Is there a place for nostalgia in art? Hell no, said I, a couple of days ago, before I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens in my home town. I mean, it’s just syrup, isn’t it?
The poetry’s not lost on me: although the cinema’s had quite a facelift, this is the same foyer I’d stood in 32 years earlier when I’d met Darth Vader before I saw Return of the Jedi with my big brother. And meeting The Dark Lord (the real one) is one of my earliest memories: “What’s your name?” he growled. “Alison”, I squeaked, focusing only on his red lightsaber in order to avoid eye contact. “Alice. That’s a nice name” all 8 ft of him boomed… I was too frightened to correct him.
My Pepsi has been replaced with a large glass of Merlot, but the smell of popcorn’s the same. And so, I concede, is the thrill. My heart is pumping with joy from the moment the familiar score begins and that yellow-on-black opening crawl does its gripping, magical thing. “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” This cynic is taken out with the very first blow. Nobody is safe. Even dear old R2-D2 makes an appearance, FFS.
I often bemoan the fact that I was born in the wrong decade but now I’m not so sure. The Force Awakens is one big nostalgia-fest from beginning to end, made specifically for us ‘80s kids who got to play Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker in the playground. I wonder where my Han Solo is now. Facebook confirms he’s fat, bald, and approaching 40. Oh. But I do feel sorry for those born any later because this, right here, belongs to us. That much of the movie is set in and around my mam’s home town on the west coast of Ireland where I spent many a childhood summer of wild abandon is almost too much to bear. The breathtakingly beautiful landscapes hit hard – and so do the tears of pride.
Over time we’ll probably realise that this wasn’t in fact a great movie – the critical backlash has already begun – but I don’t care. Nostalgia is a powerful drug and right now, I’m doped up to my eyeballs. So for as long as it lasts, may The Force – and the warm and fuzzies – be with you.