Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens hits theaters on Thursday, December 17, and it’ll be the greatest thing since sliced bread — or is it the best thing since sliced bread? I don’t know, I can never remember which phrase is correct. Either way, sliced bread was the beginning of a downward spiral of laziness for the human race. But, I digress.

Episode 7 is the next installment of arguably the greatest film series in history. Star Wars has developed a cult-like following — an army of nerds, if you will — since 1977 when the first installment, Episode 4, was released. Don’t worry, I can refer to them as nerds because I’m one of them — at least, I have one foot in the door while the other straddles the threshold.

Don’t expect to find me standing in line for the midnight showing, though. I won’t be dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi, swinging my light saber in an epic battle with another fan donning a Darth Vader shroud. I have no interest in dressing up or standing in long lines. I’ll wait until the crowds die down, sometime after the calendar turns.

In the meantime, I’ll re-watch all six previous episodes in sequential order, probably by myself as I don’t expect my wife to be sitting by my side. She has little interest in watching 13 minutes of the movies, let alone 13 hours.

The Star Wars franchise has been such a phenomenon in our country, which has led to countless parodies and pop culture references throughout the past 38 years. But what is it about the series that makes it so enticing? What causes fans to shell out big bucks for movie tickets, toys, T-shirts, coffee mugs and loads of other merchandise? And what makes male Star Wars fans such babe magnets?

While I can’t speak for everybody, it’s all about the story to me. I love epic sagas and I’m a huge fan of film series. From Pirates of the Caribbean to Indiana Jones to Back to the Future and many more, there’s something appealing about the continuation of a story that resonates with you.

For example, I’m a big fan of reading. I enjoy picking up a book and losing myself in the story, as if it were actually happening somewhere in the world and was not merely a 300-page mirage of salable fiction. And the nice thing about a book versus a movie is that a book has the time and space to go into greater detail, while a movie has to tell you a story in or around two hours.

The brevity of a movie is appealing to some — and I love movies, don’t get me wrong — but from a storytelling perspective, a book is much better.

Thus the appeal to me of a film series: there is more time spent with the characters you love.

But does that answer the question of why Star Wars is so appealing? No, not really. There has to be something specific about the story or the characters that draws people in, so let’s dive in further.

Action and conflict are the necessity of a good story, and the Star Wars franchise is packed with it. From light saber fighting to spacecraft attacks to the explosion of the Death Star, there’s enough action to keep your innards tensed up throughout the duration of the series. And conflict stems from the tried-and-true formula of “good guys versus bad guys”, galactic battles, the light side of the force against the dark side, and from Luke Skywalker’s weird family dynamic with Princess Leia and Darth Vader — the epitome of a Maury Povich show if it existed “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

Perhaps the most appealing facet about the Star Wars film series, though, is the imagination and creativity of the franchise’s characters, plot, and setting. The amount of odd-looking mutants rivals that of a giant Halloween costume party and yet we can’t help but empathize with those with which we have nothing in common. To come up with a futuristic — yet, oddly, in the past — universe, name all the planets and moons, design creatures of all walks of life and give them each a back story, and then write a compelling tale of universal domination is just a brilliant piece of mastery.

I have no doubts that Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens will surpass Episodes 1-3. But whether it can match the original trilogy of Episodes 4-6 is the ultimate question and a difficult task at that. Either way, it figures to attract a new generation of fans to add to the Star Wars family and let the story live on in both our personal lives and pop culture.