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Enmity & Loss, Love & Hope
The trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Episode VII) seemed less movie than altar call: its eerie last words, eked out slowly, urgently, "The Force, it's calling to you," and then, whispered, emphatically, "Just let it in." To be sure, the trailer also hypes the pure fun of cool new droids, fetching young heroes, female and black, and blasters and fighters aplenty. Mostly, though, it seems bent on re-conjuring again the mystique of the Force, that metaphysical Something so full of both light and dread. Yes, "it's true, all of it," as none other than once-skeptical, and now aged, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) tells the curious youth: "The Dark Side, the Jedi, they're real." A stunning bit of promo, the trailer hits all the right chords to suggest that the Star Wars franchise, with its original magic, has fallen into exactly the right hands. And that is a very happy turn, given the last go-round.
Understand that rarely ever do sequels match the original, especially if the original wowed, as did that first Star Wars (1977), that space-Western surprise by thirtyish writer-director George Lucas whose only prior film, American Graffiti (1974), was an affecting nostalgia trip deep into teen life of the early 1960s. And then quite out of nowhere came Star Wars, and its long saga, a genuine cultural phenom that has smashed both Death Stars and box-office. The two sequels, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and The Return of the Jedi (1983), story by Lucas but written and directed by others, sustained the visual and narrative pizzazz of the original, though the third showed the susceptibility of Lucas, who retained final control, to bloated stories and "cute" touches (oh, those too-furry Ewoks). Those tendencies later swallowed Lucas in a prequel trilogy (1999-2005), written and directed by him, a laborious accounting of how young Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christiansen), father of Luke and Leia, became a devotee ...