Perhaps it’s the unseasonably warm and tepid December we’re having, but even now, a day or two away from Christmas, much of our attention – when not distracted by the ever-amazing verbal fusillades of Donald Trump – has been soaked up by Star Wars Episode VII, a movie that broke just about every cinematic box office record that came before it ($248 million in its opening weekend).
Don’t worry if you haven’t seen it yet. I haven’t either, so you can read on knowing there will be no spoilers. I want to see it, but I’m not interested in waiting in line. I’ll go once (and if) the craze wears down a little.
Wherever you go, wherever you read (even here in the Local!) you encounter people taking about the new movie. What’s remarkable about Star Wars is that it has a cross-generational draw that surpasses few other franchises. I’m hard pressed to think of another. Harry Potter perhaps? Maybe. But even the popular Potter books can’t boast an audience that now spans at least four generations, from Boomers and Gen Xers to Millennials and children.
No matter how old you are, you’re probably talking about or reading about Star Wars. But who is the movie for?
I’ve had people argue that it’s a kid movie. But I don’t think it is. I think it’s squarely aimed at Gen Xers, in particular, who were awed by the originals in movie theaters in 1977, 1980 and 1983, when the first trilogy hit theaters. For people in my generation, this is a cinematic trip right back to the past. Star Wars Episode VII delivers to us the Star Wars characters we loved then – Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Lea and even R2 D2 – more than 30 years after we first saw Return of the Jedi. How can that ever go wrong?
Generation X – of which I am a part – has shown itself to be particularly eager to be treated to the stuff of our pasts. No matter how obvious the pandering might be, we still eat it up. From film franchises starring the Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the myriad comic book films and remakes of everything from Red Dawn to Footloose. We even took seriously a celebration of “Back to the Future Day” in October.
For us, it seems, our past is the gift that keeps on giving. Be it returns to our beloved film franchises of the past like Star Wars or to the coffers of a Hollywood that has made a great deal of money on intellectual property cooked up one and two generations ago. The nostalgia business is a good one in which to be.
I’m not a psychologist or even a film critic, so I won’t pretend to have strong feelings about what all the nostalgia means or even why we seem to be so much more enamored of it now than generations that came before us. Perhaps it’s as simple as that so much of everything we do now is preserved in ubiquitous photographs, videos and more. I can’t imagine how that will ramp up when our kids hit their 30s and 40s.
Regardless, I’ll soon be in a theater watching the latest Star Wars, and I’m pretty sure it will be thrilling to once again see X-Wing fighters zipping through space, hear Chewbacca’s gurgly roar and take in lightsaber battles between the forces of good and evil.
— Pete Mazzaccaro