Three years ago today, The Force Awakens had its Los Angeles premiere. I would see it four days later, on the 18th of December, after avoiding spoilers like the plague. Two years ago tomorrow, I was preparing myself emotionally to cry my eyes out at Rogue One, which I got thoroughly spoiled for, and last year, I was counting down the hours until I could get into the theatre to see The Last Jedi and see what all the fuss would be about.
I have written so much about Star Wars for so many outlets that I find myself struggling to remember which of my stories I have told too many times (all of them have been told to death), but I am less interested in the saga of how I first fell in love with the series today than I am chronicling my sometimes fraught, always passionate relationship with the newest entries in the saga.
Modern fan consumption means that I approached the new films far differently than I did the originals or prequels, mostly due to age and access. By the time I fully went online for fandom, Revenge of the Sith had been out for a year. I read a couple Star Wars fanfics, but for the most part, I focused on whatever new, shiny fandom happened to catch my eye that month. I grew up with online fandom, and then fandom presented me with a chance to dive back into Star Wars again.
Obviously, it’s hard to say that everyone loved the new Star Wars movies. Some people have legitimate critiques, and others just hate that women are in the lead roles. Some of the things I dislike about the films are some people’s favorite parts (yes, I’m talking about Kylo Ren here). To say one size fits all for any film is ridiculous, but especially after the divisive The Last Jedi, it would be silly to say that these ones are universally beloved. Still, for me, they represent something more.
There’s a hope in Star Wars that will never quite go away, no matter how dark the films get. Take Rogue One, the darkest of the new films. All the named new characters die by the end of the film, all in pursuit of the dream of the rebellion. It’s heartbreaking, and yet we end the film with a sense of hope because they succeed. We know that their actions will lead to the Death Star being destroyed and, ultimately, the Rebellion winning. The last line of the film is even “Hope,” spoken by permanent symbol of hope: Leia Organa.
The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi wrestle with the idea of hope in different ways. The Force Awakens is A New Hope, with Finn, Rey, and Poe bringing hope to the galaxy in their own different ways. The Last Jedi deals with hope slightly differently. The characters all fail, but they find the hope to go on and continue fighting. In Leia’s words, again, “Hope is like the sun; if you only believe it when you see it, you’ll never make it through the night.”
If there is one thing we have all needed in the past few years, it’s hope. Rogue One came about a month after the 2016 presidential elections. If ever there were a time we needed hope, it was then, and quite frankly now. The news is terrifying. It seeps into everything we do, say, and think. I find myself writing more and more about how the entertainment beats I cover are impacted by the news cycle. There’s a pervasive sense of hopelessness, and December especially brings a sense of exhaustion as we recap a heinous year and realize we’ve got another one rolling steadily towards us.
This is why I have loved the December Star Wars tradition, even if this year brought Solo in May. It’s a little spark of space opera-themed hope to get us through the winter. Something bright, and shiny, and full of promise. Next year will see the end of the Skywalker Saga, and that is a heavy thought. To think that the end of this particular story, which has been part of our lives for over 40 years, is approaching is upsetting in a way I assume will wind up feeling similar to the end of Harry Potter.
And yet, the franchise will endure. There will be anthologies and spinoffs and new television shows and books. The Star Wars universe will expand in new ways. To quote The Last Jedi again, which is more than I ever assumed I’d quote that film at this time last year, no one is ever really gone. And yes, part of the reason Star Wars will linger is because Disney wants that money, but the Skywalker Saga will continue in our hearts long after the final credits no matter what.
Happy anniversary, sequel trilogy. To many more years of fond memories.
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