In observation of the one year release of The Last Jedi, the members of the Star Wars Shadow Council recall our reactions to the movie and how our views have changed over the past year. In today’s article, we talk about how we became fans and our hopes going into the movie.
After I saw The Force Awakens I was totally on the hype train. Though it was criticized by some for being too similar to A New Hope, for someone like me, as a new fan (only tangentially familiar with Star Wars), it was the perfect and captivating balance of new and old. I’d seen A New Hope and the other movies, as a casual viewer and not someone that keyed into the franchise, universe or overarching story. Watching TFA was a genuine thrill. I was drawn in and so I was super excited during the period between Episode 7 and Episode 8. It felt like a fun opportunity to be a part of the wait and meet new people.
Which I did, and enjoyed immensely.
I felt particularly connected to the characters of Finn and Rey, the new co-leads for the Sequel Trilogy. It felt like they were new kinds of heroes, for our modern times and really enjoyed their connection and partnership. There were plenty of interesting plot threads to wait for and exciting other movies coming to continue exploring the world of Star Wars as well. Even though I am generally less interested in going backwards in-universe time in the galaxy far, far away, and feel not as connected to the OT era as many fans, I saw Rogue One simply because The Force Awakens got me interested in Star Wars. I went to conventions and halloween parties dressed as black Rey and bought books and Funko and lightsabers.
The period between Episode 7 and 8 was a really fun and exciting time for me as a fan.
I grew up a huge Star Wars fan, and my first time watching the original trilogy as a kid was also my first Star Wars marathon. I was hooked. Unfortunately, I left the fandom sometime after Attack of the Clones. More than a decade later in the spring of 2014, my girlfriend (now wife 😉 ) had learned about my childhood love of Star Wars, and surprise-gifted me a theatrical poster of A New Hope to awaken my inner nerd. Her timing was impeccable because the first teaser for the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, dropped later that year over Thanksgiving weekend. I’ll always remember watching it together at her grandparents’ house, and speculating about the new characters and who that evil voice belonged to, “There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it?” The official TFA trailer, to this day, stands as my favorite film trailer of all time – tears and goosebumps as Han explained that the stories, dark side, and Jedi that Rey and Finn had heard about were true. All of it. Star Wars was officially back front and center in mainstream media, but in so many ways, it was me that had been missing, and I was finding myself again within the fandom.
I’ll tell you right now, I loved TFA; and don’t @ me with ANH-this-or-that because ultimately, I foresee myself enjoying the Sequel Trilogy because of its bizarre and poetic parallels to the films before it (also, I largely disagree that TFA was a rehash anyhow). I was admittedly most excited to see the legacy characters returning. But it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the new cast (BB-8 included – what an incredibly unique droid concept). I was so in love with the new characters, I did not want TFA to end, and there were so many great questions left unanswered. What happened to Rey as a child!? And Why did the saber call to Rey, and is she, in fact, related to the Skywalkers!? Will we get to know more about where Finn came from!? What will Finn decide to do when he awakes!? Will we get to see more of Rey and Finn’s relationship growing!? Where and who were the Knights of Ren!? And where did Snoke come from? But most of all, what was going to happen when Rey finally met Luke!?
I really loved the title of Episode VIII when it was finally announced, and I remember that a lot of people were actually speculating that it might not be referencing Luke Skywalker! COME. ON! I thought the trailers for The Last Jedi were visually stunning and also engaging. I distinctly remember being blown away by the striking contrast in colors of the red dust-trails billowing behind the speeders on Crait. And also the panic of cut-scenes between Kylo Ren and Leia. Would Leia die!? And what does it mean for the Jedi to end? The trailers supplied me with even more intriguing questions than I had leaving TFA, and I was so incredibly pumped to continue the journey, especially as a first to the saga of immediately picking up where the last movie stopped – how interesting! The Last Jedi could not get here soon enough….
I’d been a fan of the series since I was a little kid, not only watching the movies but also reading every EU book I could get my greedy little hands on. I was still a little kid when The Phantom Menace came out and I loved it. When Attack of the Clones came out when I was a bit older I didn’t like it very much. After that I became more General Audience rather than a die hard fan.
When the first trailer for The Force Awakens came out I was still a bit jaded from my disappointment with the prequels. Watching the trailer made me feel like a little kid again and completely rekindled the magic that the series had held for me.
The Force Awakens is not a perfect film, but it is an incredibly charming one. The new characters are all wonderful and interesting in their own right and play off of the older cast perfectly. Most importantly to me The Force Awakens felt the way that a Star Wars movie should feel. By the time I saw Rey walk up those stairs and hold out the lightsaber to Luke, I was completely in love with the series again and I couldn’t wait to see where the story went next.
