PROLOGUE: A Lukewarm Take

Until the past two weeks, I’d never seen Episodes IV-VI of Star Wars. Please hold your criticism/lobbed tomatoes/boos/disgust till the end of time.

Like most everyone else I saw Episodes 1-3 in the theaters. We were visiting America for the first time that summer, and I remember being petrified, inside the cinema, of a man whose face was painted red and black—to honor the bad guy! I found Jar Jar Binks endearing, and for a time even adopted his method of speaking in the 2nd person (again, I was nine). When Episodes 2 and 3 were released, I was 12 and 14, respectively, and even without context those films seemed terrible.

But by then my younger brother was a devoted fan of the series. He has badgered me for years to watch them. I’d ignored him and everyone else who advised I do the same. I understood plenty from passing references on TV shows and, say, ‘Jeopardy!’. Plus, I’m picky about my science fiction investments; it’s never been my go-to genre for any medium.

Fast-forward to J.J. Abrams’s reboot of Star Trek, after which I immediately DVR’d reruns of the Shatner-Nimoy series. And then fast-forward a little further to Abrams landing the gig of directing Episode VII. John Boyega cast as the first black Storm Trooper. Lupita Nyong’o added to the cast, along with Adam Driver, newcomer Daisy Ridley, and returns by cast originals Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill. When the film’s title was first released to the press, I texted the Deadline Hollywood alert to my brother: “It’s called ‘The Force Awakens’.”

“Whoa,” he replied. “I just got chills.”

I studied film in college and avoided mentioning that I’d never seen the originals. I was taken aback when my brother—who is in grad school for biomedical engineering—described in great detail the films’ archetypal paradigms. “It’s a Western, just in space.” But there were light sabers and James Earl Jones having an asthma attack. A producer for whom I interned in college at New York 1, who’d been a fan since the 1st grade, told me something that I’ll probably never forget: “You should watch it because you’ll understand so much of pop culture, on multiple levels. And as a film student, you’ll recognize the precedents for tropes and styles. It’s more important than just the story it tells.”

At Thanksgiving I borrowed my brother’s DVD box set. He made me swear I’d watch them before Christmas, that I’d return the set to him, and that I’d watch it with an open mind. But I didn’t plan on watching with any preconceptions or expectations: I’d done such a good job of avoiding the series and everything that had come from it that I was almost objective in my ignorance.

Two weeks ago, on a Saturday night, after I washed the dishes, vacuumed and mopped the kitchen floors, took out two loads of trash, scrubbed the garbage can, washed my hands, made my bed, I slid Episode IV into my computer.

UP NEXT: Well! I see the appeal!

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