When I was nine years old, I saw Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. It was the summer of 2002, and my family was vacationing in California for the first time. My parents had exposed me to Star Wars early on in my childhood, as well as a slew of other fantastic movies every kid should watch before they grow up. Walking into that theater was merely as exciting as every other trip excursion we’d experienced thus far. By the time we left, though, I was a changed person.
As the opening montage rolled out accompanied by John Williams’s bursting score, I was whisked off to a galaxy far, far away, immersed in the battle of good versus evil set before me. I laughed and cheered and wept and gasped, taking in each moment with awe and wonder.
For many, the Star Wars prequels are a subject of scorn, but to me, they are the key that unlocked my love of cinema. Since that fateful day in Los Angeles, I have had a deep love and appreciation for the Force and its subjects, worshiping the series as one of the most magnificent creations of our time.
When the trailer for The Force Awakens first appeared, I watched it over and over again, dazzled by the X-Wing fighters’ sweeping flight and choked up by Chewbacca and Han Solo’s reunion. In the weeks leading up to its release, I have be no less short of restless: consumed with cast interviews, fan theories and behind-the-scenes looks. Having watched the movie the night it premiered, I can wholeheartedly say that the Force is strong with this one.
Don’t worry, I won’t give away any spoilers. Because while the plot is fantastic, it’s the heart of the movie that makes it such a wonderful addition to this universe. When JJ Abrams first signed on to direct, he spoke about his hesitations, citing that he almost felt too close to the material as a die-hard fan himself. That passion and delicacy is conveyed through every design detail, every nostalgic allusion, every lens flare (because there are quite a few). The cast is stellar (humans and droids, alike), each embodying the playfulness and complexity needed for this epic saga. And everything in between, from the costumes to the sets to the special effects to the score is of the highest caliber. It’s all just…..perfect.
What matters most to me, however, is not the way a movie looks, but the way it feels. The Force Awakens takes its viewers on a grand adventure complete with battles, comedic quips and emotional ups and downs. Yet through the plot twists and turns, we see our heroes and villains evolve. Extraordinary circumstances deviate them from their courses that force them to make decisions and take action. We applaud them when they do what’s right. We agonize over their indiscretions.We share the burden of their struggle. And while we are enthralled by the alien landscapes and advanced technology, everything mysteriously feels familiar….
That’s what makes Star Wars timeless: its ability to transport us through time and space, only to reveal that we all share the same triumphs and strife. These characters feel real because they are extension of ourselves, trying to navigate the obstacles life throws at us while upholding what we believe. Learning to trust, taking risks and sacrificing for the greater good are not just themes of the Jedi, but they are issues we grapple with every day. I may not battle Sith Lords, but the fight between the light and dark side is ever-present, taking form in all shapes and sizes. We sometimes don’t choose correctly, but Star Wars shows us that regardless of our previous mistakes, there is always one force stronger than anything else in the galaxy: hope.
It is through hope that we become who we are: learning from the past and fighting for a better tomorrow. The Force Awakens inspires us to have hope for our newfound heroes as they journey through this movie (and presumptuously two more). But it also prompts us to evaluate our own lives and situations: counting on our intuition to guide us and call to action moving us forward. Because despite the negative forces plaguing any circumstance, it is hope that give us a reason to preserve and awaken our inner Force.