Earlier today, the official Star Wars Twitter feed ended more than a year of speculation by revealing the title of the latest entry in the saga, due out this December:
— Star Wars (@starwars) January 23, 2017
I dig that. It has an ominous, pulpy vibe. For me, the moment I knew that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was on the right track was when the opening crawl began with “Luke Skywalker has vanished.” It launched us back into the swashbuckling, adventurous spirit of the original films and reassured fans that this new take on the world was going to be markedly different than the soap opera/trade negotiation plots that bogged down the prequels.
There’s not much else to say. I like the title, and it seems to tie right into “The Force Awakens'” cliffhanger. The red lettering on the logo is new and gives an unsettling vibe; I wonder if this is going to be a darker, “Empire Strikes Back”-type of entry. But other than that, we don’t know much more except that all will be revealed in December. And really, that’s as it should be.
I have to admit, I was never a giant “Star Wars” fan. That’s always been my wife’s bailiwick. She was the one who decided that our wedding recessional would be the closing march from “A New Hope.” When it came to George Lucas’ work, I always preferred the adventures of Indiana Jones. I liked “Star Wars,” particularly the original trilogy, but it never lit my world on fire. I think a lot of this is because, just through weird quirks of fate, I never saw the original trilogy in its entirety until the theatrical re-release in 1997. I became a fan then, but it wasn’t life-changing.
That said, I’ve gained a new love and appreciation for the saga in recent years. Some of that’s due to having a 5-year-old boy who runs around the house with a plastic lightsaber and loves Luke Skywalker, Yoda and R2D2. We’ve been showing him the original trilogy and our recent watch of “The Empire Strikes Back” was a wonderful experience. Mickey was so caught up in the film, swashbuckling along during the final 20 minutes. I’ve thought “The Force Awakens” recaptured so much of the tone of the original series so well, and I love the new characters who were introduced. “Rogue One” was another step in the right direction. It reveled in “Star Wars” iconography and was a fun, surprisingly resonant bridge between “Revenge of the Sith” and “A New Hope.” I don’t know that “Star Wars” will ever become my favorite cinematic saga, but it’s great fun to be in this world again.But I worry that it’s going to be a little less special. After all, “Star Wars” was revived in the age of the cinematic universe, existing alongside Marvel, DC and “Star Trek.” Ongoing tales like this are the rule as of late in franchise film-making, not the exception. And while it was refreshing to see the excitement that attended “The Force Awakens” — not just the first “Star Wars” film in over a decade, but a return no one thought we’d ever see — with “Rogue One” it became apparent that “Star Wars” is going to be an annual thing, not much different that seeing The Avengers pop up once a year. And while that’s fine, I think it kind of reduces the specialness of the series. I’m not under the impression that “Star Wars” was anything but a money-making endeavor in the ’70s and ’80s, but it still stood apart from everything else. These days, it blends right in, consumed by the blockbuster culture it created.
So what could make it feel special again? What if this was the last reveal we got? After all, episode eight is a pre-sold deal. It’s “Star Wars.” It’s Luke Skywalker. People are going to go see it. What if all we got before opening day was this poster? No trailers, no TV spots, no promo pictures? Create an atmosphere of mystery about the series and make people feel like they have to show up opening weekend to see their first glimpse.
I know it’s not going to happen; Disney has too much money riding on it. But come on: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is a heck of a title. Tickets are sold. Sitting back and letting the mystery build would be the best marketing this film could get.