“Whosa are yousa?”
In my experience, two things are required in any discussion of the juggernaut that is Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. The first is a brief recollection of one’s personal history with the franchise, with bonus points if the author can claim to have seen the original during its first theatrical run. The second is a superfluous and hopelessly uncritical sideswipe of those Star Wars movies the fandom has deemed unworthy: possibly Return of the Jedi, probably Revenge of the Sith and Attack of the Clones, definitely The Phantom Menace. I’m something of a traditionalist at heart, so I’ll start by confirming that whatever movies you already dislike are very very bad, and then get on with the juicy personal details.
I don’t know when I watched my first Star Wars movie. I can confidently say it was at least three years ago. My birthdate would indicate I didn’t manage to catch any of the original trilogy in theatre, but as for the prequel trilogy I genuinely can’t recall if I saw them in a theatre or not. I remember trying to playact at some sort of Star Wars story with my friend Blake, but his narrative instincts were all over the map—plus of the two of us I was the only one who could do flips on the trampoline, so fight scenes gradually shifted from deliberate back and forth stick-crossing to me frantically backflipping around and occasionally hitting him in the leg as I whizzed by, which he got tired of pretty quick. I know I played Star Wars: Rogue Squadron on the GameCube, and I think I got in a bit of time in on Star Wars Episode 1: Racer, but the only Star Wars game I remember with any amount of detail is Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II,1 and even that I only remember in vague, pointillist details that probably aren’t even correct.2 I’ve never read a Star Wars book, comic, or graphic novel. I’ve not sought out the Christmas special, the despecialized original trilogy, or any other extra-filmic markers of “true fandom.” However, I did once have a copy of The Phantom Menace on VHS, which I watched multiple times a day for several weeks until I could (and did) recite the entire movie as I watched it (and, occasionally, as I brushed my teeth, waited for my mom to pay for groceries, ate dinner, etc.). I don’t remember my feelings about it, only that I watched it without end.
You may be rightly asking who cares, in which case I agree: with most other movies the above little biographical tidbits would be, as presented, more or less beside the point. What makes Star Wars unique, though, is that in this instance these tidbits, and in particular the tidbit re: Episode I, can and have disqualified my opinion on anything Star Wars in countless social circles. On first glance this may not seem that surprising—we casually write people off all the time for much less—but what is so odd is that it is precisely my appreciation for Star Wars that makes me unable to talk about Star Wars. That is, given that I like Episodes I, IV–VI, and bits of II and III in isolation, anything I may say about any future entries, be they main saga entries like The Force Awakens or anthology films like the upcoming Rogue One, is to be taken with a grain of salt. Or, to put it most plainly and confusingly, I like too many Star Wars movies to be a Star Wars fan.