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Guard against the dark side

On Friday, the film that geeks and nerds the world over have been waiting for will open in theaters: Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

On Friday, the film that geeks and nerds the world over have been waiting for will open in theaters: Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens.

Star Wars is a beloved movie franchise, with three wildly successful original films and three mildly successful prequels. There have been books, television shows, and merchandise galore. Still, there are those in the geek- and nerd-o-sphere who have been sounding the alarm "What if it's terrible?" - as many thought the prequels were.

To all the worrywarts, I say this:


J.J. Abrams knows what he's doing. After all, he directed two films for the rival Star Trek franchise. He knows how to handle a property with a fervent fan base. And in case you forgot, he did very well with the 2009 Star Trek film (it made $280.7 million domestically) and the 2013 sequel Star Trek Into Darkness ($228.8 million domestically).

Since I am of a certain age, I grew up with the original trilogy, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. (They are now known as Episodes IV through VI). I remember when I first saw the original movie in 1977. My older brother was going to the movies and asked if I wanted to come along. I said yes without knowing what we would be seeing.

Even though we arrived 10 minutes late, I was immediately captivated by the story of Luke Skywalker, Obi-Won Kenobi, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. Skywalker wanted to be a Jedi knight more than anything, and he had Jedi Master Kenobi to guide him, either in person or in spirit. Princess Leia would not betray the Rebel Alliance, despite being captured and tortured by members of the Empire, whose military leader was the evil Darth Vader. Han Solo started out as a rogue smuggler who just wanted to use his reward money for rescuing the princess to pay off his debt to Jabba the Hutt. Of course, Solo later turns his sympathies to the rebel cause.

Well, I ended up liking the movie more than my brother did. After that, every time a Star Wars film was released or rereleased in the '70s and '80s, I was in the theater watching and enjoying every minute. I saw Episode IV eight times, Episode V six times, and Episode VI three times. As for the prequels, I saw each once.

From that perspective, I say we ignore the Internet chatter from fan boys and girls who give their two cents on any aspect of the Star Wars universe. And when segments about Star Wars come up on broadcast media, either leave the room or turn down the volume. Finally, when watching the new movie itself, watch it with more than just an open mind; watch it with a sense of awe for the universe George Lucas created and Abrams is continuing, and just enjoy the ride.

There are a wide range of entertainment options available to us, but going to the movies is still special. Films and the stories they tell touch us deep inside. They take us to another place and time. They are the "stuff as dreams are made on" that encourage a sense of wonder within us.

In this world where the news is frequently bad and things are often seen with a jaded eye, let's give ourselves the gift of wonder. Let's dust off our dreams to see what we can make of them. Let's be open to the wonder not just of Star Wars, but of life around us.

Having a sense of wonder shines light in a dark world. As Star Wars shows us, the forces of darkness can be defeated. First, though, we must guard against the darkness growing inside us.

I. Di Toro is a writer in Philadelphia.