A History With Stars Wars
It would be a slight understatement if I were to say that Stars Wars has meant a lot to me over the years. It pretty much represents my childhood wrapped up with a neat little bow. The earliest memory I have is of seeing Star Wars at the local drive-in theater sometime around age two. I became absolutely obsessed with it, and according to my parents walked around the house pretending to be “Darfa Bader”. If nothing else it was the toys that kept the fires lit for me from the moment I started watching through the end of the original trilogy. I played and replayed the scenes from Star Wars so many times with the action figures, and in many ways it was my first foray into storytelling. Sure I started by simply mimicking what I saw on screen, but quickly branched out into telling my own elaborate stories revolving around the cast of characters I knew and loved.
I eventually moved on like all kids do to other things, like GI Joe, Transformers and Mask. The thing is that Star Wars always held a special place in my heart, so when the west end games Role-playing game was released I was all about playing that for a period of time as well. I remember one Christmas all I asked for was the then CBS FOX VHS copies of the movies, and I remember being absolutely ecstatic when I actually got them. I probably damned near wore out my copy of Empire Strikes Back, because that movie just seemed so perfect to me. While I didn’t have a hope of ever seeing more movies at that point, I could at least wallow in the nostalgia of the originals whenever I felt like it. When you grow up in a small town, and live out in the middle of the country… you end up watching a lot of movies, and more than one weekend was spent having impromptu Star Wars marathons.
During college Star Wars started to make a comeback in a massive way. At this point we didn’t even know there were new movies in the works, but it started with the re-release of the action figures. At this point I was going to junior college and on my drive to class in the morning I frequented a lot of stores as folks were stocking. I remember the feverish search for the new action figures as they started to hit the store shelves. I was absolutely elated the day I found the extremely illusive Princess Lea and C-3PO figures because in that first run of the new figures… they were the limited quantity ones. As new sets were released I tracked them all down, including some of the variants. At this point I was going to art school and pretty much half of my class were equally obsessed with them, trading tales of where we found what.
I remember sitting in a Wal-mart super center in Fayetteville Arkansas, freaking out as they had figures that we did not have in Oklahoma. My wife was extremely awesome and helped me rifle through the stacks of newly stocked figures looking for all of the ones I was missing. She knew going into our relationship that I was a geek, and she had always been super cool about it. But I admit it was at that moment, when she was helping me hunt for figures… that I realized just how rare she truly was. Even to this day she gets excited for me when I find a cache of Legos or something else that I have been obsessing about. While she doesn’t share a lot of my interests she has always been extremely supportive of them. She put up with me having hundreds of action figures hung up in neat rows in my college apartment, and didn’t seem to act like it was strange or anything.
Around this time the first of the re-releases happened as we were given the opportunity to watch the movies on the big screen. She was there with me waiting in line for tickets and even though she is not really what you would call a Star Wars fan, sat through all three of the movies. While some of the visual hackery annoyed me… I was getting to see the movies again on the big screen and that was all that really mattered. The feeling of sitting in that theater as the Lucasfilm logo came up on the screen… and the Theater erupted in deafening cheers was one that I will never forget. There were so damned many warm fuzzies coursing through my body that I felt like I was going to explode. The first two movies… were pretty great. I could deal with the silly scenes like Han Solo stepping over Jabbas tail, or the goofily animated CGI dewbacks.
Empire was similarly fine, because it god rid of some of the problems like the transparent snow speeders. My love of Empire as a movie could allow me to look past anything. But when we finally got to Return of the Jedi… my least favorite of the original movies I admit I started to lose my shit. The silly scenes like the musical number just finally got to me. I started to question what in the hell George Lucas was thinking, but by this time we knew about the prequels and I was willing to look past all the flaws and keep up my fanboy hype for the hope of seeing more Star Wars on the big screen. I admit freely I was a junkie and Papa George was going to keep giving me a fix, and I was willing to push aside the growing concerns in the hopes of seeing brand new stories. After all I had dreamt about seeing the Clone Wars play out since I was a little kid, and maybe just maybe this was finally going to happen.
When the Phantom Menance was released I was working for TV Guide, and had access to a wealth of marketing materials that were filtering around our network. My hype level was over 9000 as I had 8×10 copies of each of the limited edition hand painted covers of the magazine hung up around my office. I remember the lines for Phantom Menace were really the first time I had experienced lines of any sort waiting for a movie. I remember opening day the theaters were showing it on every available screen with a new showing every 2 hours for the first 48 hours. By the time I go in to watch the movie after work I was practically vibrating. Then Jar Jar Happened… and the rest of the movie was instantly tarnished by it.
I wanted to maintain my hype… but there was just so much to hate about that first movie. What the fuck were midichlorians? Are they really telling me that Anakin is a Jesus-like virgin birth? There was just so much bullshit packed in that movie that while I tried to maintain my enjoyment, over time it just festered inside of me. By the time the second movie came around… I had no plans of seeing it on opening day until I was given free premiere tickets due to my involvement with the Fan Force group here in town. Admittedly that was a pretty damned cool way to watch the movie, in a private theater along with all of the local press… with open bar and catered food before and after. By the time the third prequel came along… it was about a week before I actually went to the theater to see it.
I’ve since reconciled a lot of my frustration with the prequels. What was anger has faded into a dull annoyance, and a tinge of heartache when I think of what those movies could have been. Brian Posehn does a funny skit about how “Star Wars is his Vietnam”. I am nowhere near as bitter about it as he is… but there are times I have been close. There was a period of time post prequels that I distanced myself from Star Wars as a whole. I stopped collecting the figures, I stopped doing pretty much anything Star Wars related. It was really when Star Wars the Old Republic released that I started to ease up on my position and enjoy the content again. Today I collect Star Wars in Lego form and love it… but anything that comes from Phantom Menace is immediately less important in my eyes. I feel like Clone Wars and Rebels television shows are redeeming the franchise significantly by giving me the sort of storytelling that I always wanted out of the newer films.
The Force Awakens
When the new movies were first announced I was admittedly skeptical, that is until I heard that they were pulling them out of the hands of George Lucas. Better yet I was excited when they announced that J.J. Abrams would be doing them. While this is a point of contention for a lot of fans, I happen to be one of the people that love the newer Star Trek movies. In fact I watched the first one twice in the same weekend. I was never that big of a fan of the original Star Trek series, so I felt the reboot made the movies more enjoyable for me personally. Now take the fact that Abrams is directing and combine it with the fact that Disney now owns Star Wars… and I think we are in better hands than we have been in a very long time. Disney is extremely good at two things… protecting their intellectual property, and churning out content for the fans to snap up. I feel like we are in the best possible place that Star Wars has been in for years.
This week the first real trailer was released for Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration weekend. As you might have been able to tell… the images I am using to narrate this Storytime Saturday are all pulled from the trailer. I find myself shifting from cautiously optimistic about the prospects for this movie… towards full blown hype. Right now the trailer is quite literally showing me everything that I possibly want to see in a new Star Wars film. The costumes for the new Stormtroopers look great. The new Dark Jedi looks to be something straight out of Star Wars the Old Republic. The real money shot however is the one above when we get to see Han Solo and Chewbacca back in action. My first thought was OMG HAN SOLO AND CHEWBACCA! My second thought was… man Harrison Ford looks really old. My third thought was… shouldn’t Chewie be showing some grey hair by now? All I really know is once again I will be waiting in line for tickets so I can see this madness opening day in December. In fact we are talking about maybe going as an office to go see it. I guess in that at least Disney has succeeded in re-igniting the fires of the little kid down inside me who never quite gave up on Star Wars.