It would be hard to argue that there is a more epic, or more highly-anticipated movie in the history of cinema than the ninth episode of Star Wars. When Rise of Skywalker is released this December, it will represent the culmination of 40 years of storytelling that spans three generations.
Without a doubt, the stakes are high. This might be the most important film in a pretty substantial career for director and producer, JJ Abrams, who just recently turned down a huge paycheck from Apple so that he could keep making movies like this one. It may also represent another massive windfall for Disney, which has come to dominate more and more of the entertainment universe in the last decade.
I watched the third and final trailer for Rise of Skywalker this morning with my three oldest children. What struck me most is how difficult it would be to wrap up a story known and loved by hundreds of millions of people. How can you ever live up to those expectations? I mean, Abrams is good, but this is Star Wars.
Spoiler alert: I'm going to help you out--watch the trailer first before reading the rest of this column.
The saga will end, the story lives forever. Watch the final trailer for @StarWars: #TheRiseOfSkywalker in theaters December 20. Get your tickets now: https://t.co/MLbzRXrCJb pic.twitter.com/RLllQGme76-- Star Wars (@starwars) October 22, 2019
Episode IV came out the year I was born (1979). Star Wars has existed my entire life, beginning with one of the greatest trilogies of all time. That was followed by what could be argued as the weakest collection, Episodes I-III. My children have grown up not only watching the previous installments, but they have an entirely new cast of heroes and villains to cheer for and against.
Seriously, my nine-year-old daughter knows every detail and every line of all eight films so far. And Rey is, for her, what Luke Skywalker was for my generation as well as my parents'. Actually, that's not true: Rey is her Batman, Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Superman, and Jack Bauer combined. I'm okay with that.
Of course, fans (and critics) have had plenty to talk about online since the trailer was released, from the return of Palpatine, the apparent end for C3-PO, and the appearance of General Organa, the all-grown-up Princess Leia. It can't be a coincidence that the trailer dropped on Monday, which would have been actress Carrie Fisher's 63rd birthday.
As an aside, the fans seem to like what they've seen. The Rise of Skywalker outsold Avengers: Endgame in first-hour presales to become the fastest selling film of all time. There's plenty to be said about that, but I'm more interested in the story.
The tagline for the trailer says it best: "The Saga Will End. The Story Lives Forever." It's true. George Lucas managed to create a story and a universe that rivals any in modern film--maybe any since Tolkien.
By the way, not to get all meta, but when the iconic theme song playing halfway through the trailer, I looked over and all three of my children--ages eight, nine, and eleven--had looks of total awe. And I had a tear. I'm serious.
Here's why: You can say what you want about Star Wars. Maybe you're not a fan (though I'm not sure why you're reading this if that's the case), but Star Wars is one of the greatest storytelling arcs of our era. Even the parts with Jar Jar Binks (who caught way more heat than he deserved) remain memorable.
Even more than that, it's a shared tale, which matters because people relate to stories. Stories are what connect us to our experiences and to each other. For 40 years, people have been watching this epic story and relating to the battle between good and evil. They've been cheering together for heroes, loathing (but also loving) the villains. Great stories make you feel everything, like the moment when C3-PO says, "I'm taking one last look at my friends."
Now who's crying?
As it all comes to an end, that tagline is especially appropriate because stories don't end. They continue to resonate for generations. That's not just true for cinema, by the way. It's true for you, it's true for your business, and it's true for your brand. You might not be creating a story quite the scale of Star Wars, but what you say and do matters. By welcoming people into your universe, you make them feel a part of something bigger. And if that's the case, it's worth doing so in a way that can live forever. Or at least aspire to.
As Finn says at the beginning of the trailer: "It's an instinct--a feeling. The Force brought us together." Indeed it did.