Youth Culture Window
“It’s a trap!”
It’s inescapable. If you live in America you can’t escape its impression. It’s no longer just for nerds, and it’s definitely not far, far away.
It doesn’t matter where you turn, you’ll see Star Wars toys, coffee mugs, bed sheets…underwear! Star Wars is back, and America is on board. The new film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is less than two weeks away and is projected to be the biggest movie of 2015.
Are you ready for its impact?
“There Has Been An Awakening”
With those words, the very first “teaser trailer” that was released all the way back in 2014, excited every Star Wars fan – and had them speculating – about the upcoming film to be released on December 18th. In reality, the trailer was nothing more than a hodgepodge of various clips strung together, but it was more than enough to ignite the Internet, toy manufacturers, and multiple generations of sci-fi fans. The second “teaser trailer” was released earlier this year and showed even more scenes, but still kept the plot buried in suspense (though it did confirm that Harrison Ford would be reprising his role as Han Solo, a really big deal for franchise fans). The official trailer that was released a few weeks ago definitely weaves together more storyline – and has been incessantly studied for possible giveaways by fanboys everywhere. Together, these trailers have been viewed online hundreds of millions of times.
I (Jonathan) remember seeing the first film in 1977 as a 7-year-old boy. There was nothing like it. It was all anyone could talk about. This was before Blu-ray players and even VCRs. In fact, my friend Michael had an audio tape of the movie that we would listen to over and over again, replaying the visuals in our minds.
The movie has truly become a movement as the franchise has expanded over the last three decades. The Force Awakens is the seventh installment in this amazingly popular movie franchise. It comes after the original trilogy that was released between 1977 and 1983 and the three “prequels” that were released from 1999 to 2005. The prequels showed us the character development of Anakin Skywalker and how he became the ruthless Darth Vader while the original films showed us how he and his evil Galactic Empire was overcome by his son Luke, his sister Leia, and their friend Han, along with a group of their alien compatriots.
Awakens will continue the famous storyline just as Disney promised they would when they bought the Star Wars franchise in October of 2012 for a mere $4 billion. Executives from Mickey Mouse’s side of things promised to “aggressively expand” the film schedule with releases every two to three years…and that’s exactly what they’re doing. The sci-fi story has already been incorporated at Disney theme parks in the way of exhibits and shows, but starting this month, even more entertainment experiences will be rolled out in anticipation of the first film’s release.
Heroes and Villains
The biggest thrill for many adults was when we saw some of the original stars making a comeback for this release. The seventh “episode” in this international classic will bring back the likes of Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia/General Organa), and Harrison Ford (Han Solo). (I’d be really impressed if they brought back Alec Guinness!)
But Awakens will also be introducing us to some new names in the ongoing fight for the galaxy. One of the central protagonists is a female – which has become a popular move in recent films like Hunger Games and Twilight – and her name is Rey (played by Daisy Ridley). John Boyega plays a stormtrooper named Finn who seems to be questioning his allegiance to the evil First Order. Oscar Isaac (from 2010’s Robin Hood) plays Poe Dameron, a super talented X-wing fighter pilot who leads the charge against the bad guys from the air. Together, they’re staring down General Hux, the ruthless leader of the First Order, played by Domhnall Gleeson from the Harry Potter films, and his “frenemy” Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver (Lincoln and While We’re Young), another commander in the First Order who happens to be endowed with a strong dose of the Force.
Arguably the most significant person involved in this film won’t even be seen by the camera lens; J. J. Abrams, the cinematic genius who earned his chops with popular TV shows like Alias and Lost, and quickly graduated to the silver screen where he wrote and directed Super 8, the recent Star Trek films, and Mission Impossible III. He not only has captured the heart of nerds everywhere, everything he touches turns to gold, so he was an easy choice to co-write and direct The Force Awakens. As a writer, Abrams has a way of taking storylines and making them his own. And by box office results, his work as a director has already produced films that have generated in excess of $1 billion.
Speaking of the box office, experts have predicted that Star Wars: The Force Awakens will rake in $615 million on its opening weekend, making it the biggest film of 2015. That’s saying a lot since this summer’s Jurassic World pulled in a whopping $524 million on its opening weekend (and $1.6 billion across worldwide theaters during its run). That future speculation is based on past history; Fandango reports that “unprecedented ticketing demand” has led to more than 1,000 shows being sold out inside the first 12 hours of sales.
Facing the Force
Without a doubt, plenty of young people will make their way to theaters on Friday, December 18th, to see this movie. We suggest that parents accompany them for a family outing, and/or youth workers schedule a group viewing for some bonding time before the Christmas holiday swings into full effect. Here are just a few reasons why this is (almost) a no-brainer:
First, if Abrams sticks with the totally clean legacy that creator George Lucas was known for, parents and youth leaders can expect a high-energy film with a cool story and clearly defined good guys and bad guys. Of course, there will probably be just the right amount of “what if” at the end to set up yet another film in this franchise for a 2017 release.
Second, the forthcoming storyline looks to put a huge emphasis on characters (like Finn) analyzing their current course of action to see if it’s worthy of their life’s investment. These kinds of stories make us recall real life examples of big morality-based questions, such as the Nazi soldiers in World War 2 as they committed crimes against humanity in the name of “following orders.” These plots make it easy to segue into life-changing conversations long after the credits have rolled.
Third, this film will probably generate another one of our awesome MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSIONS (like this classic one from Empire Strikes Back) that helps adults develop faith in teens’ lives.
Lastly, our resident movie guys, Todd and Jonathan, will offer a MOVIE REVIEW of the film on opening weekend to help you prepare for the mega event that will be Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This totally free resource will give you all the confidence you need to lead an excursion to theaters on opening night.
As you battle the crowds on December 18th, may the Force be with you.
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.
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