“Chewie, we’re home!”
Last night, it was all about seeing familiar faces again. First, there was Ed Miliband on the final leaders debate trying his best not to play into Tory hands by allying himself with Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP; a tactic that may not entirely play out in his favour come election day.
It seems unlikely, on the strength of the new trailer, that Star Wars: The Force Awakens will turn out to be as disappointing as the leader’s debate. The internet, perhaps predictably, exploded at the glimpse of Han Solo and Chewbacca, reunited on screen for the first time in over 30 years. Their appearance in this new instalment was hardly a secret, of course. Nevertheless the sight of them together on board the Millennium Falcon in the closing seconds of the trailer – coupled with Solo’s “Chewie, we’re home” line – provided a comforting familiarity necessary to salve frustrated fans with painful memories of the wretched Prequels.
Certainly, it is romantic to see The Force Awakens as an attempt by JJ Abrams – who’s assumed stewardship of the series from George Lucas – to smooth over the cracks left by the series’ creator. The Force Awakens (iffy title, admittedly) is a new chapter with new characters, sure; but also reassuringly there are old friends to catch up with.
Among other topics buzzing round cyberspace last night was, Star Wars vs The Avengers: which will take more at the box office? However playfully it might have been phrased, it’s a predictably reductive playground fight, a bit like, “My Dad’s bigger than yours.” You never quite hear the same debate raging about, say, Iranian cinema: who’s better, Parvis Kimiavi or Bahram Baizai?
It never ceases to amaze me how much emotive pull Star Wars continues to exert. I remember attending an exhibitors screening of The Phantom Menace early one morning at the Empire Leicester Square. The audience totalled six: me and five middle aged men who ran the country’s biggest cinema chains. These were, it should be noted, not exactly the film’s core audience and their response to the film isn’t a matter of public record. All the same, in this basically empty, cavernous cinema there was still something incredibly powerful about the opening text crawl, the John Williams’ score and, later, the appearance of two much-loved droids from the original movies. Similarly, when Attack Of The Clones launched at the Cannes Film Festival, I can quite clearly recall the childlike delight of the world’s most distinguished film critics as a phalanx of Stormtroopers filed down the Croisette to the strains of Williams’ “Imperial March”. Such is the power of la Force.
Essentially, Star Wars fulfils the same function between an audience and an object as a favourite band or book or TV programme. There are music fans who will bury themselves in the cornflake detail of their beloved artist or band, voraciously soaking up all the miscellanea they can. Ranking albums in order of preference is, essentially, no different from ranking favourite Star Wars characters.
Anyway, apologies for the slightly perambulatory nature of the blog today. It’s hard to make a considered judgement on 2 minutes and 1 second of footage; however top loaded that is with fan bait. What is certain is that it’ll be hard to keep me out of the cinema come December 18.