'Star Wars: The Force Awakens" has floated around as a vague, far-off awareness in the back of my head for the past year. I've known it was coming — I'd seen the trailers, read through the interviews and scrolled past the Facebook posts of friends marathoning the original trilogy — but it wasn't until I noticed the R2-D2 showerheads in the seasonal aisle at the grocery store that I truly realized the behemoth is nearly here and felt the prickling of excitement.
It might've hit me late, but it sure hit me hard.
It got me thinking about what "Star Wars" and other pop-culture juggernauts mean to me. In my head, the series is rewatching a beat-up, TV-recorded VHS copy of "Return of the Jedi," held together with strategically placed splatches of duct tape and featuring choice lapses in dialogue and picture. I would watch the beginning with my brothers, shed a silent tear for the Rancor, then fast forward to the Ewok hitting himself in the head with a bola. Say what you will about those fuzzy bastards, I loved them then and I still love them now.
But more often when I think of the series, it's not really tied to actually watching the movies. It's 10th-grade science class in the hours before the premier of the third prequel, attended by a bunch of giggling kids in Jedi robes smacking each other with plastic lightsabers (and the odd pool noodle or two — you know, for force powers on the cheap). And it's a gnarly spider crawling out from the cracked ear of a ceramic Yoda statue in my childhood friend's basement.
In an L.A. Times interview earlier this week, "The Force Awakens" director J.J. Abrams talked a bit about how he defines success for the newest film, given that it's nearly certain to be a hit financially. He said, "for me, the most exciting and would make this feel like it was a successful enterprise would be if people in those theaters, hundreds at a time, are looking up at one thing together and getting to laugh together and scream and cry and feel exhilaration together. If that can happen and there can be a communal experience, I will feel like we did our job."
I'm hoping for that same sort of communal feeling, but for me, most of that experience comes long after I've stepped out of the theater. "Star Wars" has been more of a passive buildup of life experiences I associate with the films rather than the plot or characters of any given entry.
"The Force Awakens" had its world premiere in Los Angeles on Monday, and by all accounts, fears that another set of prequels were falling upon us have been quelled. I'll be looking up together alongside other fans for those two hours, but I'm most excited to see how the series settles in the periphery of my life after the credits roll.
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