I've spent so much time trying to stay out of the way of the "Star Wars" marketing machine. There have been toys on sale at Target since mid-summer. Themed food items are showing up at the grocery store, with packaging that make it all too clear which characters are the good guys and which are the bad guys. There are certain movie-related sites I just can't visit anymore for fear of running across more spoilers. I already know way too much about who's playing who, who's making cameos, and who ends up with which lightsabers. I'm guessing that many of my fellow old school "Star Wars" are getting a little burnt out.
So I'd like to just pause, take a deep breath, and remember that I actually am excited to see "The Force Awakens." It has been a very long wait for most of us, and now we're only a little more than a month away from opening weekend. 2015 has been a very solid movie year, but frankly the new "Star Wars" movie still has the potential to dwarf all the other successes. Those first two teaser trailers gave me goosebumps like nothing else in years. I toyed with skipping the final one last month, but I eventually gave in. The Comic-Con behind the scenes footage actually got me a little teary-eyed. I've written before extensively about how I fell out of love with the "Star Wars" franchise after the prequels, but I continue to adore those first three movies. They're my cinematic touchstones for so many, many things.
Realistically, I know "The Force Awakens" probably won't be the movie I want it to be. J.J. Abrams is a severely hit or miss director with a lot of bad habits, and the only movie he's directed that I've liked without reservations is the 2009 "Star Trek" reboot. However, I can see his sensibility suiting "Star Wars" very well, as long as he doesn't get carried away. From the promotional materials, he's made many choices that I can really get behind, like the diverse casting and the use of more physical props and effects. I'm actually more thrilled at the prospect of Gwendoline Christie playing a "Star Wars" role we haven't seen a woman occupy before than any of the promised cameos by the old familiar faces. And frankly, I can handle some lens flares if it means we get more visuals like the Super Star Destroyer wreckage from that second teaser.
I'm also getting very excited for the films coming after "The Force Awakens." There's been a lot going on behind the scenes with "Episode VIII" and "Rogue One" that's been overshadowed by the current hype for "The Force Awakens." Creating the spinoff anthology films and using different directors for each film were good ideas. This means a slew of different creative voices will be in the mix, and the franchise will be flexible enough so that it can hopefully accommodate directors we wouldn't immediately consider for "Star Wars." "Rogue One," for instance, seems to be aiming to put the war in "Star Wars," with a plot synopsis straight out of a WWII movie. The international cast they've assembled for it, including Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, and Alan Tudyk is jaw-dropping. Not much is known about Episodes VIII and IX yet, but I'm hoping these will be the movies that Rian Johnson finally knocks out of the park.
I think what I find especially heartening is that Disney is clearly signaling that they're in for the long haul with "Star Wars." They are doing their best to turn this into the next Marvel Universe, possibly with multiple sub-franchises and spinoffs. Netflix is gunning for a "Star Wars" series to go with "Daredevil" and "Jessica Jones," of course. So even if "The Force Awakens" turns out to be a disappointment, there will be multiple attempts to get it right using multiple approaches. Now looking at the current state of the Marvel Universe movies and shows, there's clearly both upsides and downsides to this kind of strategy long term, but I'm pretty confident that "Star Wars" fans are going to be getting some fun media out of it before the end.