The Mid-Life Crisis Darkness of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Princess Leia Organa, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker. I grew up with these guys. Star Wars was the first movie I saw in a theater. I was five. Recall that infamous empty cardboard box that Kenner sent out Christmas 1977, because they signed the toy licensing contract too late and didn’t have any action figures to ship? I had one of those boxes. I had the original comic series – you remember, the one with the green… bunny thing.

In elementary school, my friends and I engaged in endless debate about all things Star Wars. One kid swore the laser swords were called Life Savers, because they saved your life. Another said the next Star Wars movie was going to feature a square Death Star. Even back then, we knew Darth Vader was a “Lord of the Sith,” although no one had a clue what that meant, or where that knowledge came from.

In other words, I, like millions of others of Shaun Cassidy-listening rug rats of my generation, grew up with Star Wars (full disclosure: I never listened to Shaun Cassidy. My first vinyl album was The Gambler by Kenny Rogers). Leia, Han, and Luke were like friends. Cool, older friends, with awesome 70s haircuts (come on: hair buns are totally right for any stylish hippie commune).

Ignoring the Expanded Universe (two words: green bunny) and Lucas’ endless re-releases, edits, and edited re-releases, the last time I saw the gang was at the end of Return of the Jedi. That was in 1983. At the end of the film, as they posed together as a group (weirdly, since in their world there was no one with a camera present recording them, and they all just fall into a group shot for no reason), things were looking pretty. Dang. Good.

Consider: Princess Leia had just helped overthrow the vile destroyed her home planet of Alderaan, and with the mission that had consumed her life complete she was free to realize her true calling as a natural leader, former senator, vaguely defined royal princess by working to restore the Republic to its former glory. Or perhaps she would join Luke in rebuilding the Jedi order – she was a Skywalker, after all, with the potential to be as powerful as her father, Darth Vader, or Luke himself. The future was hers, but whatever path she took, the roguishly charming Han Solo would be at her side as the ultimate husband to her waifu.

Speaking of Han, what a character arc, right? Once a disreputable smuggler operating on the societal and galactic fringe, and constantly on the run to avoid the Empire as well as the wrath of a criminal gangs including one run by a perverted space slug, was now a respected hero of the Rebel Alliance – a general no less. His actions had ensured the destruction of two Death Stars, victories the New Republic would not soon forget. By winning the heart of a princess, he had raised his social station by like, at least five rungs. Maybe six.

And Luke? Luke is the man at the end of Return of the Jedi. OK, so he didn’t get a girl like Han, and the one girl he did kiss over the course of the first three films turned out to be his sister. But that aside, Luke is already one of the galaxy’s greatest heroes.

After all, this is the guy who landed the killing blow on a Death Star as his first action after joining the Rebellion. No longer an obnoxious farm boy on a backwater desert planet where the only hobbies were womp rat murder and expressing disappointment about power converters, Luke had just completed an epic heroic journey of self-discovery, adventure, and the revelation of the power of the Force.

Luke has done more than defeat Darth Vader and the Emperor; he has heralded the literal return of the Jedi to the galaxy (convenient, since this is also the name of the movie) and succeeded in bringing balance to the Force where his father, the whiny Chosen One, had failed. Soon he will open a new Jedi Academy, and you can bet that whatever kids emerge from the union of Leia and Han will be top students there.

Pretty good stuff, right? Your typical fairy tale ending. So, how did things actually turn out for our heroes when we finally get to revisit them, 32 years later, in The Force Awakens (2015)?

Yeah, not so well.

Let’s take a look at where we find our three heroes in The Force Awakens:

Princess Leia is the head of the Resistance, the only force in the galaxy with the spaceballs to stand up to the vile Empire Sith First Order. Well, that’s good, right? She’s a natural leader, and now she’s finally fully in charge. Good for her!

Not so fast. The Resistance appears to be the same organization as the Rebel Alliance at first glance, but in reality it is underfunded, undermanned, and barely tolerated by the pacifist New Republic, which just wants to sweep the whole ugly matter of the Empire under the rug and move on to more pleasant things, like getting a new room where diplomats can ride giant Frisbees all day long. Basically the Resistance is an unwanted group of misfits scrounging for spare parts and funds to keep the enterprise going.

