Have you seen this? Of course you have!
Wait, you haven’t? How are we even friends?!
In October of 2013 it was announced that Disney had purchased Lucasfilms and that a new Star Wars trilogy would be produced without the Maker, George Lucas, at the helm. I immediately texted my best friend who was in the process of texting me. I was thrilled. I was immediately transported back to 1997, reading Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire, the first of an amazing trilogy of novels that take place five years after Return of the Jedi. Then the announcement of the special editions of the original trilogy, much maligned for tinkering with the sacred texts, but an opportunity to see my favorite films in the theater nonetheless. Around the same time was the announcement of the prequel trilogy.
Ahhh… the prequel trilogy. For those of us who grew up with Star Wars, we were always fascinated by the questions of what came before “Episode 4”. Yes, George Lucas had decided to begin his story en media res and now we were going to get to the beginning. And special effects were so much better now. And, oh my God, Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor! And Samuel L. Motherfuckin’ Jackson!!!
Remember that first trailer? Here ya go.
Okay, in hindsight we should have known. We figured Jar Jar would be a side character, not a recurring nuisance. Why is there such an age difference between Obi Wan and Anakin? Who looks like a more realistic puppet, Yoda or Natalie Portman?
Full disclosure, I saw the Phantom Menace in the theater nine times. I saw Attack of the Clones, 5. Revenge of the Sith, 3. I fully embrace that they are flawed films. I have frequent daydreams about being sought after to remake them. I would even use the same characters, I’d just use them better. That’s a tangent. My point is this: it didn’t matter how flawed they were, they were Star Wars!
My first memory of going to the movie theater was me, my siblings, and pretty much all of my cousins going to see Return of the Jedi. I had to have been 3 or 4. I remember the guy dressed like Vader hanging outside of the theater and being a little scared of him. I don’t think I took away any plot points from the film. I remembered Ewoks and Jabba and the magic of a big screen. I remember saving up proofs of purchase, mailing them off in an envelope, waiting six to eight weeks, and then getting a small white box that had an action figure of the Emperor in the mail. Mail! With my name on it. I was like 6! That was amazing!
I had a hodge podge of action figures. In my world, the Ewoks were under constant threat from the Rancor. Incidentally, the rancor had been in some kind of accident (I blame my little sister) and had one of his arms being held on by one of my sister’s hair twisties. He would later lose the arm for good. The Ewoks were then terrorized by a disembodied arm. After the fighting, the characters all went to sleep in the Darth Vader head carrying case I had for them. A peaceful co-existence, until I ended the ceasefire. I had far more villains than good guys, fortunately the heroes were aided by frequent interventions from Optimus Prime. That’s the awesome thing about kids at play, no boundaries!
I have memories of watching The Empire Strikes Back at my grandparents house. My favorite film at my favorite place… I can’t think of it without smiling.
Star Wars is huge to me. It was my frequent childhood escape. It is the reason I wanted to study film. And, as an adult, it connects me to my childhood. The good parts. The parts that make me smile. It connects me to play and imagination. It connects me to wonder and adventure. It connects me to good vs. evil and rebellion against empire, things I still very much believe in.
The Christian myth (sorry if that word is problematic for you) has been the dominant world defining truth in my life. The American myth is in there somewhere. Star Wars is definitely top five. It has shaped the ways I think about narrative and story. It has shaped my perception of what is and is not heroic. And it has shaped my thoughts on the marriage of business and art. George Lucas may be so-so as a filmmaker, but he’s a genius of a businessman. And say what you will about his filmmaking talents, he has had the humility to let other artists play with his characters and stories. And he has adopted the notion that art is never a finished product. Agree with it or not, it’s a fascinating concept.
So when I see this trailer, the one at the beginning of this post, all of this comes back. I’m an excited little kid again. My love for Star Wars is strong enough to weather a few missteps. And let’s face it, Episode 3 isn’t bad at all. I am a fan. I am a geeky super fan. Decebember 18th can’t get here quickly enough. Or at least May 1st when I’ll get to see the next trailer before Avengers: Age of Ultron (I love you Disney!!!). Next Christmas I’ll sit in a dark theater with my almost six year old son and he’ll see that his daddy is a big kid. And the circle will be complete. (see what I did there? No? Seriously, how are we friends?)
I don’t know what it is for you, that thing that connects you to your childhood, that thing that makes you giddy and playful and imaginative, and passionate. Star Wars is just one of those things for me, but whatever it is for you, let it wake you up. Let it wake up that part of you that dreams and laughs and speculates wildly. Let it awaken that child inside of you that can’t wait to see what happens next.
There has been an awakening. Can you feel it?