Right now, cinemas across the country, across the world, are showing Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the hour, every hour, in every screen available, and I’m doing my best to hide under a spoiler-free rock until Boxing Day, when my own reserved viewing comes around.
I’m excited, of course I am. I can’t wait to see it, and yet I don’t want to see it. I’m afraid of it.
Somewhere in my parents’ house there is a photo of me on my first ever visit to a Waterstones stood beaming next to a full height display of Star Wars novels, comics and encyclopedia.
As a teen I’d run home to watch The Battle of Hoth or the Speeder Bike chase, before my brother would come home and kick me off the only TV in the house.
I have an Imperial tattoo, not just because I like the design but because it is something incorporated into my very personality.
I played my VHS copy of The Empire Strikes Back so many times that the tape fell apart, and I lifted the audio from the original trilogy and listened to it for years as I slept.
I am a fan, probably a superfan, and these are my credentials.
Before the Dark times. Before the prequels.
There is no surprise or value in proclaiming I don’t enjoy Episode I. Darth Maul looks boss, and the score is sufficient, but in all other aspects it is just an embarrassment. Episode II is a promise that never delivers, with Mandalorian fan service that simultaneously excites and slaps in the face. Episode III has the benefit of providing climax and conclusion, which it does with breath-taking set pieces and passion. It’s still peppered with dogshit (or Bantha fodder?), but it’s still Star Wars.
If the Avengers franchise throws out a bad movie, there’s enough movies churning out every year that we can chose to ignore it. The Robocop remake was garbage, but that doesn’t matter because the originals still exist untouched. The live action Ghost In The Shell is going to be hideous, but equally, it won’t make the original anime disappear. Bond Films are like albums, you can be a fan of one or most of them and still ignore the shitty releases.
Star Wars, however, is a singular, specific narrative. Everything that is Star Wars, canon or otherwise, feeds back upon itself, surrounds it, penetrates it, and binds the story together. Books, films, cartoons, comics, sweets and toys and pyjamas.. no one part can be ignored or disregarded because the story of Star Wars is, well.. Star Wars.
All of it.
So if The Force Awakens is dogshit, fans and superfans will have to engage a little cognitive dissonance, absorbing something terrible into the greater borg (wrong franchise, that) of their fandom.
They We continue to adore and defend Star Wars as a whole, even while Special Edition re-edits and Jar Jar Binks chip away at the actual worth of the thing.
When something is a part of everything you are, you have to accept every part of that something.
The Force Awakens could be shit. It could be the best movie ever made. It could be something disappointingly bland in the middle of the two, which to my mind is more inexcusable than actually being dreadful.
I’m hesitant to watch it because I’m afraid of how I’ll have to accept it regardless of quality. I have to combine this new trilogy with my existing fandom, and defend it with as much terminal intensity as Nebulon-B Frigate design, Boba Fett’s Wookie scalps, or Princess Leia’s snowsuit.
I’m afraid of having to absorb yet another “Around the survivors, a perimeter create” just to see Christopher Lee in a fencing pose. I’m worried that Order 66 comes with a side order of retconning the importance of Jeremy Bulloch.
I can’t ignore it though, and on fake-Boxing Day, I’m going have to find out one way or another.
It is Star Wars, after all.