Kevin Smith’s Report from the Episode 7 Set: Finding the Peter Pan in all of us

There was a lot of Star Wars news this past week as the world revs up for the most recent reports from that line of mythology originating during the 1970s. As I received news from Lucasfilm about their schedule at Comic Con, San Diego, a fan from Germany did a brilliant YouTube video showing vehicles from the Empire being unloaded at a foreign airport. It was a remarkable short film and showed how easy it is for anybody these days to make wonderful visual effects—putting story telling within reach of the entire world. Even more remarkable was that the creator was not an American, but was German—meaning that the very American Star Wars mythology was important enough to him to create such a video which would have taken a considerable amount of thought and time.

But most remarkable of all was the report from Kevin Smith—the filmmaker from the Clerks movies and Red State who was given permission to visit the Star Wars Episode 7 set by invitation of J.J. Abrams. Smith is personal friends with Ben Affleck and a number of notably progressive Hollywood types, but he is also a very pop culture lover of comic books and heroic endeavor. If he and I had a dinner conversation together it is likely we would agree on nothing related to politics, but everything regarding comic books and Star Wars which is the magic of that particular mythology.

I was not a fan of Smith’s movie Red State—which felt to me like a Hollywood shot at life in the Midwest. Most of the antagonists in the film were perverted versions of the type of characters Hollywood views as “Bible Thumpers” so I nearly ignored the report that Kevin Smith gave after his visit to the Star Wars set. However, under the recommendation from some of the filmmakers from the Atlas Shrugged set I gave it a chance and was glad I did. Smith gave a remarkably honest breakdown not only of what he saw there—but in how it made him feel which reaches to the heart and soul of the entire Star Wars movement.

Star Wars is a movement, philosophical, political, and religious—it is a culture building exercise that extends far beyond simple entertainment. Cultures throughout the world have spent decades now having values removed from them leaving them empty. The causes have been varied—but the results are massive cases of emptiness leaving people desperately hungry to fill themselves with something of value. Star Wars created by George Lucas was intended for children to provide value and this hunger for all things Star Wars is most reflected in the excitement level of grown adults who are rediscovering their inner—long lost child through new movies and products.

I promised my children and wife when we all saw the movie Hook together by Steven Spielberg that I would never become lost like the Robin Williams character and lose my inner Peter Pan. And I have never broken that promise to them—I understand all too well the character of Peter Pan. I live the life of Pan with every breath that I take. With that said, the bedroom of my wife and I looks like a Star Wars toy section at Target. Looming over our bed is a large Millennium Falcon and located around our bedroom are several different versions of that same ship in various sizes. I know what Star Wars means to me because I have never left that part of my life behind—instead I incorporate it seamlessly into my mature life in the way that Peter Pan had to reconcile at the end of Hook.

I’m sure that J.J. Abrams invited Kevin Smith to the Star Wars set to generate positive publicity ahead of Comic Con in San Diego and to put some of the negative rumors about Harrison Ford’s broken leg—which is healing, to rest. Ford is doing what he has always done—he’s fighting back to health so he can complete the film. (Harrison Ford suffered an ACL tear during the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and ruptured a disk in his back during the filming of Temple of Doom. In both cases he hit the weight room and recovered and finished his film as the star. He is doing the same thing as a 71-year-old man for Episode 7. That is what makes him great and a man’s man.) Smith came to the set and reported in a video what he saw which was captivating, but what impressed me most was his sense of understanding of what happened to him when he stepped to the top of The Millennium Falcon ramp.

It was an interesting admission that Kevin Smith made when he declared that everything he had been—as an adult—was a corrupt caricature essentially shaped by the times of society’s impression upon him. He was very honest about stating that when he visited the Star Wars set he returned back to his childhood which for him was a treasure—as it is for most people. His intense revelation about crying at the top of The Millennium Falcon ramp says a lot about our culture. It is that lost Peter Pan persona that most of us seek to regain.

So the question must be asked—why do we give up that treasure in our teenage years? Some of the most courageous among us regain that persona later in life once we become grandparents—and too old to care what people think of us. Once we lose our sex appeal, our hair, our nice skin, and the ability to impress others with our appearance there is once again a chance to become childlike with the wisdom of years of learning to support ourselves. Kids don’t care what they look like, they just like to play and have fun, and this is a trait that we should not give up on as adults.

I never have—I promised my family I never would, and I never will under any conditions. Every day in my life is like the end of the Robin Williams version of Peter Pan in Hook. I skipped right over the crises period and just went from childhood to adulthood with the same enthusiasm. What Kevin Smith, Seth McFarlane, and I all have in common is that even though we differ dramatically in our politics—we share emphatically a love of Star Wars for the same reasons—as the mythology is a direct link to the energy of childhood which should never be lost to any adult anywhere.

Kevin Smith obviously would have been a happier person if he didn’t start swearing, doing drugs, and adopting progressive causes. This is why our politics is different essentially. He would have been happier if he had kept that inner child all through his life and dropped the cynicism of adulthood. He shouldn’t have had to cry when he stepped to the top of The Millennium Falcon ramp. But, his friend J.J. Abrams probably did Smith a huge favor on a personal level by bringing him to the set to see the Star Wars shoot in person.   It is good that Kevin Smith had that experience and reported it so honestly—because this is part of the healing qualities that I have spoken about so often regarding Star Wars. The culture that will come from all this will leave us all much better off than we are today—because the stories are about values that the inner child in all of us crave so deeply. The cynical adult in us has yielded to the pressures of existence which imposed compromises of those values leaving us shells of ourselves to live as caricatures of our former dreams—which is the essential story of Hook.

Disney will surely give the rest of the world the same opportunity Smith had when they build a full scale Millennium Falcon in Orlando, Florida for visitors to their theme parks. It will be a common sight to see grown adults weeping at the top of the ramp in the same way that Kevin Smith did because the long suppressed magic of childhood will come rushing back to them in that instant. It’s not immature to feel such things–it is actually rational to reacquaint an adult life with the foundations of their belief systems formed during childhood. For many people, Star Wars is the clearest representation of value that they have and is why so many fans go to such elaborate measures to touch that mythology any way they can, even if it is in a short film remarkably done like the one at the German airport. There have been few people who have put their finger on the pulse of the Star Wars movement better than Kevin Smith did when he so honestly reported his visit to the Episode 7 set.

There is no shame in rediscovering the Peter Pan in all of us—the eternal youth forever thoughtful of the hopes and dreams of discovery and imagination. When those things are lost, we are robbed of much—and it is always good to revisit these traits which we are born with. It has only been recently when there was a mythology like Star Wars providing the mechanism through simple sight of a movie prop that could make a grown man cry like a baby at the purity of the emotion—the long lost hopefulness of childhood and the values of the uncompromising dreams of youth.

Rich Hoffman