If you haven’t seen the newest installment of the Star Wars franchise, this is your warning: There are major spoilers and references to all seven films; if you haven’t seen them, you should. So stop reading now and go to the theater then come back and read this.
Let me start off by making this clear, I love Star Wars. Not because it is popular, but because I loved the story and the thrill of space battle as a child and well into adulthood. I craved the action and I lived to watch the films; the battle of good versus evil as well as the inner potential to live on the side of Light or Dark is an analogy that I still hold in my life. The concept that “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the Dark Side” became a mantra for myself that has carried me through many hard times when I could have easily given into the Darkness and would have failed in my quest for personal peace. Though I enjoy all of the movies, the first three will always be special to me.
I grew up with the original trilogy, I had the action figures and play sets, my cousins and I would pretend to be Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, and Han while my family dog was recruited to be R2. Every time, I would have to be Han Solo because even as a young child I identified with this character more than the rest. I wasn’t a princess, I didn’t have magical powers, I was lacking in body hair, I wasn’t metallic, and though I have never been a pilot I’ve always been a no nonsense kind of guy who told people my thoughts without filtering and did so with a great head of hair and snarky little grin. I still see myself this way, I still see Han Solo as one of the greatest heroes ever made in one of the greatest stories ever told. To me, the biggest issue I had with the second trilogy was there was no Captain Solo to help Padme get from here to there in only twelve parsecs. So naturally, when I heard there was a new trilogy on the way I was overjoyed to know Solo would be returning and I would have the chance to learn what my hero had been up to for the past thirty years. I looked forward to this chance never contemplating that this this might be the last time I see my childhood hero.
On December 18, 2015 I put on my vintage Star Wars t-shirt that looked identical to the shirt I had as a child and went into the theater with zero expectations other than action and excitement; little did I know my life would change forever on that day. As the film began, I admit I got a little misty to see that Lucas Films logo again and very thankful that Tinkerbell didn’t come out with a wand flourish staining the the franchise with Cinderella’s castle. I was ready for this ride. Within moments, I found myself pleased to see that this galaxy far, far away from long ago had finally seen progress in that now there were not only nonwhite Storm Troopers, but also women in command positions for the First Order. I was thrilled upon seeing this new Vader-esque villain and dying inside to learn his identity as well as his relation and relevance to the history of the fallen Sith Lord. I fell in love with Poe Dameron and felt an echo of the great Han Solo is his manly swagger and confidence. The moment when Rey met Finn for the first time, I felt the warmth of Luke and Leia all over again. As they attempted escape from Jakku, a familiar friend was re-introduced. The Millennium Falcon was back; surely not too far behind it would be her former captain and his furry friend.
Only moments after take off, the audience was given what we had waited a lifetime to see. General Solo had found his long-lost ship and was here to reclaim her as his own. Accompanied with Chewie and a few comedic quips, Harrison Ford missed not one beat as he settled back into the role that began his career and made generations of fans fall in love with him. Though greyer and more worn than we last saw him, it was clear the badass soul that is Han Solo hadn’t aged a bit. To the fans, he was known as the man who saved the galaxy from the evil Emperor with the help of his friends, so of course it was a laughable moment when he wasn’t aware of the stories about him throughout the stars. After showing the new kids how to escape soldiers and space creatures, we soon found our hero face to face with Princess Leia General Organa (and a crimson armed Threepio) where we learn that not only have the two at some point further explored the romance we all yearned to see realized so long ago, but had since ended their relationship and bore a son. Now the identity of our new villain had been revealed, he was the son of Leia and Han. I was giddy at the prospect of being witness as Han saved his son from the Dark Side and ushered in a new age of peace in the galaxy and the Skywalker clan.
Alas, this would not be his fate. In what I recall as the death of my childhood and the destruction what little innocence I had remaining, Han made one last attempt to appeal to the Light within his son Kylo Ren. The boy who was named Ben by his mother as an honoring of Master Kenobi did the unthinkable; he thrust his lightsaber into the chest of his own father and threw him from the bridge as if he was a random Red Shirt in Star Trek. Carrying the moniker of his mother’s only hope, he became the source of her greatest pain and cemented himself as the darkest and most hated villain in Star Wars history. Han Solo’s death was met by screams from my fellow theatergoers and tears began to stream down my face for the next two hours. I barely can recall the rest of the movie. My 3-D glasses had steamed up, my body was shaking, and my spirit was lost in that moment when the greatest hero ever made in the greatest story ever told took his final breath. Without a single tear shed on-screen, no body and no funeral, fans such as myself have been left to memorialize this hero in our own ways.
In the weeks since its release, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has received criticism from many on its parallels with the original film, the weakness of the new villain, and even comments on the aging process of Carrie Fisher. In my opinion, these critiques distract from and ignore one of the most epic moments in cinematic history, which is the death of a legend. The fact that fans and critics have decided to focus on whether or not Fisher has aged well makes me wonder if they are capable of appreciating her for her legendary acting or if they only see her as the one in the golden bikini. Having lived for over almost forty years since the original film, it seems obvious that she would have aged. While no one has made comment on the obvious aging process that Ford has lived, these comments from anyone only show the double standard women deal with within the acting profession. As for the weakness of Kylo Ren, it has always been my opinion that Star Wars villains rarely exhibit strength, as the Dark Side itself requires a weakness of mind and fortitude in order for the subject to be fully enveloped by their anger. As for the clear resemblance to A New Hope, all I can say is, at least it isn’t The Phantom Menace again.
At the end of the day, along with other true fans of this series I am beside myself waiting for the next installment. To discover the truth behind Rey’s history, to receive verbal dialogue from Luke himself, and to see Ben Solo brought to justice for the murder of his father.