Why Is "The Force Awakens" Such a Really Big Deal?

I didn’t think I was going to cry about the new STAR WARS movie.

But I did.

First, the context: when I was nine, we were on a family vacation to Victoria. We were staying at my Uncle and Aunt’s place. My bedtime was 8:30, at the time. (It moved up to 9PM when I got engaged.)

Anyway, I hadn’t really been to the theatre many times before. (That’s another story.) But I distinctly remember my Dad browsing the “Arts & Entertainment” section of the newspaper and getting a gleam in his eye. He hustled over to my mom and began discussing something I didn’t quite understand.

Something about a movie that was playing. Something about staying up past my bedtime.

I didn’t know what STAR WARS was, but the idea of staying up with my Dad to go to the theatre sounded amazing. Like any other kid, I immediately switched into a sincere and desperate form of begging. My mom said we could go, and my Dad said we had to hurry. And off we went.

When we got to the theatre, the place was packed with people. It was the first “rerelease” of the original series–“A New Hope”–and people were dressed up for the occasion. 

We got there just in time.

When the lights went down, and the bombastic John Williams score began accompanying the yellow marquee of text, I was overwhelmed. 

This movie just felt so much bigger than me–it wasn’t pandering to my interests or tastes. It was telling me the story was already well underway before I sat down in the theatre. And then, when the huge Star Destroyer appears in that opening scene?

I was converted.

Now, eighteen years later, I rushed to the theatre again to see THE FORCE AWAKENS. And it’s really great–you should see it. But I won’t spoil anything. (Seriously, I’m the guy who brings headphones to the movies so I don’t have to hear the audio of the trailers: that’s how surprised I want to be.)

But there’s something more to STAR WARS than just a big expansive universe. There’s a reason it’s tapped into our cultural psyche and become bigger than any other comparable sci-fi fantasy story. 

It’s hope. 

STAR WARS is always about ordinary people facing insurmountable odds, and throwing themselves in the way. 

Evil, in the STAR WARS universe, is very real and very powerful. And it’s relentless, too. It causes most people to despair–to settle into a compromised existence that merely tries to stay out of the way of oppression.

Until a few ordinary people form a rebellion, and stand up with a smile.

STAR WARS captures the spirit of how children would like to make the world right. Things can be grim, but nobody gets to stay a cynic. Obviously, there are lightsaber fights and thrilling space battles, but that isn’t the emotional centre of the story. 

The thing that gets you–the thing STAR WARS does better than any other movie I’ve seen–is give you the simple childlike hope that the world can be a better place when regular people decide to resist “the way the world is” because they know what it could be.

So when I saw a clip for the new movie, I cried a little bit. I was thinking of the world the way I understood it when I was nine, and thinking about how that imagination hasn’t left me. I was thinking how good it was to be there with my Dad.

I was thinking about how simple and innocent it is to believe regular people can still make a difference–even in a galaxy not so far away.