Every generation needs a Star Wars.
Not a rubbish Phantom Menace-style Star Wars like the last generation was saddled with, but a proper Star Wars like in the old days… before the dark times. Back before the great and glorious Jedi flag was left in tatters by cash-ins, in the eyes of every boy and manchild it was still a defining moment.
It’s no wonder the world loses its shit with every new photo, trailer or smidgen of information from The Force Awakens. We’ve been waiting for another taste of that old magic for years and it appears appears J J Abrams’ has been listening.
His forthcoming Episode VII looking exactly like it's about to remind us not only that Star Wars is the greatest adventure in cinematic history, but that it's an absolute tragedy no other movie has come close to replicating its impact – and perhaps never will.
Cast your mind back to when it was just those two or three humble movies, just before the franchise exploded like a Death Star with a couple of proton torpedoes stuffed up the exhaust port and became a shiny brand. Back then it was pure bloody magic – a cultural phenomenon that transcended the usual parameters of geekdom, as George Lucas captured the imaginations of nerds and jocks alike.
Ten years from now, can you really imagine a bunch of dads bonding over how much they love The Half-Blood Prince?
Indeed, you didn't need to be a super-fan with an intricate knowledge of alien names and a PhD in speaking Wookiee (but props if you did), you could also love it because it was just a brilliant film. A galaxy away from these days of course, where it's aimed squarely at a very specific bracket of nostalgia hunting meta nerds.
Star Wars, you see, was never about exclusivity – that was its brilliance. But with recent years ushering in more prequels, spin-offs, cartoons, comics and action figures than you could shake a double-ended lightsaber at, the franchise has gradually meant less to fans, with generations since the original saga denied the same unifying pop culture event we enjoyed. Which is exactly why old bores like me still drone on about how Han shot first and why things were better back in our day. Simply put, the later films were made to capitalise on the brand, not the love.
In my eyes, this resulted in a knock on effect for other film franchises. Since the original Star Wars saga, film fans have become too cynical. How we consume and talk about films has changed (cheers for that Twitter...). We make judgments on films before we’ve seen them, or take petty pleasures in going against the grain of popular opinion. Rarely do we watch films in the kind of wide-eyed wonder we once did.
It raises a damning question about blockbuster cinema. Why has no other movie or franchise had a cultural impact on this scale?
Inspired by its Star Destroyer-sized success, everything that came in the space opera's wake wanted to be the next big franchise. Much like Luke Skywalker himself, heading out across Tatooine’s Dune Sea towards an incredible destiny with powers he couldn’t have ever possibly imagined, the original Star Wars (by which I mean what the kids call A New Hope, but us proper grown ups call Star Wars) arrived all doe-eyed and innocent, completely unaware of its own brilliance.
Blockbuster movies since are so hell-bent on galactic domination that they've lost touch with the innocence and sense of boyish adventure that made a camp tale about Sith vs Jedi so universally appealing. What else can we honestly say has comparable reach and mass appeal? It’s a sad indictment of modern Hollywood’s failure to recapture such basic movie magic.
Many have tried, of course: Potter. Marvel. Batman. They’ve all had a stab at it – and in the cases of Harry Potter and Marvel, even after taking more at the box office, they’ve never resonated in the same way, failing to make that bond between generations, between social outcasts and the cool kids, between the human race essentially. Ten years from now, can you really imagine a bunch of dads bonding over how much they love The Half-Blood Prince?
We love Star Wars and we’re glad it’s back. And if our instincts are correct, Episode VII should be a banger. But equally as important as its return, is that it highlights the crying shame that this generation’s Star Wars is in fact Star Wars. Nothing else has managed to bring fans together or create hyperdrive-levels of excitement. If the interstellar buzz that surrounds the latest release proves anything it's that it's about time that the film industry had a few more, generation defining, ideas, and that they really to buck up their ideas pretty damn soon.
Take note, Hollywood. And may the Force be with you. You’re gonna need it.