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A Charlie Bielinski Pop-Ed: Will the Force Be With 'Star Wars: Episode VII'?

I saw The Phantom Menace four times in the theater on opening day.

Yeah, I am one of “those” fans.

How is that possible, you may be asking? That is, of course, if you aren’t snickering at how ridiculous that first sentence sounds.

Viewing No. 1 was, obviously, during the 12:01 a.m. screening with all of the other fans. No, I wasn’t in costume, but I was wearing a brand new Boba Fett shirt. Viewings Nos. 2 and 3 were back-to-back after breakfast the next morning with a short break for lunch at the Friendly’s in the parking lot of the Regal in Royal Palm Beach, Fla. The fourth and final trip to the movie theater was with my friend Jim (who actually went to work that day) and his wife that evening.

For years afterwards, I tried to convince myself that the film wasn’t all that bad. I gladly took up the defense of the film and wore my title as a George Lucas apologist proudly. It wasn’t until watching the film with my daughter a couple of years ago that I realized how wrong I had been. As Palpatine tells young Anakin that he will be watching his “career with great interest” and the music behind Qui-Gon’s funeral began to get darker in tone I looked at my daughter and wished that I hadn’t chosen this as her introduction to the Star Wars saga. You see, it wasn’t until some time later that I found the Internet debate about the proper viewing order.

Now we are on the verge of not only a new beginning but a limitless continuation of the story created by Lucas some 40 years ago. It has been explained that Disney will not only produce the next three films to continue the story after Return of the Jedi but also standalone films that take place in the Star Wars universe. Many fans are excited for what they are about to see, but just as many, as evidenced by the Internet chatter on various websites devoted to such things, are exhibiting some fear about how this will all turn out. For every fan stating that JJ Abrams was the perfect choice to continue the story there is another — perhaps double the amount it seems — who is critical of every announcement being made about the progress of the new film. Even those who are accepting of the choice of Abrams to bring us the much-wished-for sequels are not really heaping praise upon the news we are being presented with so far.

So what do we really know? Not much, actually.

Harrison Ford has made some interesting talk show appearances and playfully teased us while not talking about his status when asked if he is participating. Mark Hamill was recently photographed looking much slimmer and more fit than he has in recent years. During an AMA on Reddit last week he stated that he knew R2-D2 would be in the film but he said he couldn’t provide any more information because he really didn’t have any. Carrie Fisher, however, has been very quotable when asked Star Wars questions lately. When being interviewed for her upcoming appearance on The Big Bang Theory, she said that Hamill and Ford would be joining her sometime in March or April when they report to the set to film scenes as the characters they last played 30 years ago.

Oh, there is one other bit of news that has come out recently.

Abrams has finished the script.

And now that I am sitting here thinking about it, that's all I really want to know about Star Wars: Episode VII before I sit down in the theater on Dec. 18, 2015, at 12:01 a.m. I don’t want to know that Benedict Cumberbatch is playing a Dark Jedi or that Jesse Plemons is playing Luke Skywalker’s son (a couple of the recent rumors). I don’t want to see set reports or spy footage of the new costumes and lightsabers and I certainly don’t want to have to consider whether or not Ben Kenobi was celibate on Tatooine for all those years living on the Dune Sea (rumors are that he may have a granddaughter).

In 1977 when my father took me to see Star Wars (the film that would later be given the added title of Episode IV — A New Hope), I am sure I had no expectations but was excited. I have vague memories of that filmgoing experience but I have very vivid memories of the anticipation for The Phantom Menace. I watched the trailer over and over before I was able to purchase my tickets. I devoured as many Internet rumors and news that I could find when filming began in 1997. As the next two movies were being produced and released, I continued to find out as much as I could about them before I sat down in the movie theater.

I’m not sure it is possible to avoid all the news that is sure to come out in the next two years — heck, I write about this stuff on a website devoted to pop culture — but I know that I want to actively avoid as much as I can. My friend, Scott, can attest to that being a very odd statement for me to make about myself. Over the past few years I have been a spoiler junkie regarding any project that I am excited about and have found plenty of sites to provide me with that information.

It’s just that this time around I want to experience what 5-year-old me must have experienced. I want to walk in having a vague idea and some excited anticipation about what I am about to experience. That part of my Dec. 18, 2015, experience is on me. I also want to walk out with the feeling of wonder that I know I must have had as a 5 year old because that wonder has stayed with me for 36 years through multiple movies (yes, one of them pretty bad) and something called the Extended Universe of video games, books, and even a horrible Christmas Special. Whether or not I experience that wonder after watching is in the hands of JJ Abrams. Actually it may be stored right now on his very secure (I hope) hard drive.

I hope The Force is with him.

C’mon, after reading the first sentence you knew I had to go there.
A Charlie Bielinski Pop-Ed: Will the Force Be With 'Star Wars: Episode VII'? Reviewed by Charlie Bielinski on 1/27/2014 Rating: 5

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