Star Wars: The Force Awakens

If you feel a disturbance in the Force today it’s just the sound of cash registers. The latest installment in the Star Wars saga has opened, with the expectation that it will set all sorts of box office records.

I’m doing my part – I have tickets to see it Saturday. There are ten of us going. And I’m not even sure I like Star Wars, despite owning the first six movies in the series. The truth is that they really aren’t that good. The dialogue is stilted, the acting is wooden, the science is questionable – yet none of that seems to matter. (Star Wars aficionados are probably getting together a lynch mob about now and coming to get me for that heresy.)

Star Wars is about myth, about the eternal struggle between good and evil. It is a Hollywood fiction that has blurred the lines between fantasy and reality. Yes there are those who purport to follow the Jedi religion, though how much of that is real and how much just spitting in the face of authority I’ve never quite been able to figure out. I expect here have been numerous academic papers written on the subject, but I’m not going to get into those here.

So why am I jumping on the bandwagon and gong to a movie that millions of other people will see this weekend, even if I am not overly enamored with the franchise? Why am I not waiting for the DVD release which probably won’t cost me as much as a movie admission with popcorn and a drink added? (Theatres make their money on the concessions, not the films, which is why popcorn costs you hundreds of times what it costs the theatre to make.)

I don’t really have a good answer for that one. To say “Because it’s 2015” is to evoke a particularly Canadian joke and is a non-answer. I suppose part of it is that it is tradition: I saw the first six installments in the series in the theatre so I might as well continue that. Not that I could tell you anything about instalments one through three (or movies four to six if you take them chronologically), they must be forgettable. Other than Jar Jar Binks, who is memorable for all the wrong reasons.

One of the reasons to go is community. In 2001 I got together with a bunch of friends to see the first of the Lord of The Rings movies when it came out. Pretty much every year since we have gotten together just before Christmas to watch another film. We worked our way through six Tolkien films, a couple of Narnia movies and this year it is Star Wars. I am sure there must have been other films in there somewhere.

I’m not expecting much. The original trilogy of films really weren’t that good, but there was something magical about them anyway. There are stories that are ingrained in our cultural DNA, and this is one of them. It’s not just that the story is so black and white – the good is good and the evil is definitely evil. There is struggle and romance, action and adventure, fall and redemption – something for everyone. With such universal themes it doesn’t seem to matter if there are the occasional plot inconsistencies, if the science isn’t plausible, if the acting is less than stellar. People are drawn by the story; it is something they can relate to.

We are all looking for a place to belong. Star Wars provides that place, that shared experience that is community. That is why the theatres are jammed this weekend and why box office records will be broken. People forget it is only a movie.

Who knows, maybe I’ll like it more than I expect to. I’ll let you know.

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