It has begun.
Now is the moment when it goes from the hype of the hypothetical to the actual quantifiable event. Is “Star Wars” worth the $4 billion that Disney paid for it, and will “The Force Awakens” truly return the series to its place at the top of the pop culture pyramid?
We won't really know those answers until December 18th, when the film arrives in theaters, but tonight at midnight, in time zone after time zone around the world, the first real test begins. That's right… Force Friday is here.
There's no way I'm going anywhere near a store tonight. I was there in 1999 when they did this, and I think a small part of my innocence died watching grown men elbow children out of the way to buy Jar Jar Binks figures for a movie none of them had seen yet. This time, there's a nostalgia factor built in that should have people in an even bigger frenzy, as well as brand new characters and creatures that are already driving fans insane.
It's pretty much a given at this point that one of the biggest toys of the entire holiday season 2015 is going to be anything involving BB-8. And if you still somehow don't know who BB-8 is, allow me to introduce you to the next thing my children are going to be completely and utterly obsessed with:
There is a reason they had the BB-8 by Sphero and the LEGO Millennium Falcon as the two items that were officially unboxed on “Good Morning America.” These are the two biggest of the big ticket items. One of the things I think I deduced from the LEGO Falcon is just who might be in possession of the ship when we first see it in the film. If it's the guys from “The Raid” and “The Raid 2,” I may lose my damn fool mind. Those little pirate figures sure could be Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, and Cecep Arif Rahman, all three amazing performers. It would delight me to no end to watch Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) somehow wrest control of the Falcon from those guys in particular.
Watching the “Good Morning America” segment, though, I thought both George Stephanopolos and whoever the co-anchor was were insanely condescending, and I thought the kid, evidently a YouTube unboxing video “celebrity,” was too polished and bored. It felt like exactly what it was… a staged, forced toy commercial. Which is fine, I guess. I wanted to see what both of these things looked like, and now I have. So thanks, “Good Morning America.”
The BB-8 was not as big as I expected it to be, frankly. Even so, it's such a fascinating little doodad that people will buy them. It's a robot you control from your phone. That is awesome. Knowing what role he plays in the film, he's going to end up with some of the film's big laughs, and I suspect he will be fairly beloved.
I have a theory that has been developing over the course of the build-up to release so far, and I think I'm prepared to state it in public finally. I think “The Force Awakens” is, in many ways, a remake of the first three films as one movie. I think all of the things that people loved about will be in this film, both literally and in ways that are re-invented. It'll be interesting to see R2-D2 and BB-8 sharing a screen, and I would hope that a big part of the fun of “The Force Awakens” is going to be seeing this new generation side-by-side with the generation whose story they're supplanting.
Regarding the remake thing, though, check out this other Millennium Falcon toy.
It sure looks to me like Finn is going to have a scene where he's basically Luke Skywalker from “A New Hope,” manning a gun onboard the Falcon during space combat. Fine. Cool. I can't wait. As in both “A New Hope” and “Return Of The Jedi,” it looks like there's going to be an attack on a giant weapon of some sort, and Poe Dameron's X-Wing is going to be part of that. I like the new coloring here, but man, this is a call back…
… while there are still other things that promise to tell us stories about the characters we used to know, like these tie-in books that take place after “Jedi”.
One thing that makes me happy is seeing how the costumes we see here for Rey, the Daisy Ridley character, are functional and driven by who she is and what she does, not by her gender. Same thing with the Captain Phasma costumes. I like that these are the options for little girls this time around…
… and not a space bikini that is more fun for the boys watching it than the girls wearing it. I've had a problem for a while now with the ubiquitous nature of the Leia Slave Girl outfit. I think there was a time where it was a fun occasional thing, but it can't be the primary image of femininity in “Star Wars.”
There's plenty of silly today, like the Hot Wheels Kylo Ren car…
… but there's also plenty that speaks to me, like this Black Series Chewbacca:
Here's what I take away most from this product launch: there is still a great deal that we don't know about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and I'm perfectly fine with that. Disney and Lucasfilm have spent most of this year slowly teaching the fans about some of these characters, and today's products mostly just reinforce the things we've already learned. There are new hints and teases hidden in some of this stuff, but for the most part, this is the best marketing machine on the planet hammering home exactly what they want you to know at this point, and nothing more.
If you do go out tonight for any of the midnight events, please weigh in and tell me about your experience. I'd love to hear if any of these toys really pop for you guys, and how you're feeling about the film and your anticipation for it now that you get to be hands-on with them.
And in the meantime, Brian Lynch (screenwriter of this summer's “Minions”) wins the day with this excellent photo and comment:
Cleared out all toys to make room for STAR WARS but one. They tried, but no one could lift it. https://t.co/gJe11eS8HZ
– Brian Lynch (@BrianLynch) September 4, 2015
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opens on December 18, 2015.