Saturday, January 23, 2016

Over It

Like many of you, I recall seeing the first installment of "Star Wars" back in 1977. Like many of you, I remember being blown away and walking out of the theater with my mouth hanging open. And like many of you, through the following years and subsequent episodes, I gladly forked over my seven, then eight, then nine, then ten dollars to see what new adventures (and pre-adventures) Leia and Chewie and Yoda had. Yes, some films were better than others and some characters were annoying. But the Force was with us always, and who would have guessed that Darth Vader was really Luke's father?

So I was thrilled to hear after a hiatus of ten years that there would be a new movie coming our way. And not a spin-off or franchise extension, but the seventh film in the series, the first part of the final set of three trilogies as originally conceived by George Lucas. More Millennium Falcon! More X-Wing fighters! More rolling credits and stormtroopers and light sabers! I could hardly wait for a "beep beep boop" from some Droid or a snappy comeback from Han. Excited, I was.

But having plunked down my now twelve dollars to journey to a galaxy long ago and far, far away, I have to say this: I am so over it.

Is there anything worse than looking forward to something, getting it and then deciding it wasn't worth waiting for? Doesn't matter if it's that hot fudge sundae from that place down the street from your grandma, or the boxed set of that old sitcom you pleaded with your mom to let you stay up late to watch, or the next chapter in a lovingly remembered story. Nostalgia aside, the problem is that when you get the chance to re-experience the original, you view it through contemporary eyes, and so are not quite as wowed the second time around. And the longer the layoff, the more the letdown.

And so it was for me with "The Force Awakens." Yes, it is no doubt a new film, with new characters, a new story and new stuff. JJ Abrams did a masterful job as a film maker, creating an alternative universe that feels like it just has to exist. The new young actors were quite good, the old standbys reprised beloved characters and there were some cool new gadgets. There were even a few good one-liners, and a continuation to the story arc that Lucas planted the seeds to long ago. Yet, in spite of all that, it didn't grab me. It checked all the boxes, for sure. But that's what it felt like it was doing: checking the boxes.

I think it's not that the movie wasn't worth waiting for, but rather that my expectations were way out of whack. I had internalized the feeling I got from that first light saber battle nearly 40 years ago, and was expecting to get it again. But to say that there's been a fair amount of water under the bridge since then is an understatement of galactic proportions. We've all seen more, done more, experienced more in those intervening decades. And so to make an impression on me, post "Avatar," post "Mission: Impossible," post "Jurassic Park" would take something more than just a bigger Death Star. And – spoiler alert – I could have told you it had a one-meter square vulnerability that only a perfect shot could hit. Duh.

And call me jaded, but Han Solo is not an isolated case. Consider Adele. Marvelous talent, great voice. Million selling album of great torch ballads? Amazing. Same thing four years later? Well, not really interested anymore. Or how about James Bond? Super spy? Check. Cool gadgets? Evil genius adversary? Check. Holding my interest? Sorry, no check.

Jon Stewart once said it best: in one sense, we are all puppies. Look! Shiny new thing! Woof! The difference is that even if our memories are not quite like elephants in terms of details, our hearts are. We remember that feeling of first love, even if we can't quite recall the person involved. And it's hard to match the original. And so Princess - I mean General Leia - I wish you only the best. But feel free to save the next galaxy without me.


Marc Wollin of Bedford likes new things, shiny or not. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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