What makes ‘Star Wars’ so great: The movies are just the tip of the iceberg

Han Solo

I was never a big “Star Wars” fan growing up.

Yes, I just said something which, in this day and age, is the equivalent of religious blasphemy, given that “Star Wars” is a religion. But it is true.

I never disliked “Star Wars.” The first time I ever saw “Star Wars” was in 1997 when George Lucas re-released “A New Hope” in theaters. However, my fondest memory of it was not seeing Han shoot first or watching the Millennium Falcon reach Ludicrous Speed (wrong movie, I know). Rather, it was the insane amount of snacks my parents snuck in so we wouldn’t have to pay for Buncha Crunch. My other fond “Star Wars” memory was laughing hysterically at the end of “Revenge of the Sith.”

Not being a huge fan has put me at a severe disadvantage as, once again, the world is swallowed up in “Star Wars” fever in anticipation of the release of “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.” It is safe to say that “The Force Awakens” is the biggest film of the year despite the fact that it hasn’t come out yet. That is a testament to the power of this franchise.

As I have become embedded deeper and deeper in the world of entertainment journalism, I have found myself learning more about “Star Wars” than ever before. Let’s face it, you can’t be an entertainment journalist (or a human being) without at least some knowledge or respect to George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away. Snark about Jar Jar Binks can only take you so far.

I don’t know why I never got into “Star Wars” that heavily. It was a series that I appreciated, but never fell head-over-heels over. The franchises that really won me over were James Bond, Indiana Jones, and The Godfather. Recently, I discovered that I also love nearly every “Rocky” movie ever made.

While other franchises are better, “Star Wars” is the one that always stands out. It might be because Lucasfilm, combined with Disney, is the most brilliant and terrifying marketing machine on the planet. However, “Star Wars” is bigger than any marketing campaign, and any movie. “Star Wars” is some kind of monster.

Here is the eternal question: how the hell is “Star Wars” so big? How, after soul-crushing prequels, are we willing to forgive it so easily?

“Star Wars” is too big to fail. It hasn’t even come out yet and it has already grossed over $50 million. That isn’t counting toys.

When people say they love “Star Wars,” they aren’t just talking about the movies.

The craziest thing about “Star Wars” is that sometimes, it feels like you don’t even need to have seen “Star Wars” to love it (although it really helps). I have talked to people much younger than myself who only know “Star Wars” through an animated TV series and Angry Birds inspired games. The movies are just the tip of the iceberg. They are a gateway to video games, novelizations, comic books, and action figures. While many like to label it as shameless merchandising, it is really part of the experience. “Star Wars” is one of few great franchises not based off previous source materials. It is one of cinema’s true original creations. This is how people bring “Star Wars” into the real world.

When talking about “Star Wars,” something that can be infuriating about it is the endless speculation about plot. People bet on the plot of “The Force Awakens” like they were trying to guess the winner of the Super Bowl. “Star Wars” is as much of a sport as it is a work of art. Normally, it is not okay to review a movie before seeing it. In recent months, writers did that for both “Inside Out” and “Chi-Raq” and rightfully got a lot of slack.

But for “Star Wars,” it is okay to declare “this is the best movie I’ve ever seen!” after watching two minutes of footage out-of-context. This used to make me cynical and I used to make fun of it, but I am not cynical anymore. There is a joy to this, and I am ready to let “Star Wars” into my heart.

Yes, I am excited for “The Force Awakens” and I have been ever since I watched the first teaser trailer, which invoked a sense of nostalgia for a time I was never alive during. I am excited enough to get to meet Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) that I even bought a ticket for opening night. I am not planning on waiting in line for a week, or even a few hours, before the movie starts. However, I’ll probably buy a Kylo Ren action figure the next day.