The fact is, no one wants a Rebellion any more. The galaxy had enough of that. The Empire was defeated and exiled to the outer fringes. The fighters of the Resistance are stubborn diehards who most of the New Republic think should stop poking the First Order before it decides to snottily smooth out the wrinkles in its dress uniform and poke back.

You know who else probably doesn’t want a Resistance? Leia. Remember, she could have returned to her role as a senator, she could have run for (and probably won) the position of Chancellor, or she could have become a full-fledged Jedi. Instead, she’s stuck doing this rebellion bullshit, 30 years later. She ride the energy of a galaxy struggling for independence. No one cares. Instead of becoming a leader of the Republic or a Jedi Master she’s… an eccentric. A weirdo running a small cell of anarchists.

It doesn’t appear that she’s developed her force powers very much, so all that potential was wasted. Her fairy tale romance with the dashing Han Solo? That didn’t work out. They aren’t together and haven’t been for years it looks like, so she’s been dealing with the Resistance alone and without the emotional support of a spouse. She and Han had one kid, but he turned out to be an emo goth douche.

Han Solo. He was a respected leader in the New Republic, a war hero, husband to a princess, father to the next generation of Skywalker Jedi. He had it all. And then, somewhere along the line… he backslid. He returned to smuggling. He separated from Princess Leia. His kid turned into an asshole.

Oh. And the Millennium Falcon, his pride and joy, a ship that formed a large part of his identity, was fucking stolen. When we see Han for the first time since Return of the Jedi, he’s a pathetic, washed up has-been flying around in a ship that looks even more like garbage than the Falcon (imagined design notes from JJ Abrams: “I don’t know, fuck it, just make it a rectangle.”), alone except for his only friend, Chewbacca, who is probably only sticking around out of pity.

You know Chewie is probably a bit relived at the end of The Force Awakens. Right, right, I know he’s sad and stuff. I get that. But at least now he doesn’t have to follow this sad sack down the slope to mediocrity any more. Time to return home for a long overdue Life Day celebration with the wife, if you know what I mean.

Chewbacca’s wife’s name is Mallatobuck, by the way. Mallatobuck. His son is named Lumpawaroo.

Hey, you know what the Emperor’s first name was? It was Sheev. Sheev Palpatine.

Anyway, remember how in the original trilogy his big thing was how Han owed money to Jabba the Hutt? Now he owes to, like, five space gangs. He’s learned nothing. He’s back right where he was when we first – you know what, strike that. He’s in a worse place then when we first met him in A New Hope.

Think that’s too harsh? Then consider the following exchange from The Force Awakens between Rey, Finn and Han after they first meet aboard the Millennium Falcon:

Rey: “This is the Millennium Falcon? You’re Han Solo!”

Han: “I used to be.”

Finn: “Han Solo – The Rebellion General?”

Rey: “No, the smuggler.”

Finn: “Wasn’t he a war hero?”

Used to be Han Solo?

Ouch. That’s cold, Abrams.

Lastly there’s Luke Skywalker. What’s there to say here? He tried to bring back the Jedi, and failed hard. His Jedi Academy was destroyed, the students murdered by his own nephew. Then he ran away, abandoning his friends. He didn’t even take his droid R2-D2, but left him behind to be covered by a tarp in the corner like a piece of garbage. While evil rises in the galaxy once again, Luke is in hiding like a little bitch on planet Ahch-To, which sounds like someone hacking up mucus while sneezing. This guy. This is the guy who brought balance to the Force.

What a fucking loser.

So, let’s sum up:

Our original heroes are now washed up, middle-aged losers who:

1) Are stuck in an endless, depressing rut,

2) Have fallen back on criminal habits, or

3) Said fuck it and abandoned friends and family to grow a beard and live on the beach.

Just like the first generation of kids who followed the movies from the beginning. Divorce, shitty kids, failed dreams, careers that go nowhere.

Great. That’s great.

Nice escapist fantasy, assholes!

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