Why I’m Saying Both Goodbye and Hello to Star Wars

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It’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan. If you’re one of the masses attending the sold-out first showings of The Force Awakens (Thursday at 7:30pm for me), you know the feeling. If you’re going over the weekend, or anytime after, you still know the feeling.

It’s also a bittersweet day, in its own way. No matter how much I might adore Episode VII (I’m ready to with open arms, but I also have my critique hat screwed securely on), this is the last time I’ll watch Return of the Jedi and think “Ah, what a satisfying ending. The story’s over.” A whole new world is opening up, and we have no idea what’s coming. Did Luke become a Jedi Master? Did Han and Leia live happily ever after? How did the Rebellion fare? In just hours we’ll have at least some answers, and, knowing JJ Abrams, even more questions.

I’m jittery with excitement. I trust Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan’s devotion to honoring the original franchise the world communally loves. What little they’ve said about the film is on point, and although the trailers relied on nostalgia to hook our emotions, they worked. That now iconic moment when Harrison Ford, grizzled and gray and grinning, says the three simple words of “Chewie, we’re home,” left me impossibly misty-eyed. I’m still half-convinced I’ll arrive at the theater and realize this has all been a mass hallucination.

Real, true blue Star Wars again. What a thought, huh?

Not to mention I’m biting my nails to meet the new faces. I’m already invested in Rey, Finn, and Poe, and I can’t wait to follow their unfolding journey with them.

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The Force Awakens isn’t an end to the original trilogy, but a new beginning. A continuation. (A new hope, if you will.) However, it still means the story we know, that began in A New Hope and ended with Jedi, is over. When we watch the campfire celebration scene at the end of Jedi from now on, it’ll no longer be “the end” in our minds. Nothing can take away our personal headcanons or preferences as to what became of the characters, but we’ll know, now. And for those of us who avidly accepted the Thrawn novels as the official followup, we won’t see Mara Jade or the Solo twins or the New Jedi Order.

And I’ll miss that. I might adore every bit of TFA, but it’s JJ’s and company’s vision. It’s no longer left to our imaginations or finalized in our memories. Whatever happens to Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, and the droids from here on out, will be in our minds come viewings of the originals.

So it’s with bittersweet feelings I’m approaching my screening tonight. I’ll miss Mara Jade and the twins. I’ll watch with trepidation and desperately hope my favorites are done justice. I’ll beg the cinematic powers that be for no evil!Luke, and plenty of General Leia.

But it’s wonderful. We’re seeing the Falcon fly again on a theater screen for the first time in nearly forty years. We’ll meet new kids who’ll learn the ways of the Force, discover their destiny, and fight in the new Rebellion. Millions of fans are embarking on a special new journey together. Fans who saw A New Hope when it debuted in 1977 and still remember the thrill of the exploding Death Star; children who found their imaginations ignited and don’t remember a time without Star Wars; new fans, who might’ve recently discovered that those space fantasy movies with glowing swords and a dude in a walking dog suit are pretty great.

Millions of strangers are in this together, united by their love for a movie. That’s my favorite part of pop culture phenomenons, from Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter and The Avengers. It’s a shared community experience stretching across decades and generations — much like The Force Awakens promises to be. I’m glad I’m old enough to appreciate this moment in history, however it turns out for me personally.

Chewie…we’re home.

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