I was at Ebertfest last week, and at 11 in the morning on Thursday my phone - wifi-deprived and scarcely functioning - started blowing up. A social networking hailstorm descended upon me: texts, tweets, Facebook wall posts, a couple of voice mails and at least one four-paragraph email.
I admit that I've been slightly hazy on the Star Wars Celebration Anaheim details since about an hour past deciding not to attend the convention, so it took me a minute or five to work out that the J.J. Abrams / Kathleen Kennedy panel on The Force Awakens had just happened in California, and the new Star Wars trailer had dropped.
Here's the thing: I love Star Wars. I am a known quantity in the area of loving Star Wars. I've been with Star Wars since day one, and have carried that flag when a lot of other people put it down.
1987, when Power of the Force action figures were being bargained off in discount bins at K-Mart? I loved Star Wars. 1993, when the original trilogy was presented on Laserdisc? I loved Star Wars. That frozen-ass January day when the Star Wars: Special Edition was released? Seven hours in line.
The day The Phantom Menace came out? Two weeks in line.
I've written about The Force Awakens here at ScreenAnarchy a few times already. I've proposed that a 70-year-old Han Solo sounds good on paper but isn't going to make anyone happy this Christmas. The response to the new trailer is encouraging, but I'm still not convinced any of us actually want to know what happened to Han and Leia's marriage or Luke's hand, or whatever else is coming our way as connecting tissue between the Happy Ewok Bonfire Scene and "Chewie, We're Home."
I'm excited about the casting in the new movies, and think John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Felicity Jones all sound like the sort of folk I'd like to see on a t-shirt. Their action figures will be great, too.
And yes: I am pathologically obsessed with Ball Droid. He's my kind of Star Wars. He's my kind of filmmaking, actually: and not just because he's a practical effect. (The hoary insistence that The Force Awakens represents some kind of departure in that regard, and that practical effects weren't being used literally constantly on the Prequel Trilogy, is a bit maddening to anyone with even a basic comprehension of how physical film production actually works.) BB-8 reminds me of Star Wars, if that makes any sense. I'm glad to see him/her/it rolling around in the Millennium Falcon.
But all that aside, here's the real issue: I'm don't care that much about Star Wars any more.
Everyone is welcome to their excitement, but I have to admit I'm finding the scope of this reaction a bit crazy-making. (Two billion dollars in market cap? Over a trailer?)
Star Wars will always be the piece of pop cultural capital, for my generation and at least a couple of generations after mine. I get that. But inasmuch as I'm content to see movie studios continue to make money the only ways they know how, I look at all this Force Awakens excitement and wonder to myself: didn't we do this already?
I've had my Star Wars. I've done my Star Wars, literally twice.
My Star Wars includes the Original Trilogy, and the Prequels, and in a way the latter part is a big piece of my point: when I was a kid, I saw Episodes IV, V, and VI, and spent the next sixteen years messianically certain that there would eventually be an Episode I, II, and III.
And - harkening back to my thoughts on closure and mega-franchises a few weeks ago - one of the more appealing aspects of the Prequel Trilogy for me, as it turns out, was the fact that those movies closed the loop on Star Wars in my lifetime. Like I said: I had the Original Trilogy when I was a kid; and then when I was an adult, George Lucas went ahead and made a whole new trilogy of movies that I could go to a movie theatre and watch.
They cleaned up the narrative area yet undisclosed - I'll leave it to you to determine whether that cleanup was useful, worthwhile, or otherwise your cup of tea - and then, thank goodness, they ended.
This isn't more of the "closure is good" argument. This is simply, from my standpoint, that the experience was good, and felt complete. I got to love Star Wars as a kid, and circle back on it as a grown-up and look at it again from a different vantage point; and then I got to put it away and be done with it.
There will never again be a "putting it away and being done with it" with the new Star Wars. Yes, I'm well aware that the franchise itself has long since extended far past the frame of the movies themselves; I'm as big a Clone Wars fan as the next guy, and I read several runs of the comics (both the defunct Dark Horse and current Marvel runs), and I've played a video game here or there.
But now, with its aggressive-expansion plan not unlike Starbucks' plan of the same name, Lucasfilm is aiming to trot out an in-canon and beyond-canon film (the "anthology" series) every year for the rest of the lifetime of motion pictures. Which, themselves, will probably end sooner or later - but from this standpoint, what's the difference?
Star Wars is about to become something it's never been before: routine. Predictable. Generic. There's nothing wrong with any of that, and if the projects within that frame get to experiment with different types of stories and approaches - and continue to make money and make people happy - then so much the better.
But I find my ability to get all worked up about it has waned significantly. This, I suppose, is why my phone blew up last Thursday; a lot of people who know how I feel about these movies needed me to be as fired up about The Force Awakens as they are. And I'm just not.
("Who are you?" one of my aghast friends quipped at my reaction.)
Are we all going to jump up and down like maniacs for every trailer for Episodes VIII and IX? What about XVIII and XIX? At what point of omni-saturation does Star Wars simply cease to be candy?
Put it another way: I used to collect Star Wars action figures. I used to be a completist. This was fairly easy when there were 94 original figures and a somewhat larger number of Power of the Force II action figures, when the line was restarted in 1995.
I realized with some shock that 1995 was, as of this writing, twenty years ago.
There are now, at a rough guess, 3000 or so Star Wars action figures. I'm sure there are people out there who own them all - but me, I'm glad I got out when I did.
I feel the same way about the movies now. Sooner or later, there's going to be a Star Wars movie I just don't get around to seeing - either because I'm dead, or I just don't care any more, or something else. There are no completists in this game any more: Star Wars is no longer a finite set. Star Wars is infinite, but I am not.
There's one more aspect to this, which I've been feeling in abundance for most of the decade since Revenge of the Sith was released: Star Wars isn't mine any more.
It sure felt like it was mine for a long time. I suspect this is true for a lot of fans. I suspect this is why The Phantom Menace is routinely treated as some kind of hate crime, which it categorically is not.
These days, I don't feel any particular sense of personal connection or ownership to the Star Wars monolith - and this makes me happy. I don't need, or even particularly want, Star Wars to be mine any more. I had it - a lot of it - as described above.
Every time I see an actual child wearing an actual Star Wars t-shirt, which may shortly bear the likenesses of John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, or Felicity Jones, I'm happy. I don't care what part of modern Star Wars has that child excited; I don't care if she loves Ahsoka Tano or the Despecialized Edition of the 1977 film. I'm just glad she has her Star Wars, just like I had mine. That both validates my own fascination and kindly reminds me that the torch has officially been passed.
Strip-mined nostalgia by way of its old-fogey original characters notwithstanding, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is not my Star Wars, and it's not meant to be. May the Force be with all the kids who are going to grow up wanting to be Rey, Finn, or BB-8. I'll see you on opening day, and then get on with whatever else is going on that week.
Destroy All Monsters is a weekly column on Hollywood and pop culture. Matt Brown is in Toronto and on twitter.