That Irresistible Journey

When the Return of the Jedi was released in 1983, we were a group of 27 people lining up in cinemas around Central London trying to get tickets. When we finally got in, we were blown away. We’d been waiting, you see, since 1980, to find out what happens to the rebel forces.

My brother and I had toy light sabers, the millennium falcon, x-wing fighters, and the force was strong within us (with two years between us, being Luke and Leia was no big issue). We made sure that our little sister, six years younger than me, loved the trilogy as much as we did.  When we moved to Pakistan, we gravitated towards Star Wars fans almost naturally.

In 1977, when the first movie came out, it was groundbreaking in terms of special effects, and memorable for its epic story. Over the years, however, I have constantly come across analyses and reviews that pick on the fact that the dialogue was simplistic, the plot was trite and predictable and the movies weren’t well made.

No doubt, they are right—but a generation of moviegoers has, nevertheless, immersed itself and their next generation in this legend. Becoming a Jedi was actually a life goal for many young children. Thirty years later, I still love the movies, the story, the characters (of the original movies, mind you—the subsequent movies should never have been made, in my opinion), and if I ever find a way to harness the Force, I will give up everything else and train to be a Jedi, for real.

Star Wars garnered its loyal fan base because it was simple, not in spite of it. The theme, good vs. evil, was complex in its own way (after all, Darth Vader eventually ended the reign of the emperor he served for so long), and the characters may have been unoriginal, but were still loved.

George Lucas was free, within a broad context, to layer his theme with sub-plots and an entire universe of new species and characters, but there were clearly the rebels in the white hats on one side, and the empire in the black hats on the other. Good was meant to triumph over evil.

These are universal themes, ungoverned by borders or religions, races or class. And they are eternal, like ‘Love will Prevail’.  The journey towards this theme will always vary—keeping in mind, for Indireads, the South Asian audience—but the destination won’t. Romance in literature has existed in some form or the other for centuries, and the destination hasn’t changed.

The goal is to make the journey so irresistible, so interesting, that the overarching theme is merely the satisfyingly expected ending. Your reader should be rooting for the cheesy finale, and they should be disappointed if it changes course.

If, for instance, Leia had rebuffed Han in the Star Wars trilogy, there would have been bloodshed. And that’s the bar—our audience has a wealth of stories embedded in their minds, and writers have to supersede old memories with new ones.