“There was stories about what happened.”
“It’s true. All of it. The dark side, the Jedi, they’re real.”
This exchange between Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer is basically all I needed to see to sway me to, “I am for sure seeing this movie and I am excited,” from the similar yet slightly different, “I am for sure seeing this movie and I am excited, but I’m keeping my guard up a little.”
What this tells us is that, in the time period of The Force Awakens, Jedi and Sith have slipped into myth. No one thinks they are real. This is fantastic news, because Jedi are boring. (I’ve written about this before.) Now, the idea of the Jedi isn’t boring. When Ben Kenobi is telling Luke Skywalker about the Jedi in the original Star Wars, that wasn’t boring. Heck, just listening to Han Solo tell us about the Jedi in the new trailer seems quite exciting. Hearing about the Jedi is interesting. Watching the Jedi in action, as we saw in the prequel trilogy, is boring. Watching an army of superheroes with inconsistent powers and a stilted vocabulary is extremely tedious. But, hearing about these magical knights of peace, while surrounded by smugglers, scoundrels, bounty hunters and charming rogues is infinitely appealing.
I understand why Kylo Ren is in a lot of the advertising: He’s the new cool-looking bad guy on the block and that needs to be established. But it also made me a little wary: Is this going to be another Star Wars movie about an army of people with superpowers? As much as people say they like Jedi, no one really likes Jedi. The consensus is that The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie (a consensus I agree with). Guess what? There is a grand total of one living Jedi in The Empire Strikes Back. And that Jedi, Yoda, doesn’t do many Jedi things. He’s certainly not fighting anyone with superpowers. He’s mostly giving advice and telling stories, which is when Jedi are at their best.
Star Wars has always had a tricky time with the Force. (I’ve written about this before, too.) In the original Star Wars, the Force is almost a parlor trick: A slight of hand here, some trickery there. Every single use of the Force in Star Wars can be explained away by a skeptic. (The first instance of the Force being used in a Star Wars movie in which there’s no other possible explanation is when Luke Skywalker summons his lightsaber in the Wampa cave during The Empire Strikes Back.) Speaking of skeptics: The biggest skeptic of all in the Original Trilogy was Han Solo.
Han Solo used to laugh and laugh while watching Luke get zapped by a remote while trying to use the Force, something Han Solo didn’t believe in. Now, Han is a pretty streetwise fellow and, as he said, “has seen a lot of strange things,” but when he first met Ben Kenobi and Luke Skywalker, he didn’t believe in the Force. And this was only 19 years after the Jedi were exterminated. This would be like people today just not believing that Crystal Pepsi ever existed, “I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe that there’s a clear cola.”
Regardless, we have to accept that as fact: That 19 years after the Jedi, people had forgotten about them. So, let’s add another 30-plus years to that and, yes, it’s now just bedtime stories. Good!
In the now-defunct Expanded Universe, Luke Skywalker started training new Jedi after the events of Return of the Jedi. When The Force Awakens was first announced, there were some rumblings that the new film would use a similar template and it would be all about this new generation of Jedi. We’ve known for a while that The Force Awakens wasn’t quite taking that path – and thank goodness. But what we saw in The Force Awakens trailer confirms that not only did Luke not create some sort of a new Jedi Order – Luke, who was barely in the trailer at all, is apparently off in seclusion – but the whole concept of the Jedi is a story that Rey and Finn aren’t even sure they believe is real. And it’s Han Solo, of all people, who has to explain that, basically, “I was once like you, but yes, it’s real.” And this is faaaaaaaantastic. Because this world, like the Original Trilogy, is nearly Jedi-free. And we can hear all about their stories, which is fine, but this is a world of smugglers and rogues and evil organizations and the people who fight against them – just like Star Wars should be.
Because, never forget, Jedi are boring.
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.