The Force Awakens & Rediscovering Star Wars

Sally and I saw The Force Awakens on Sunday and we really liked it. For a movie whose job is to both reboot and continue one of the most successful and beloved franchises in history it does a fine job. While the story line contains similarities in structure to A New Hope and has its fair share of nostalgic references to the classic trilogy, I still found it to be entertaining and compelling. I like the new characters, care about the new characters, and want to learn more about them, while also enjoying an adventure with the original characters that I know and love. The Force Awakens is a great movie that I will certainly purchase on Blu-Ray and would even see again in the theater. It even gets our stamp of approval for child appropriateness – the boys will love it.

Now is a great time to be a Star Wars fan. Never has there been so much available for Star Wars fans to consume – a new trilogy, new supporting adventures, new books, new comics, a TV series, toys, games, magazines, amusement park rides. If you like Star Wars there is no lack of opportunities with which to celebrate your fandom. It parallels what was going on when I discovered Star Wars in 1997. I watched the Special Edition re-releases of the original movies in the theater with my Dad. I remember being interested in them based on commercials I saw on TV but ultimately seeing them because my Dad was interested too. He told me what they were about at a high level and I fed off of his enthusiasm. They turned out to be a great way for us to bond and were something we could share in the tough years after my mother’s passing.

It was a great time for me to learn about Star Wars because it was having a renaissance. There was a new trilogy in the works, a ton of new toys from Hasbro, as well as books and magazines. It was not nearly on the scale of today’s Star Wars mania with Disney slapping the name on everything from traditional toys to makeup to bags of fruit, but it was still a plentiful amount of content for a 12-year-old to consume. I had a full collection of 6 inch action figures, ships, and accessories, a few novels, and several dedicated Star Wars fan magazines. I spent hours playing with my figures acting out various scenes from the movies and even more time learning about the making of the movies, discovering the stories, and studying the schematics of weapons and ships in magazines.

By the release of the Phantom Menace in 1999 I had started to outgrow my fandom a bit. I enjoyed the movie and added a few new action figures to my collection but I didn’t connect with it in the same way as I had in the years before. That was partly due to the storyline itself but had more to do with the point I was at in my life – I was maturing into a teenager and starting to leave some of my childhood interests behind. I saw the rest of the prequels in the theaters but eventually put all of my action figures and magazines in a box and stored them away for the rest of my high school and college years. I sold my magazines at a yard sale several years ago but kept the action figures around for my nieces and nephew to play with when they came over.

The boys’ birth marked an opportunity to rediscover my interest in Star Wars and happened to coincide with yet another renaissance.Late last year, as it was getting cold and more difficult to play outside, we started to spend time in the basement. I’d usually work on the never-ending organization project that is my Mac Museum while the boys would play with their toys on the other side. One day I decided to dust off my old Star Wars action figures and look through them for nostalgia. The boys almost instantly took interest in all of these people and aliens with space ships, blasters, and colorful swords. Day after day we’d hear “Daddy, can we go down in the basenent?” and down we would go to play. I’d sit there with them and watch them play, answering the occasional question about who this guy was or who that guy was, what this blaster did, what this sword was for, who was a good guy, who was a bad guy.

After thinking about it for several months I approached Sally about letting them watch the original Star Wars trilogy so they could learn who the characters were and what they were about. After milling it around for a bit we decided that the first three movies would be OK for them to watch as long as we set some ground rules – blasters were “blasters”; not guns; and people “fell over” or “got hurt”; they didn’t die. After a first showing of A New Hope, then dubbed “The Spaceship Trash Can One”, they were hooked. We quickly watched The Empire Strikes Back (“The Snow One”) and Return of the Jedi (“The One with the Green Lightsaber”). They fell in love with the action figures all over again and soon expanded to Legos, bubble bath, candy, coloring books, and more. After adding the prequel trilogy to their list, their interests shifted to new characters – Anakin and General Grievous for Adam; Darth Maul and Clone Troopers for Zach. Earlier this year they added the Rebels and Clone Wars cartoon series and participated in Force Friday mania with new characters such as Finn and Kylo Ren.

Once again, the boys discovered Star Wars during the same kind of time that I did. A new trilogy had just been announced and there was already a new animated series. Though there were not nearly the number of action figures and other items as there are now, I was surprised that there were even any Star Wars figures still in production at all. To my surprise there were still a reasonable amount (⅓ – ½ an aisle or so) covering the first six movies. After a few months we saw a huge push of toys related to the Rebels animated series and once again figures, light sabers, games, books, and other Star Wars themed items were in plentiful supply. This all happened during the same period that the boys migrated from Duplos to real Legos and discovered Lego Star Wars as a family. If there is one thing that I wish I had as a kid it’s Lego Star Wars. I mean OMG.

Star Wars is something that I discovered in my younger years and have been fortunate enough to rediscover and share with my children. It’s such a fun thing to share with them because they get far more excited about it than I ever did; they’re younger and their imaginations and enthusiasm are so great that it’s hard not to get swept up, even in the prequels 😉 The Force Awakens establishes a new story line for the saga to follow and it does a good job. The next step – finding a way to get the boys to a theater where they won’t drive everyone nuts with their enthusiasm and exclamations. We’ve got until January 3rd 🙂

 

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