Thursday, April 30, 2009

My Life with Star Wars (or What have I been doing these past thirty years?)

(Another SF-related repost from my crime blog, written on 25 May 2007.)

May 25, 1977. I have no clue what I was doing that day but it was not standing in line to watch “Star Wars.” Actually, I can’t remember how long it was before I saw the movie. But I eventually did—at the Palm Theater in Sugarland, TX—and, like almost everyone else, it changed my childhood.

Oh, I expect my childhood would have still been wonderful but Star Wars just made everything appear in a sort of Technicolor. Suddenly, upon one viewing (and another and another and…), whole chunks of my imagination woke up. At one moment, space was something you got to by rocket ship, the next, you had TIE fighters, X-Wings, space freighters, and giant ships the shapes of flattened pyramids. And you had the Death Star. You had swords that were lasers and guns that shot laser bolts. You had robots galore. And the aliens. Wow, the aliens! And, for a boy like me, instant heroes that were more thrilling than the ones on the football field.

Star Wars changed everything for me. Just tonight, I watched the original version (not SE) with my son. It was fun, too, because I still have my toys and action figures so we watched the movie with the action figures and the Falcon and the X-Wing close by. And tonight, 30 years later, this movie still gets me. My heart still beats faster as Luke “set[s] up for his attack run.” I still get goosebumps when the Death Star explodes. I still love it that Han shot first. It still gets me and I think it always will.

Now, the biggest criticism I have with Star Wars is the stuff Lucas cut out. Having read the novel a few times and listened to the radio drama, Luke’s relationship with Biggs is an integral part of his maturation process. I would have liked for Lucas to have kept the Tatoonie sequence in (where Luke sees the battle in space and then tells Biggs good-bye) and, especially, the scenes just before the Battle of Yavin where he meets Biggs again. Integral parts, to me.

And, in the years since the SE came out, I love the added material (especially the Jabba/Han scene) and the expanded Mos Eisley sequence. You add in the Biggs scenes and keep Han shooting first and you’d have a movie that would surpass TESB. Now, as an adult, TESB is a better film but Star Wars is still my favorite.

I’ve told this to my friends more than once. Of all the thirty years living with Star Wars, my favorite time is still the years between the first two films, after those chunks of imagination had been opened. There was no father-son issue, there was no sister-brother issue, there was no Emperor (although he was mentioned in the novelization). There was just Luke, Han, Leia, and the others against Vader. That was it. And the Star Wars universe was limitless.

I remember ogling Marvel Comics issue #7, the first story that was not in the movie. It involved Han and Chewie and their band of space pirates. I remember devouring Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. I devoured Brian Daley’s Han Solo at Star’s End. I devoured everything in print. There is something fun about having to rely on magazines, comics, and trading cards and not having an Internet with the world’s knowledge at one’s fingertips. It was like searching for treasure in every new issue of Starlog just to see if they had some new photo of Star Wars. It was getting those first action figures (mine was Kenobi because Han and Luke were sold out; it was also at a drugstore, go figure) and playing with them. It was the cool Sears Mos Eisley cantina play set with the special Snaggletooth. I even dug (at the time) the Christmas special that I had to see on a black and white TV in a hospital as we were visiting a sick relative. Sigh. It was everything.

Star Wars turned me on to instrumental music. I wore out my first copy of the soundtrack and had to buy it again. I also wore out my The Story of Star Wars record (the one with the movie dialogue) and that allowed me to be able to remember mundane facts like the trash compactor number (*remember it? Answer at the end.). Now, thirty years later, I can merely listen to the soundtrack and ‘see’ the movie.

But there is nothing that quite compares to seeing these movies on the screen. Sure, it’s been ten years since I last saw these films on the big screen (the SEs came out in 1997) but it’s still magical even on the small screen.

The older I get and the more folks I meet, I find that Star Wars is a common point of reference. When I meet fellow fathers, Star Wars somehow comes up. Once that point of contact is made, it’s like an unknown fraternity brother has been located. It’s just that way. And I think it always shall be.

Nothing will compare to Star Wars in my opinion. The only thing that comes close (and it does come close, mind you) is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Those films are almost a quintessential piece of filmmaking. But, then, so is Star Wars.

I wonder if it can ever be duplicated. I think not. It is too special. It is one of a kind.

What are your thoughts on what Star Wars has meant to you?



  1. When I saw Star Wars on its opening day, I was probably older than you are now. I had no idea what to expect, having grown up with cheap special effects and bad plots and having been bored by 2001. But as soon as that giant spaceship crossed the screen, I smiled a big smile that stayed on my face for the next several days. I knew the movies would never be the same after that.

  2. Bill, I'm glad I'm not the only one bored with 2001. Not to say it's not a good film. It is. But I appreciated better after reading the novel which is, to me, superior. I ended up reading 2010 as well, and saw the movie. That was a pretty good film.

    But for Star Wars, if you haven't and want to, I suggest the NPR radio dramatization. It has all the fun of the movie and all the little scenes not in the first film.

  3. It's funny you brought this up, I just watched Star Wars a couple of nights ago with my daughter. After all these years I still mark my personal movie watching history as BSW (Before Star Wars) or ASW. It was just that profound of a movie for a then 8 year old kid. My daughter, unfortunately, does not think so highly of these movies. At least I got her to like the Indiana Jones series.

  4. I'm a bit older than you and for me it was Star Trek. I loved STar Wars when it came out but it didn't have such a profound impact on me. I loved teh visuals of the planets themselves, though. That really ignited my imagination.

  5. A truly iconic film but I have mixed feelings on it - sometimes I think the influence it had on all that followed was mostly negative.


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