Rebuilding the Empire

As the Force Awakens, Disney tries to convince us that Prequel business was all just a dream.

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As I watched the Monday night premiere of the newest trailer for the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, I got the kind of nerd chills you only get from seeing the triumphant return of a classic franchise to its former glory. Lightsabers, X-wings, returning faces and evil Sith lords … it was a spectacle to behold, but it left me with an odd feeling I couldn’t pinpoint until I saw another Star Wars ad awhile later.

This time, it was for the upcoming game Star Wars: Battlefront, and it centered on a thirtysomething white-collar worker flashing back to his childhood of flashlight-lightsaber duels and Star Wars Halloween costumes, before jumping in an X-wing and flying off to Hoth. It clicked with that final moment: these were pieces of my own childhood Star Wars memories, but not the only ones.

For The Force Awakens, Disney has built a massive campaign predicated on the quiet removal of the prequels from the collective public memory. It’s a sound strategy—for Star Wars to move forward it might be best to leave Episodes I through III in the rearview mirror.

It’s hardly controversial at this point to say that the Prequels didn’t live up to expectations. Besides the rigid acting and simplified writing, it just never felt like the original trilogy did. It was a story that tried to be a romance, war epic, drama and blockbuster action all at once. Even in the earliest previews for The Phantom Menace, something was off. It wasn’t that space odyssey; it was a new venture that missed a lot of the wonder of Star Wars.

Consider what we’ve seen thus far of The Force Awakens. No clones, no mention of former Jedi characters, no Gungan senate hijinks. Even the media buildup around the movie has moved up in the timeline. The Clone Wars, the excellent animated series and arguably the best of the canon prequel work out there, has been jumped ahead to Star Wars: Rebels, where many of the popular characters still make an appearance or are major protagonists.

It’s a good thing to do because the new trilogy doesn’t need any of the background that the prequels provide. They gave depth, yes, but all the key information needed for The Force Awakens rests solely in the original trilogy, and it also seems to mirror the themes of that trilogy as well.

Kylo Ren’s obsession with the deceased Darth Vader mirrors Luke’s early remarks of wanting to become a Jedi, like his father before him. Commonplace people banding together to rise up and fight, rather than warrior-monks waging large-scale warfare across galaxies. There’s more of the original trilogy in the new movie than any of the prequels, and so far, it seems to be a more focused effort for it.

This is a film that’s going to capture the entire family audience: parents who saw the Star Wars films as kids will want to share that same wonder and spectacle with their children, and while there are plenty of first-generation defenders of the Prequels—people who saw them as children and for whom Episodes I-III represented their first introduction to the Star Wars universe, unhindered by Original Trilogy presets—few of those would claim the experience generated the same awe and love (and thus fierce nostalgia) of the original tale of a boy and his droids.

So yes, The Force Awakens and likely the next two sequels in the Star Wars universe will most likely avoid any references to the prequels unless absolutely necessary. No Trade Federation, droidekas or Jango Fett clones. From the trailers I’ve seen, this is about people who get caught up in something much bigger, and find themselves as the only ones who can be the hero and save the day.

It’s an odyssey, a heroic quest, and while I’m sure there’s some dark twist we haven’t seen coming yet, The Force Awakens has so far inspired in me a childlike wonder I haven’t felt since first putting in that A New Hope VHS tape all those years ago. Let’s let those memories be the ones we carry into the theater.

Eric is a writer currently based out of Atlanta. If you’d like to hear more of his rumblings on Star Wars and other things, you can find him on Twitter

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