver — even films such as The Exorcist and The Godfather are considered part of this wave of unbridled creativity and artistic freedom. And then, if you believe certain critics, Star Wars came along — a big-budget, crowd-pleasing “popcorn” film of dubious artistic merit — made a ton of money, and ruined everything for the “serious” filmmakers.

Films like William Friedkin's The French Connection were an example of studios' "hands off" policy during the '70s. [20th Century Fox]

Films like William Friedkin’s The French Connection were an example of studios’ “hands off” policy during the ’70s. [20th Century Fox]

This is, of course, not precisely fair. The shift away from “New Hollywood” and complete creative control from filmmakers was already well under way by the time Star Wars came along. Disastrous productions like Apocalypse Now, and self-indulgent bloated flops like Heaven’s Gate were the primary catalysts for a re-establishment of studio control. Huge moneymakers like Jaws, Grease, even Rocky, helped pave the way for the era of the “blockbuster”. And the then-unheard of practice of wide-release — that is, releasing a film simultaneously in theatres across the county — standard practice today, of course, was not pioneered by Star Wars or even Jaws, but by The Godfather.

Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather pioneered the now-standard practice of wide release. [Paramount]

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather pioneered the now-standard practice of wide release. [Paramount]

It may be more fair, then, to look at a new Star Wars film (or, perhaps more practically, a new Star Wars trilogy) as less the direct catalyst for a shift in the industry, but more as a signpost, an indication of which way the wind is blowing. Computer-generated special effects were not exactly new when The Phantom Menace came along; morphing effects had long been used in films like Terminator 2 and Star Trek VI; Jurassic Park, Jumanji, and Dragonheart all featured computer-generated creatures; and even Independence Day, praised for it’s realistic practical effects, utilized computers to generate the F-18 Hornets, missiles, debris, and other elements. Indeed, digital effects had already been introduced into the Star Wars universe by way of the Special Editions. The CGI effects in The Phantom Menace were undoubtedly more numerous (and more noticeable) than in any film that had come before, but films like Titanic, The Matrix, and The Mummy were already proving that more complicated effects could be created using computers. If The Phantom Menace hadn’t pushed the proliferation of CGI forward, something else would have.

We

We have Jar-Jar to thank for The Lord of the Rings. Kinda.

So, what are my hopes for The Force Awakens? My hope for The Force Awakens is that it gives me hope for the industry as a whole. Studio films are becoming larger and more unwieldy as time goes on. Blockbusters are all the studios are producing nowadays, at the expense of low or even medium-budget films. Most key, quality has been replaced by spectacle, nuance by noise, character by destruction. Now, a shift away from this is an unrealistic expectation to place on a well-known, highly-anticipated franchise film with a huge special effects budget and owned by one of the largest companies on the planet.

Films like Man of Steel and Star Trek Into Darkness (pictured) proved that bigger isn't always better. [Paramount]

Films like Man of Steel and Star Trek Into Darkness (pictured) proved that bigger isn’t always better. [Paramount]

But what if Kasdan and Abrams bring nuance and character back to the blockbuster? What if the change in the air predicted by and reflected in this film is of a smaller and more manageable scale for big-budget studio extravaganzas? I’m not expecting Star Wars to make studio heads suddenly start pouring their resources into smaller films — how could I, since Star Wars is, at this point, as big as it gets (and is primed to make truckloads of money)? If anything, The Force Awakens would seem primed to reinforce what studio heads already believe — that bigger is better, and original scripts are a loser’s game.

IS an awakening coming?

IS an awakening coming?

But what if there’s a sign, a hint woven into the fabric of the film, a quality to the movie’s texture — something, anything that might indicate this industry is stepping back from the abyss it finds itself teetering at the edge of? I’m grasping at straws, I’m well aware. But the industry can’t sustain this “bigger is better” business model for much longer. The bubble is going to pop. I’m not claiming the “death of cinema” is on it’s way, but a change is coming. Realistically, it has to be. And what if The Force Awakens is, in some small way, a harbinger of that change?

Star Wars has always been a signpost of things to come. My hope for this film, in a nutshell, is that the signs are good ones.

I’m Terrified to Watch The Force Awakens

star-wars-force-awakens-official-posterI love Star Wars. I really really really love Star Wars. And I love a lot of Star Wars. I may have some kneejerk bad reactions to some aspects of it but I’m really easy to please when it comes to reading a new book or experiencing something new. If it’s Star Wars, if it feels like Star Wars, and if I enjoy it, I’m happy. I also unabashedly love the Prequels. If you want to see me go from 0 to 100, just suggest in my presence that they should be skipped when showing someone the movies for the first time. Those movies, just like the Original Trilogy, were a huge part of my childhood and I can’t imagine loving Star Wars without them.

And that’s where the fear comes in. I am terrified to watch The Force Awakens because of the very slim chance that I won’t love it.

Yoda kinda nailed it with his whole “truly wonderful the mind of a child” comment in Attack of the Clones. Kids don’t overanalyze films like Star Wars and they probably don’t spend months and months before the release hearing little tidbits and piecing together parts in their minds. I was 9, 12, and 15 years old respectively when the Prequel films came out and I instantly fell in love with each of them. Part of that had to do with being so young and having zero expectations about what I’d see in each movie. (Well, I knew that Anakin was going to fall to the Dark Side and I was pretty sure that everyone was going to die in Revenge of the Sith. Went two-for-two on those revolutionary predictions.) As so many others before me have noted, none of us know what to expect from these films. For the first time since 1977, we’re all going in blind for a brand new Star Wars story that could take us anywhere.

But what if I don’t like it? What if I have to change my standard “I love all of the Star Wars movies!” to “I love most of the Star Wars movies!”? What if I fall to the dark side and become the thing in fandom I hate most: someone who focuses more energy on something they don’t like instead of what they love?

Okay so that last one’s never going to happen. I can at least take solace in the fact that the chances of me becoming one of those people are approximately 3720 to 1. I’ll probably at least somewhat like it. Probably. Hopefully. Is this what a preemptive crisis of faith feels like? I think this is what one feels like. I don’t like this feeling. Someone take it away. And take this fear I have of not loving The Force Awakens with it!

But I digress because, as our editors here are sure to soon tell me, that’s not the point of this series. We’re supposed to be talking about what our hopes are for The Force Awakens and not our somewhat irrational fears. The good news is that the movie is already delivering from the trailers alone. We’re getting kickass female leads, X-Wing battles, blazing lightsabers, and the return of Leia Organa. In fact, they’ve already gone one further and given me Jessika Pava who shall now be referred to as the Hapa Pilot Queen of My Heart. Add in a very impressive cast and crew and all the signs point towards this being another awesome peace of the Star Wars puzzle. So, at the end of the day, what’s my hope for Episode VII?

Please, sweet baby Yoda, just let me love this Star Wars movie as much as the rest.