Wookies, Princesses, and the Return of the Force: My Life With Star Wars

Milleniun FalconEpisode I

THE NEW DISCOVERY

Star Wars was my childhood and my childhood was Star Wars.

To know me as a child was to know my love of the galaxy far, far away.

One of my first memories (if not the very first) was of seeing the first Star Wars (Oh hell, the fourth one) in a theater. I was three and R2-D2 was on the screen. This image and moment is burned onto my retinas to the point I can almost touch it. R2 is in the Death Star and the heads of all of the other filmgoers line the bottom of the screen (and being little, they take up more then one might imagine).

My parents claim as I left the theater I could not stop talking about it, even going so far as to debate the film with some college students standing nearby us; listing in my opinion what was the best parts of the film (considering who I am as an adult, this is not at all surprising).

When I was in fourth grade, I showed a little of the dark side, when I convinced a boy in my class to invite me to his birthday party. We weren’t really friends, nor had anything in common; I just knew that his parents had somehow got their hands on tickets to the opening of The Return of the Jedi and I had to be there. Guiltily, looking back, I think I shortly left the party after the movie.

All’s fair in love and Star Wars.

Episode II

THE JEDI WITHIN

Over a decade and a half ago I wanted an adventure in my life. Everything had felt so stagnant! I was working for my MA in English Literature at Michigan State University, was living in a nice apartment and was working at a bank. Really, as grad students go, I was doing all right. It just felt so… normal.

Yes, I was that Luke in the dessert dusk staring up at the two setting suns and dreaming.

That is not to say MSU is a bad program, it is fine, I just didn’t feel challenged or inspired. And when I began to consider the direction of my life, Star Wars inched its way back into my mind, pointing the way like a red light saber in the dark…. And a year later I was attending the film writing program at the University of Southern California, George Lucas’s old school.

Yes, I followed Lucas to USC! I didn’t take an actual class in his building, but I did walk by it each day. (It was right there!)

Granted, I didn’t end up in films (even though I have a pile of unmade screenplays hiding under my bed), but taking that leap, challenging myself to change my life’s direction brought so much into focus for me. And, in many ways, could be argued, led to my wife, my kids, and all of my books.

So no matter how much I may complain about prequels, cartoons, and changes to my beloved series, I do owe Lucas for inspiring that decision in me.

All I am missing is the Jedi robes.

Episode III

THE RISE OF THE DISAPPOINTMENT

I’ve only seen one movie on a midnight opening, only one. However, the experience tainted my opinion of ever doing it again.

It took so, so much work and effort and patience to see The Phantom Menace (Episode I) that night. First, my brother and I had to wait in line for hours just to buy the tickets a month before. Then there was the actual night. My brother and I had it all worked out, starting with a dinner nearby the theater at eight, followed by hours and hours waiting.

Strangely, it was not the waiting part that was bad. We were a little community, our group waiting in line, feeling like immediate friendships were forming around us as each began discussing their hopes and what they have read about the film online. No wait, let me correct that, we were not forming friendships, they were already there. We just didn’t know.

When the opening scroll for that first film began, someone shouted a perfect Chewbecca howl. Everyone laughed, knowing we were all in this together.

Yet, when we left though, we left quiet.

I saw The Phantom Menace six times in the theater. Six. I first went again to see if I was too harsh on the film, trying to find something to latch onto (That last lightsaber battle is awesome); then it became something akin to a study, a research project. Being the writing and dreaming screenplay writer, I wanted to break it down, see where the mistakes were made. Learn from it.

For me, the greatest mistake of the film is the discussion on midichlorians. For those that don’t remember, this is how Lucas decided to explain why some residents of that galaxy became Jedis and others didn’t. It’s all about what’s in your blood, it seems.

A dream dies for me each time I hear that speech.

Okay, yes, I am an adult, but as a kid I wanted to believe this world, this story I had latched on to could be real; not just for the idea of it, but for me. And when Lucas introduced something I could never, and would never have, it took something away from the series, from the force, from my childhood.

I did see the second and third ones in the theater, but I only liked the third one… and even then it was just a little. The dialogue and love story still seemed ridiculous (Seriously why would Padme marry someone as whiny as Anakin in the beginning of the second film?), but it was something.

Whatever the case, by the time of Darth Vader’s Frankenstein-moment and scream of “No!” I was done. I had moved on…

Well, a little.

Episode IV

THE SCHOOL KIDS STRIKE BACK

While I had misgivings around the prequels and definitely was not happy with the changes that Lucas made to the films over the years (Han not shooting first, taking away the mystery reveal of Jabba the Hutt by introducing him earlier, etc.), I still wanted my son to enjoy something  that was so prevalent to my own imagination.

