I used to hate it when people would tell me, “It’s just a movie.” Why belittle my passion like that? Yes, I know that whatever I’m arguing about is ultimately in reference to something that is technically just a movie, but isn’t it obvious that it’s so much more than a mere movie to me? A movie can inspire me. It can seep into my very identity. Jaws is just a movie, but I still can’t swim anywhere without hearing that John Williams score in my head. The Shawshank Redemption is just a movie, but its message of hope and perseverance still lifts me up when I’m down. Star Wars is just a movie, but it’s also a constant reminder of my childhood, an instant trigger of faint memories of R2-D2/C-3PO bedsheets, hand-me down Darth Vader toys and kickass Star Wars-themed Super Nintendo games.
Apparently I’m a hypocrite, though, because as I step back from everything that’s happened surrounding Star Wars: The Force Awakens lately I am left feeling the need to remind the internet that at the end of the day The Force Awakens is just a movie.
Disney, LucasFilms and J.J. Abrams are turning this into a cultural event of monumental importance. There was that Black Friday-esque day where all of the new toys were launched at midnight store openings around the country. As per Abrams custom, they’ve given next to nothing away about the actual plot of the movie though, and they purposefully held back the release of the second trailer until last night during Monday Night Football. That was the capper to a weekend of hype, which started with the release of the first official Force Awakens movie poster. They announced that Monday would be the first day to buy tickets in advance of the film’s December 18th release, and then once Monday arrived they started selling tickets several hours earlier than expected. Movie ticket sites like Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com were so overwhelmed by the ensuing web traffic that their sites inevitably crashed.
Luckily, the new trailer looks pretty good, even if the continued insistence to highlight the new characters while de-emphasizing Luke, Leia and Han continues to confound longtime fans.
Equally confounding was the Twitter trend yesterday to boycott The Force Awakens because it doesn’t have enough white people in it. Not surprisingly, the trend was started by a couple of random racists.
My concern is not that Disney is doing the Disney thing and turning The Force Awakens into marketing/merchandising gold. I’m also not overly concerned about movie ticket sites crashing or Twitter debating the racial politics at play in Force Awakens’ casting process. Go crazy, people. In the social media era, half of the fun of seeing a movie is the months you spend getting excited for it beforehand, but that path is littered with the corpses of movies which failed to live up to lofty expectations (or, in the case of Age of Ultron and it’s sterilization story line, actively offended people who didn’t expect to be offended).
My concern is that we’ve reached a point where The Force Awakens won’t be allowed to be what it is. Don’t turn this into a religious experience. Don’t turn this into the second coming of your childhood with J.J. Abrams as the new George Lucas, optimistically trusting that it’ll be different this time because those messy prequels were all Lucas’ fault. Don’t wrap this up in everything surrounding it. Try to let this be a movie, and then if it’s a good one it can become so much more for you.
Easier said that done, I know. Plus, if there’s no guarantee that this will be a good movie why not enjoy the positive energy flowing through Star Wars fans right now? Don’t give into fear because as Yoda said back when he met bratty little Anakin Skywalker for the first time, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Ultimately, though, Mark Hamill said it best when he told The Hero Complex earlier this year that he wished fans would “relax” about Force Awakens. “I’m telling you, it’s just a movie. These people that build it up in their minds like it’s going to be the second coming of, I don’t know what — they’re bound to be disappointed.”
I could have also called this post “An Open Letter to Myself” because after seeing the new trailer I was pretty dang excited, but if Mark Hamill wants us to do a better job of managing our expectations who am I to argue?