Star Wars had always been a family affair in my house growing up. From the age of a small child being shown the original trilogy, to watching the prequels when my parents took me to see them with my whole family, I had always loved Star Wars. I had read the EU, played the video games like KoToR duology and every year had a marathon of watching all the movies with my whole family. It was something that we all enjoyed watching together. When we had all gone to see The Force Awakens in 2015, we were blown away! It had been the first Star Wars movie we had seen since Revenge of the Sith and suddenly it was if the franchise had never left. There were criticisms that the movie was a retread of what had just happened, but I never saw it that way. TFA had given us a Stormtrooper, one of cinema’s biggest one note mooks, and turned him into the co-protagonist of the movie, showing a level of depth and commentary that I never expected from a Star Wars movie, and definitely not from a stormtrooper.
Then we had Rey, someone who didn’t want to be a hero or a Jedi, but to have her family back. For the first time in Star Wars history, the protagonists of the movie was a woman and black man, which might not sound like much for some, but it was a bold move by JJ Abrams. The movie tackled themes of abandonment, loneliness, rejecting redemption for a self-proclaimed destiny, found destinies, choosing destinies, self-sacrifice. By the end of the movie, I was beyond excited to see where the stories of Rey, Finn, Poe, and the recently found Luke, would go in Episode VIII.
When the teaser trailer for Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi came out, I remember feeling a sense of dread and fear. Now at first, I was worried because in the teaser trailer I noticed that the male lead of the Sequel Trilogy, Finn, was regulated to one brief shot of him still in a coma, and then when Luke Skywalker, who was the symbol of hope and what a Jedi should be, said that “It was time for the Jedi to end.” It was troubling, to say the least because I remembered how quiet Lucasfilm had been during the #BlackStormtrooper controversy when John Boyega been announced as the male lead of “The Force Awakens”. Then there was hearing Luke Skywalker say it was time for the Jedi to end, something that bothered because we had just seen the Jedi come back after ROTJ, and it felt like Disney and Lucasfilm were pressing the reset button, but it was only a teaser, so I held off on getting too invested in my fear… Then the actual trailer dropped and I felt my hopes for TLJ drop as well.
The trailer painted a very confusing picture, there was a lack of the heroes of the sequel trilogy, Rey, Finn, and Poe, yet there seemed to be an overabundance of Kylo. The trailer even ended with a clear fakeout shot of Rey seemingly asking Kylo for help in where she belonged, which even though it looked clearly like a bait and switch meant to trick the audience, I was worried why they felt like they had to trick the audience at all. There was also my fear of what would happen to Carrie Fisher’s Leia due to her passing. I was afraid that she’d just be written out of the movie or killed off screen in some way, but my love of the franchise and TFA, made me hope for the best.
I differ from many others in that I wasn’t a Star Wars fan until the release of The Force Awakens. My dad once attempted to show me The Phantom Menace when I was a kid, but I’m told that I got bored of it midway through and decided to leave in search of a more interesting pastime. (I do, however, remember the podrace and Jar Jar Binks). My knowledge of the franchise was limited to pop culture references for many years, such as Darth Vader being Luke’s father and the infamous Luke/Leia kiss despite them later being revealed as twins.
That all changed for me in December 2015. I’d seen the TFA trailers and enjoyed them, understanding that this sequel was highly anticipated by millions of people. So, when TFA buzz was reaching a fever pitch just before its release, I decided to watch A New Hope just to see what all the fuss was about. And as they say, the rest is history. I instantly fell in love with the characters, the worlds, and the plot, and finished The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi within twenty-four hours. I was wary of beginning the prequels, since I was aware they were widely panned, but found myself enjoying them as well, and baffled that I hadn’t given one of the most famous film franchises in history a chance before then. I went from thinking Star Wars was little more than two hours of spaceships shooting lasers at each other to being a diehard fan in less than a week.
I had no idea what to expect from TFA, knowing it was the first film without George Lucas’s direct involvement, and so went in excited but with reservations. However, I absolutely adored the film, and thought it did an excellent job of capturing the magic and wonder of the earlier movies. I loved Rey, Finn, and Poe as the new heroes, and thought Kylo was a fascinating, complex villain with a lot of potential. I thought the original cast did very well reprising their roles after thirty years, and although I could understand the criticisms that it was a retread of ANH, I didn’t mind it at all, as long as the following films strayed away from the same path. I believed that Rey was Luke’s daughter right away (any reservations I might have had were instantly dispelled by the final, wordless scene on Ahch-To) and eagerly looked forward to what was coming next. While my pet theory that Jyn Erso would become Luke’s wife and Rey’s mother was almost literally shot down, I still had a fun time watching Rogue One and couldn’t wait for what The Last Jedi would bring.
