Finding Child-Like Wonder

"BB-Ball" | Art by OtisFrampton. Used with permission.
The first time I saw A New Hope and Jurassic Park, I was captivated. I had never seen anything like either film. They were pure movie magic, taking me to a new and unknown place, one I desperately wanted to revisit again and again. They ignited a flame of child-like wonder within me.

Child-like wonder—that sense of awe that sparks my imagination beyond the jaded world that I’m accustomed to experiencing. It’s the stunning fireworks display or the dazzling Christmas lights that takes me back to a moment in time when I believed in magic. I have never outgrown that desire to be enthralled or excited. I want to believe in magic again.

I’m a movie fan, and when all the elements fall into place and wonder bursts from the screen, it’s a rare and wonderful gift. The Force Awakens and Jurassic World tried to recapture that movie magic.

Jurassic Park gave us dinosaurs like we’d never seen them. I was as awestruck as the characters in the film. In an attempt to rekindle those feelings, the writers of Jurassic World tried to maintain the old while sprinkling in something new. They came up with a hybrid dinosaur with upgraded abilities such as a camouflaged heat signature. But more abilities doesn’t necessarily translate into a more engaging experience. For me, the bells and whistles took away from the experience. The regular old dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were terrifying, and the film didn’t rely on turning them into supersaurs to make them so.

If not for child-like wonder, we wouldn’t dare to dream of something better.

Weirdly enough, though, The Force Awakens did almost the exact same thing, but it worked for me. The Death Star made two appearances in the original trilogy for a reason—the ability to destroy a planet was terrifying. The Force Awakens introduced the Starkiller Base, a similar base many times bigger than the Death Star, a weapon possessing the ability to destroy multiple worlds at once. It could initiate a mass of exploding fireworks rather than just one. This upped the ante while providing a connection to the first films.

And that is one of the keys to child-like wonder: connection. Those simple, almost primal feelings of comfort and familiarity. The Force Awakens went back to those core items. Jurassic World tried, but in mutating the original idea and incorporating a modern day cynicism, it lost the nostalgia and shattered that mirror of magic.

Often what I really want is to be part of the action. I want to feel as if I’m Luke Skywalker, breathing in the dust-filled air and feeling the gritty sand lodged in my boots. Or I want to feel like Han Solo, ready to brag about making the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs to the next princess who comes along. A solid cast of characters will pull me right in, but only if I can identify with those people. I need a connection that allows me to suspend belief so that I might step through the looking glass and join them.

The Force Awakens reunited viewers with Solo, Chewbacca, and Leia, characters the fans already knew and loved. They were old friends, and there was a comfort in their presence. The movie also introduced several new characters who possessed their own unique qualities. I could relate to Rey’s desire to survive and find her family again while respecting her toughness, ingenuity, and compassion. I was with Finn the whole way as he rebelled and tried to do the right thing. They drew me into their world completely. They were all heroes, and I long to believe that not only do heroes exist, but that I might become one as well.

I have never outgrown that desire to be enthralled or excited. I want to believe in magic again.

I only found one character to root for in Jurassic World—Owen. The rest were irritating and at times downright unlikeable. I have enough cynicism infiltrating my life already; I go to the movies to get away from all that. That aspect of Jurassic World, more than the other hundred nagging little problems, doused the fire of my child-like wonder. You see, in the first film, Hammond the millionaire wanted to build something for the sole purpose of recapturing child-like wonder. It was the linchpin of the story. But Jurassic World changed that, and the park became all about the money. That attitude seeped over into guests who were no longer captivated by what they saw and into me, the viewer.

Real life can be cold and cynical, dousing our hope. If not for child-like wonder, we wouldn’t dare to dream of something better. It sparks our imagination in a positive way, feeding our creativity with fresh ideas and visions of the impossible. My first book became a reality because the original Star Wars triggered that wonder in me, and most creations and inventions come from tapping into our childlike imagination.

J.J. Abrams, the director of The Force Awakens, obviously loved the original trilogy. He grew up with them like I did and wanted to capture their essence. The excitement and wonder he brought every day to the set shows in the finished product, much the same way Jackson’s passion shows in The Lord of the Rings. He made the film fresh yet comfortable. Jurassic World hit the notes, but there was no passion in the playing. It lacked the magic.

It’s a rare director that knows how to take you back to childhood and immerse you in its wonder and excitement. Few know how to tap into that essence. I want to treasure those moments and latch on to their vision, for they show me the true joy of childhood.

No one wants to go back, but who doesn’t want to feel like a kid again?

Alex J. Cavanaugh

Alex J. Cavanaugh

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars. Alex lives in the Carolinas with his wife. You can connect with Alex at alexjcavanaugh.com.
Alex J. Cavanaugh

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