Just to get this out of the way: I was six years old when I saw Star Wars: A New Hope. George Lucas’ creation twisted itself around my DNA like a glowing light-saber twisty tie and shaped not only my childhood but my creative life. (Upon first viewing Star Wars, I was one of the many who immediately sought to create his/her own sci-fi/fantasy epics. I can’t remember if mine was Space Wars or Star Battles or some other vamp on the words ‘Star’ and ‘Wars’ but create it I did.)
And just to get this out of the way: I, too, was gravely disappointed in the Star Wars Prequels.
So, I’m a Star Wars fan like most of you.
Last Thursday night, I watched the Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer, and with three words and a note-perfect Wookie growl, everything lost was reclaimed.
Even if The Force Awakens fails as a movie, which we all know is possible and which we all not-so-secretly fear, JJ Abrams has already recaptured the ‘gee-whiz’ spectacle and ‘aw-shucks’ charm lacking in the Prequels. He did this by zeroing in what was missing: Han Solo and Chewbacca.
For all the awesome grandeur of the trailer’s crashed Star Destroyer and the sinister malice of the new Sith Lord and the steely cool of the crazy-chrome Storm Trooper, the trailer truly won us over by delivering back to us our old yet reliable, swashbuckling buddies.
I know without even Googling it that there are Star Wars fans who have written that Star Wars wouldn’t have been Star Wars without Han Solo. I’m not offering new analysis on that front. For as essential as the Skywalkers—and by extension the Jedi Order and the Sith—obviously are to the saga, you need Han and you need Chewie. You need their bickering friendship. You need their cocky, bumbling, get-it-done against-all-odds swagger.
They, more than the Skywalkers, epitomize what was and is so great about the original trilogy.
Lucas knew this. The mightiest cliffhanger coming out of The Empire Strikes Back wasn’t whether Vader was Luke’s father (the eventual acceptance of this one-time impossibility—how can a bad guy possibly be the hero’s father?!—seeped into our young minds during the intervening two years between Empire and the release of Return of the Jedi with an inevitability that eerily presaged adulthood).
No, the true crazy-making, obsession-generating cliff-hanger was: How the heck are we going to rescue Han? And as satisfying as the reunion between Leia and a just-thawed Han was, I guess, it was the reconciliation of Chewie and Han—with the Wookie warming the still chilled smuggler—that reassured us that everything was going to be OK. As long as these two were together with us, we could face the Jabbas and the Bobas and the Darths, and we would persevere.
And isn’t that what we’re after from Abram’s versions of our beloved film franchise? Reassurance? Perseverance?
As long as Chewie and Han are home, so are we.