Written By: Walter Hill
On December 20, 2019, Star Wars as we know it will end.
I have no idea how J.J. Abrams is going to bow tie the many loose ends and hinted promises presented by The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens. For me, I’m not sure the final destination or the fandom wish lists matter much at all. I’m just dying to see how we reach final conclusion. How do you end a forty year story in only three hours? I imagine this is what it feels like during the final exam for a class where the final is worth 80 percent of the grade. It’s a mildly unfair weight, and doesn’t really test for comprehension. The Rise of Skywalker is looking to be a celebration, a farewell, and a thrill ride of a film all in one. For me, the end of the Skywalker Saga just brings me back to my own beginnings.
I was about seven when the prequel trilogy ended. I have memories of taking a fearful bathroom break as Revenge of the Sith scared me out of my seat, brimming with lava and screaming and mournfulness in its finale. As a child, I was insulated from the vitriol the three prequel films inspired, but, in some ways, I had arrived too late.
The Star Wars saga has ended once before after all, nearly fifteen years ago now. My younger self then had come to terms with the end of Star Wars. No more movies, no more trilogies, no more alien tongues and spiritual lightsaber swinging knights. What was left to me of the cultural behemoth were the afterimages, the carbon copies, and the secret gems. Books and cartoons filled in the gaps George Lucas so broadly painted across with details, new settings, and riveting characters. Some of those fill-ins were dreadful and some of them were boring too, but I found my own love for Star Wars and art, the stars, and storytelling in those gaps.
I can’t tell you precisely when Star Wars welded itself onto me like it’s done so many others. I remember owning the VHS tapes of the original trilogy. I remember dropping everything for the TBS Star Wars marathons. I remember every two and a half hours that I spent submerged in that universe felt like days. Star Wars fueled my imagination in a way nothing else has ever done. Years removed, the films still hold a magic that I struggle to comprehend. Every locale, special effect, and set piece propped the scaffolding for a sweeping illustration. The battles hinted at a larger war, and the alien creatures spoke in tongues waiting to be deciphered. The characters, while compelling to me on a surface level, never really left me awestruck. For me, Star Wars has always been about the setting and the grand sweeping plot Lucas envisioned. The Star Wars galaxy felt to me like an open source mural, a basket full of stories. From the path of a Jedi from learner to Master, to gunslingers hunting for cold coin, to clone soldiers wrestling with their own sense of self, the wider world of Star Wars was a sea of focused stories, complex people, and momentous eras. It felt like the history of another world, and I was determined to be a dutiful historian. Star Wars quotes are a part of my personal lexicon now. The rough story timeline and its branches sit neatly in my brain next to my brother’s birthday and the history of America. I tried to learn Mando’a for about a week, and I amassed more than a handful of toy lightsabers. I was in deep.
As time has gone on I’ve had less time to dedicate to Star Wars. I’ve done less memorizing of story lines with college classes and work filling my time. But Star Wars inspired my creativity just as much as it did my imagination. I picked up an astronomy book for the first and only time because of Star Wars. I tried my hand at writing my own sci-fi stories because of Star Wars. Even my desire to develop video games can be traced back to the Star Wars films. Watching the recent films on opening night has felt like a dream come true to ten-year-old me. I thought I missed the boat, that the real Star Wars was merely on loan to me from another era. But with the return of Star Wars to the silver screen, it’s also felt as if I lost something. Star Wars doesn’t feel like it’s mine anymore. In those middling years, I realize that I’d found my own little pocket of the Star Wars fandom built from the echoing remnants of the cinematic heavyweights. Those old side stories attached themselves to my imagination, and I built my own nostalgic tapestry of a tale out of them, with the movies as background. Now Star Wars feels like everyone’s story again. The recent movies have been delightful, beautifully shot and acted, and full of memorable Star Wars moments. But I find myself anxious to see the end, anxious to step back and see just how the last three saga films fit into the long painting that Lucas and Lucasfilm first brought to life forty-two years ago.
Of course, this is not the real end of Star Wars. The wider Star Wars universe will surely continue to spin out stories and rake in money, but this ending feels different. Lucas originally dreamt up a nine movie saga, and now that we’ve got it, I find myself taken aback by how ready I am to experience the finale. In reality, I’m excited for the end. I feel most comfortable sitting with Star Wars on my own time and seeing that world through its smaller, tighter, more detailed stories. I’m excited because when the credits roll on Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker, I’ll find myself in a familiar place. The sun will set on the Skywalker Saga once again, and I will be left once more in that intermediate space in between cultural landmarks. Star Wars will shrink back down onto TV screens, the page, and game consoles, at least for a few years. In the interim, I am content to let the grand arc of the films wane as I try to find a new comfortable, creatively inspiring, and thought provoking corner in that galaxy far far away.