I think it's fair to say that Star Wars is, without doubt, a "huge deal." Uncountable geekdoms were spawned forty years ago from the moment the first interplanetary warship graced the silver screen, and few fictional characters in any medium can boast the devotion claimed by Luke, Leia, Solo, and the rest. While I never fell deep into it, my sister has been a hardcore fan since the very beginning, and I've always appreciated its role in popularizing the Science Fantasy genre I've relished so much over the years. So all that said, I confess I didn't think much of the announcement a few years back that Disney was releasing a new addition to the saga. In fact, I'd say it left me down-right sour. Between the 30-year gap from the last "beloved" trilogy, the relatively lackluster prequels, and the always-divisive presence of Disney in, well, everything, I hardly imagined there would be any room for longing from even the most devout Star Wars fan - and the relative apathy from my sister seemed to have confirm that.
I couldn't have been more wrong. There's been mounting anticipation steaming from many quarters over the past year or so, but it was only on the trailer premiere and ticket sale opening this past Monday that I really felt the force of my errancy. The full trailer has already broken 35 million views on YouTube, and even if most of the outrageous rumors of $700 ticket sales turn out to be just that, their existence speaks volumes about the excitement surrounding this upcoming blockbuster.
Naturally, such fevered expectation invites an analysis of some kind, and though I've toyed with dissecting the trailer to uncover its core, a number of other critics have already done just that, so instead I'll briefly examine just a few of the possible engines driving this surprising surge of Star Wars fanism, despite the setbacks of recent times.
1. The Eternal Return
As implied by the trailers and the cinema rumor mill, this new iteration of the Star Wars franchise won't merely feature a brand new cast of fresh nobodies that plead us to care about them. Instead, we've got Mark Hamil, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher all making a return, stirring the pot of nostalgia for both long-term followers and those raised on their eulogizing memoirs of escapes into distant galaxies. Part of the problem with the previous trilogy is that it felt disconnected from everything that imbued Star Wars with meaning, especially the original cast and their idiosyncrasies. This new movie, therefore, must feel like a "coming home" of sorts for many long-time fans.
2. Fresh promise
Still, we shouldn't skimp on the new characters entirely; Daisy Ridley and John Boyega will share the spotlight with the "old favs," and if the trailer is anything to go by, they'll breathe fresh life into the franchise, making their own mark in Star Wars history. Ridley's apparent rendition of the Mysterious Lone Drifter archetype - so common in these epics, but so uncommonly played by a woman - may show her to be the next Luke Skywalker, and Boyega's prominence in the trailer all but cements his arc as one from darkness to redemption, and finally onto heroism. We won't know for sure what role they play in the greater scheme of things until the final wire, but it's the mystery that's so engaging. This isn't a fabricated origin story, the conclusion to which is already set in stone; we really don't know what destiny awaits for Ridley and Boyega or the characters they play. But I'm sure we're all eager to find out.
3. The Hero's Journey
This last point culminates much of the appeal of the other two - and indeed, probably explains the popularity of Star Wars as a whole more than any other individual factor. Let's face it: however much it's parodied or denied, however much it's criticized and discounted as meaningless through the lens of comparative mythology, Joseph Campbell's monomyth has left an undeniable mark on the human psyche since it was first formulated. Who hasn't wanted to be part of a greater battle between Good and Evil? Who hasn't wanted to rise from nothing, discover your fate and your place in the world, and make a difference? While cynical or "mature" minds scorn these fantasies as infantile or even dangerous, their appeal is undeniable and timeless. Star Wars is Campbell's chanting herald in the movie realm, and the star ensemble so far seems ripe to deliver the age-old goods: a few fresh-faced wanderers - both literal and metaphorical - called to adventure and guided by both Old Masters and old salts. This is the nexus of Star Wars, the heart and soul of its power, and the trailer flows with all the pregnant possibilities that this new journey can offer.
While I admit that I'm not foaming at the mouth or tossing money at my screen on the return of the franchise after over a decade, I'm a good bit more excited than I was just a few months ago. Only time will tell if Lucas and co. can deliver on their promise, but Star Wars is sure to be on everyone's minds come the holiday season.