Arts, Movies, Off Campus, Featured Column, Column

A New Hope For ‘Star Wars’

The new ‘Star Wars’ trailer hints that there may still be potential for a franchise once maimed, beat with a bat, and left on the side of the road.

I’ve been sitting on this for a while—since the Friday over the late Thanksgiving break when I watched the Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens trailer in the parking lot of a grocery store within the confines the family van.

I could just say that I really like Star Wars and that would save you from reading the rest of this column and me from embarrassing myself. With so much having already been said in newspapers, “newspapers,” blogs, Youtube, by journalists, “journalists,” fans, and Stephen Colbert, it would be humanely impossible to document the entire cultural response. So why not add one more?

It’s the best movie trailer I’ve ever seen, and I once wrote a column for this very paper professing my love for movie trailers. It was everything we expected—the iconic Millennium Falcon hurtling through the sky and lightsabers—and everything we didn’t—a black storm trooper and a red lightsaber. Even on my 11th viewing, I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the television (because watching it on a laptop is an act of selfishness, which leads to the dark side).

The trailer is proof that you can take something some old and make it new. The old Star Wars always filled me with hope. One of my clearest memories as a child is seeing Star Wars: A New Hope in theaters with my dad and older brother. I understand that this makes absolutely no sense, given that the movie came out in 1977 and I was born in 1993. Two hundred words into my first column as an editor, and I’ve already exposed myself as both a nerd and a believer in reincarnation. One of those is probably true. Because I’m a relatively sane human being, I’ll admit it must have been the movie’s re-release sometime in the late 1990s. What a glorious time.

What makes Star Wars great is that it’s really just about a kid on a farm who believes in something—that his life should mean something, and eventually the Force. The Force may be a hokey religion, but it’s one that works. It lets you achieve some level of selfhood and also lets you lift spaceships and jump really far—which are all really good things. It’s also about a scoundrel and the greatest fictional character of all time who believes in nothing but his own blaster and isn’t afraid to shoot first (as he does in the original edit of the movie) as he goes on to woo a princess with his general ruffianism. If you like stories, they don’t get much better than that. Then, Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace happened.

Lucas’s updated trilogy tackled many of the same things—friendship, lightsaber duels, hereditary destiny. And by tackled, I mean maimed, beat with a bat, and left on the side of the road. It was a shame, so different than the movie I saw a couple years before in a crowded IMAX theater. Again, I promise it actually happened.

Because college is on my mind given that I’m a student who attends college, I can’t help but see this phenomenon here. The Boston College that I first entered two and a half years ago was a lot like that first screening. Obviously, I didn’t visit the school before showing up for lucky Orientation seven, so everything was new. It seemed like a pretty hopeful place. People seemed to like being here. But eventually, the school that I thought I attended and the imaginary one that people talked about—one that wasn’t as bureaucratic and impersonal—faded away. It hadn’t yet given its older iteration a complete and total beatdown, but if the second Star Wars trilogy taught me anything, it’s that it can always get worse.

As I watched the Force awaken for the first time in just a teaser of a trailer, however, I think I found a bit of hope again—that if J. J. Abrams can take something old and good and make it new and good—maybe we can still do the same here. If movies, or more generally art, are good for anything, I think it’s hope. So I’m hopeful again, that when the real movie comes out in a year, it’s actually good. And with that, perhaps there’s hope for BC a year from now. Perhaps students won’t have to demonstrate in the Quad to rally for the right to say the things a Jesuit institution should teach them to say. Perhaps we’ll stop acting like “the BC Lookaway” and “hookup culture” are cultural movements exclusive to BC.  Perhaps the pristine Gasson and immaculately sodded lawn will no longer be the primary image this campus uses rain or shine, happy or—God forbid—a little bummed about something.

My gut says nothing changes, but that little guy inside—enamored by Han Solo—is tugging on my Superfan shirt. Maybe, just maybe.

May the Force be with you.

Featured Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

December 11, 2014