We started with A New Hope (IV), but I put a pause on the experience after that. See, I wanted him to be old enough to enjoy and understand the story moving forward; because The Empire Strikes Back is a great story (the best in the series) with some wonderful reveals. Why would I want to show him that before he could understand the shock of it? Appreciate the twists and suspense of that?

I put the timeframe around the showing at six or so. Age six felt good; planning in my mind a weekend of popcorn and showings and discussions. Well, that was the dream.

A few months ago, my son came home from begindergarten, and asked me if I would like to play Star Wars. I said sure, wondering which of my old toys we were going to track down. He then stated, so very casually, “Great! Let’s play where Luke and Darth Vader fight and Darth Vader cuts off his hand. You can be Luke.”

Damn.

Episode V

ATTACK OF THE COSTUMES

I don’t like princesses.

I get why girls like the fad (it’s like boys and superheroes in a way), but there is so much about it that bothers me; the idea of being better than someone else, the idea of lording over others, being pampered, etc. Maybe it is that American blood in me stirring, but we are not a country of princesses and kings; whatever the case I’m going to try to avoid it in my parenting as best as I can…

Well, except with Princess Leia.

Princess Leia is awesome.

Yes, that is Princess Leia.It was last summer that I first realized my daughter could be Leia for Halloween. I’ve seen the kid costume for years, and Halloween and Star Wars was always a big deal for me. Heck, one of my favorite costumes growing up was being Chewbecca in third grade. (To this day, I remember how the fabric feels and the smell after wearing it for one too many hours.) It was almost cruel looking back how casually and sneakily I brought up the idea of our one-year old being Leia for Halloween to my wife. It, being summer, didn’t really stick with her how serious I was being when she said sure.

A week later my daughter had her costume.

Sadly, I could not convince her older brother to be Luke.

He wanted to be The Flash.

Episode VI

THE RETURN OF THE GALAXY

It would be so easy to use the famous quote from The Godfather III here; the one good thing we all remember from that disappointing movie. But I was that old Michael. That was me.

I didn’t buy the last Blu-Ray boxset of Star Wars and I had only seen a smattering of The Clone Wars TV shows. (Seriously, why should we care, we all know how it ends?) It all just didn’t interest me anymore.

Yeah, my daughter was Leia for Halloween and my son and I watched the films, but that was it. Star Wars was a part of my history in many ways, and I was someplace else now. For me, it was all a celebration of my past, and I could see Star Wars (thanks in large part to the prequels) as something more childlike and innocent than to be taken serious.

Then…

Then J.J. Abrams stepped in to take over the directing chair for Episode VII, and all bets were off. Abrams, the great entertainer of Generation X (my generation) was going to play in the playground of Star Wars. Abrams is a fan, like me, of the classic trilogy, who even went so far to base many of his own characters on Star Wars character (Sawyer from Lost on Han Solo is the easy one to point to)… Well, now thanks to him, Star Wars is back and filling up a nice little Yoda house in my brain.

It is Christmas morning all over again, and I am ever so patiently at the top of the stairs, waiting to run down and find that giant toy AT-AT hiding for me under the tree. Yes, just this news has stirred something in me I once thought dormant and they haven’t even shot a second of footage yet.

To think that in a few years, I could be taking my kids to see a new film, returning not to the cartoon-like look of the prequels, but to the galaxy I remember; the Star Wars of my childhood.

Oh… what the heck…

“Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back.”

May the Force Be With You.

Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, CoverIf you liked reading this post, why not check out one of my books? I’ve had four novels published in the last few years, A Jane Austen DaydreamMaximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here.  Thanks for reading!…

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15 responses

  1. I have a question. After watching Episode III: Revenge of the Sith…how in the world could anyone forgive Anakin? Especially after he killed the little jedi’s in training. That didn’t sit well with me.

      • I know this is the wrong assumption, but it seemed to me that Lucas didn’t think that we the fans would compare this Anakin to the Anakin that was forgiven by Luke in Return of the Jedi. If I were Luke, and I knew Darth Vader did all that, I would have thrown his ass over the balcony along with Palpatine. All in all, I love the franchise and can’t wait to see what they do next.

  2. Pingback: Okay, am I a nerd? « The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

  3. It’s nice to know that you can completely change what you’re doing even in the midst of grad school. As a college student suddenly uncertain of my future that’s comforting to look at, especially since it was sparked by a passionate part of your childhood. My childhood was defined by Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, and if their creators are anything to go by doing what you love is much more important than what looks proper.

    • I couldn’t guess the Tolkien thing with your e-mail address. LOL.

      Well, I had a lot of people share with me their opinion about dropping out of MSU and transferring to USC. A lot of people, including professors from both colleges. In the long run, did I make the right call? If I waited a year, I could have had two Master’s degrees, and that would have made me a bigger contender for teaching positions, honestly. But, personally, I am glad I did it. It felt right, still does. I’ll just have to wait for that honorary PhD when I am old.

      Cheers.

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