Years passed and my craving for science fiction never relented, I just moved on to different things. The Dune series, everything Star Trek, SyFy’s great relaunch of Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, the Expanse books and the truly fantastic Babylon 5. While it may be difficult to find a lot of truly great science fiction, there is some out there if you are willing to look and sift through everything else. Fans of science fiction tend to overlook faults when looking for something to grasp onto, so there are shows, books and movies that may not be that great that have gotten a pass over the years (I really don’t understand the appeal of Farscape after watching two seasons).
No matter what, though, I can’t seem to escape Star Wars. In fact, hundreds of dollars of Star Wars Lego sets adorn my office right now with that showing no sign of stopping any time soon. The announcement of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and who was attached to it did initially get me excited, but that quickly faded because of past disappointments. Disney went on to destroy the Expanded Universe of novels, games and comics that were built up over most of my lifetime heading into this, all to launch a new universe of novels, comics, television shows and games. What I’ve seen of this new universe thus far is far from inspired (outside of the Rebels show), instead run by a committee and most likely shackling any sort of creative decisions made by the authors.
Yet the release of the Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens final trailer has made me a believer. Crazy, right? Truth be told this is absolutely everything that had been bothering me about the impending release was assauged by this trailer. There were questions that were left unanswered (was that Luke with the metal hand and R2-D2? Why isn’t he on the posters? Who is this new Sith? Is the new Sith Luke?). The new characters that we’ve had glimpses of in trailers and stills were framed in a way that made them truly interesting and left me wanting to know more about them and most importantly, this new saga looks to add some important framework that never really existed in the Star Wars universe.
Star Wars was an epic war story told through the eyes of the main heroes and villains of said war. The prequel trilogy was simply expanded backstory that did help to add some framework and sense of gravity to the original trilogy, but it was more jamming as much backstory in as possible than fleshing out the universe.
Even back to my youth it bothered me that there was so little seen outside of the black and white, good and evil of war. Who were the Rebellion? Why did they break off from the Empire? Who were they helping? Were there actually common people or was everyone just a Stormtrooper or a Rebel? Like I said, some of this was addressed in the prequels, but not much really was. Star Wars always lacked anything anchoring the universe to reality, to making the struggle seem valuable.
The Empire was evil, you see, run by SITH LORDS and the dark side of the Force, even though most of the Imperials thought it was an old, hokey religion. Sometimes the battle between good and evil felt like a choice of color palate more than an actual struggle of ideological differences. Imperial ships and bases were just filled to the brim with nothing but military and Rebel installments weren’t much different. The only planet really given any color was Tatooine and that was one of a forgotten border planet that was filled with smugglers.
Who manufactured the ships, the weapons and the clothing? Where were any of these things bought? Luke was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters, but what the hell did that mean (there was actually a later released deleted scene showing this, I’ll grant you that). Was that some sort of retail location? How was there an “Academy” where Luke’s friend Biggs could train and end up as a Rebel? Were they really so brazen about this? Over the years authors working on the Expanded Universe had helped to breathe life into these issues, but with those being wiped away now there shouldn’t be more excuses.
The films themselves lacked this context. Instead there was a laser focus on the struggle itself and the heroes and villains. What this new trailer has shown is indeed that there will be new heroes, heroines, villains and villainesses, but most importantly, how these people were impacted by everything else that happened.
“Those stories about what happened…”
“It’s true. All of it.”
Those few lines of dialogue alone help to build up and flesh out the Star Wars universe more than we’ve seen in so long. The derelict hulks of ships on Jakku provide context to what happened after that final, fateful battle in Return of the Jedi and each character that is shown, in just a few simple words, are given context, motivation and depth beyond what any character in the prequel trilogies were given over the span of three films. Bravo. I’m very much looking forward to this.
Finally, Star Wars has some gravity to it.