Author’s note: I originally published this essay on Dec 17, 2015, the day before the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It was a time of anticipation and excitement for Star Wars fans, but although The Force Awakens recaptured much of the magic of the original trilogy, the next two films wound up being as hated as the Lucas prequels, if not more so. This essay has been left untouched; I did not edit it to take into account the problems with the latest trilogy, nor praise the excellence of The Mandalorian, which is Star Wars at its finest.
The themes of this article run deeper than those. It’s about archetypes, the hero’s journey, and the importance of clear delineations between good and evil in a world full of increasingly-popular antiheroes. As such, I think the value of the piece remains, even if its optimism over the Disney-directed end to the Skywalker saga was hopelessly naïve.
To say that I grew up with the Star Wars franchise is no exaggeration; it is a literal statement of fact. I was present in the movie theater for Episode IV: A New Hope, but in utero, the sounds of light sabers, blaster pistols, and the explosion of Alderaan no doubt filtering their way through my mother’s body to be among the loudest first noises to reach my nascent ears. I vaguely remember the snowy landscapes of Hoth from Empire Strikes Back splashed across the big screen as I squirmed across laps and beneath the seats, chasing Jujubes as a toddler. Five months before my sixth birthday, I made myself nearly sick with anticipation as I waited all day for my parents to be ready to take me to Return of the Jedi. Every moment was agony. I just wanted to go see it. That Christmas, I unwrapped portions of that universe reincarnated in plastic — a Rancor monster, a speeder bike that disintegrated in a spring-loaded explosion at the touch of a button, a wampa, Boba Fett.