I first saw A New Hope when I was eight, but my love affair did not begin until I saw it again along with the other OT films when I was ten. For a time I was hooked and read every EU book and most of the LucasArts games as they were released (late 90’s). When it was announced The Phantom Menace was being made, I was over the moon that a new Star Wars movie was being made in my lifetime (born in ‘85). I saw it in theaters four times which remains a record for me (hey, I was 14). Alas, as the GFFA was becoming an unhealthy mental obsession (the more things change…), I made the deliberate choice to stop reading the EU during my freshman year in high school.
In the following years, I was more of a casual fan, but did read a few EU novels and kept a loose eye on what was going on in the EU. By the late EU I was rather horrified at the choices being made and the apparent lack of any attempt to keep the narrative and themes consistent with the movies or between authors. In that light, my reaction to hearing Disney had purchased the franchise and the Sequel Trilogy was being made was one of trepidation. I was heartened when I heard the EU was being discontinued and would be called Legends, but it was the first The Force Awakens trailer and the subsequent ones that won me over.
The Force Awakens itself was an incredible experience and when my fandom truly began. I joined Reddit on December 23, 2015 specifically to join in on the Rey parentage discussion on the Star Wars Speculation reddit on the side of Rey Skywalker, which hasn’t changed to this day. Over the next two years I obsessively read everything canon and developed extensive and detailed theories. In early 2017, I created r/StarWarsReference to track canon and in late 2017 created the Star Wars Shadow Council blog together with some close friends I had made over the last couple of years.
Going into the premiere, I had put together a highly detailed background theory and movie prediction. I was in high spirits going in as most of what I was hearing from the production and the EU aligned with how I saw the franchise and the general direction of where I saw the story going. The leak of the TLJ Visual Dictionary further encouraged me as it appeared to provide support for some of my key predictions. I spent premiere night on the SWSC Discord talking to the members who hadn’t gone dark and looking forward to hearing the first reactions to the film. I was caught completely unprepared by what we got.
Like others here, I was a latecomer to the Star Wars fandom. My family would often play the movies on the VCR on lazy weekend days, and I’d watch them intermittently, never totally following the plots, not to mention being sorely disappointed with the relative lack of female characters on-screen I could relate to. Being a squeamish and violence-averse kid, I was also vaguely traumatized by some of the more icky moments in the movies, namely the tauntaun guts scene, which by itself kept me off Star Wars for almost a decade (seriously. Traumatic.)
It wasn’t until my late teens that a friend showed me the Original Trilogy in full, and I suddenly understood why so many people loved these movies. I was thrilled by the fusion of different narrative and aesthetic styles, the exploration of Hero’s Journey tropes, and the open-heartedness of the characters. This revelation, fortunately enough, happened to take place only a few years shy of the premiere of The Force Awakens.
I saw TFA when I was in something of a low point in my life. I was in the doldrums of senior year of college, lonely, alienated, and nervous about what lay ahead for both myself and the world. I was in sore need of some sincerity, sweetness, and above all, hope. When I sat in that theatre in the Regal Fenway Stadium and watched Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber fly into the hands of a young woman just like me, I remembered having the distinct thought that “every kid sitting in this theatre right now is going to grow up seeing themselves in such a different way than my generation got to.” I walked out into that snowy December night feeling incandescent with hope and excitement for what lay ahead.
Well, what lay ahead was the year 2016, and with it came a whole lot of disappointment. By the end of the year, I felt as though I’d just been through an emotional bar brawl. And the next year didn’t bring much relief either. TLJ, to me, became a bit of a symbol of good things ahead, things to look forward to, vindication that despite all the other things going on in the world, I was still going to get to see these characters again, and remember that feeling of hope for the next generation that I felt two years before.
Well, pre-TLJ I was so afraid of spoilers that I literally isolated myself in the middle of the Pacific Ocean without my phone so I could avoid the Internet for the whole week before release (In other words I was on a cruise. Fun time.) I saw TLJ a day before the US release and…I really loved it. I still love it. Sure it has problems, but what movie doesn’t? It wasn’t what I was expecting, so what? If I had predicted everything that happened in the movie before seeing it, then what would be the point of seeing it? The next day, I saw it again, twice. Then two days later I saw it again. Now by this time I was back home and started talking with the other people in the Shadow Council. “Man wasn’t TLJ great?”. Hooooo boy I was not ready for my fellow fans’ thoughts on this movie that, in my mind at least, was going to be considered the modern Empire Strikes Back. Over the course of the holidays and for a bit of time after, I saw TLJ in theatres multiple times, always trying to find little things that we might’ve missed. This duty fell to me because, well, no one else on the Council wanted to see it again.