When Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope came out – I was two years old. There’s some possibility that my parents went to see it for the first time, and dropped me on my head. I mean, it might have been a different movie, I really don’t remember, but I do know I was dropped on my head at about that time at a drive-in theater and they said it was a distinct possibility. Just to be fair, it was a total accident – I had heavy casts and one of my parents sat me on the counter – I swiveled my legs over the edge, and down I went. But I digress.
Growing up in the eventual class of 1993, Star Wars was a HUGE deal. We grew up playing with the Kenner toys, we got hyped up when the new movies came out, and we talked – oh we talked and talked and talked about Star Wars. We knew of the eventual 6 movies that would come later. We knew that one had to do with the Clone Wars Obi-wan and Leia mentioned – we knew one had to do with Anakin falling to the dark side. We had no idea what the third trilogy was about, and frankly we didn’t care. We just knew we couldn’t wait till it was released! Star Wars was a huge part of growing up in the 80s – one might argue it was bigger than Transformers, and certainly bigger than GI Joe.I even remember staying over at my friend Isaac’s (who seemed to be a little more into Star Wars than the rest of us, if that was even possible). He wanted to do a reenactment of Star Wars. I was to play Darth Vader, he was supposed to Play Luke Skywalker, and his little brother, dressed in white pajamas and a pair of tighty whities over to simulate the Armor, was to play a Storm Trooper. My dad simply looked at us – the younger brother in his skivvies, and said “no” and I went home. Even the girls liked to play star wars, despite a severe lack of female characters. Star Wars was equally loved by both genders: Be you a wearer of Princess Leia or of Luke Skywalker underoos.
In my early twenties – Star wars mania was still alive and well. A couple good friends of mine were obsessed with all things Star Wars, and it was pretty common for us to spend hours in the Borders Bookstore cafe, looking through books showing technical specs, artists concepts, and little bits of trivia. To be certain, Star Wars fandom among gen xers was far from isolated to us. I went to a music fest and saw a band called “Bobba Fett” (later renamed “Twin Sister” for what I understand to be legal reasons). The band was a side project of several other bands, but the point is Generation X and Star Wars went together hand in hand – not just when we were children, but also into our adult years. It was part of our lore, part of our story. We all knew we were secretly Luke Skywalker or Chewie or Han or Leia.
And then the dark times began….
George Lucas did a remix of the original movies….the special edition. The internet was young and didn’t hold as much power to share opinions as it does now. Most people were not online, and therefore most of what we heard was either word of mouth or read in a magazine or a newspaper. I’m dangerously close to going off topic here, but the reception of the zeitgeist of the special edition is not the reception we have now – and I think it’s because the internet has changed the way we discuss these things. But back to the topic at hand: I personally had an opinion on computer graphics – and that was pretty much “use them only if you need them.” I feel like everyone I knew was ok with Lucas over using computer graphics. Even people who now preach that the special editions were an abomination against creation itself seemed to be ok with them in the mid 90s. To be fair, while I mocked the special effects, I actually liked some of the special edition scenes – the scene with Jabba the Hutt in IV, the ending of Jedi, and while the used too many computer effects in Empire Strikes Back, at least they didn’t fiddle with the story too much (Empire has always been my favorite). Again, it seems like most people I talked with felt the same about the Special editions. I really never heard much talk against them until after Episode 1 came out four years later…
Episode 1…..two years later. I saw the damned thing in theaters several times. Sometimes I would go to the movie theater, flip a coin, and say heads I’ll watch the Matrix again, tails, I’ll watch Episode 1 again. I’m pretty sure I saw each four times in the theater, which is a record. We had been waiting sixteen years for this film. We waited from childhood, through puberty, through our college years, and into our early career phases. Some friends were already married with children when Episode 1 finally decided to flush itself out of the rectum of Lucas like so many other turds before it. But I was in denial – it was Star Wars. It was the movie I had been anticipating for what felt like forever. Surely, this was not a piece of crap. It wasn’t until I saw a commercial showing 9 year old Anakin leaving his mommy – I realized that this was a kid’s movie. I hated Jar Jar before that mind you – a friend told me to look at him as the comic relief, much as C3PO served in the original trilogy (this friend was most likely in the same denial I was in). But I realized this movie was not meant for Generation X. This was meant for the next generation. It had it’s good points mind you: It set a tone. Episdoe 1 was about showing what the galaxy was like before the Dark times. It was a time when a 14 year old could address the senate and demand that her planet’s senator be elevated to Supreme Chancellor. It was a time when the invasion of a planet could bet thwarted by a 9 year old kid who got lucky and an army of Gun Guns. It was a simple time, where things just worked out because the dark side wasn’t really a factor. The Phantom Menace was a story that needed to be told to set up the next two movies – and to even put the original trilogy into perspective.
My reaction, both immediate and delayed, to The Phantom Menace probably helped me process the next two movies. Yeah, they had bad acting, and yes, they still rely on bad CGI, but really they were the stories we knew were coming. They were the stories of the clone wars, they were the stories of Anakin and Obiwan, going from master and apprentice to brothers to eventually nemesis. They showed the death star under construction. They showed Darth Vader reborn. They told us the clones in the war eventually became the Storm troopers. They weren’t the original trilogy, but could anything ever live up to that hype of sixteen years? No, of course not. And more and more people seem to be forgiving their shortcomings because the story really is important and the really are fun at times.
We’re looking into the future again. We’re looking to a new trilogy that may or may not disappoint us. All signs say no, it won’t. It might even be the trilogy we’ve been waiting for…or it might not. But regardless, I will be there for every movie. I will be in denial if the films suck, and elated if they don’t. I cannot look at a new Star Wars movie objectively, because like so many other Generation Xers, Star Wars is part of who I am. It’s a link throughout my lifetime. When they finish the six movies coming in the next few years, I will be wanting more.
I have no doubt these will not be the last movies we see either. Star Wars is a cash cow that Disney plans on milking for all it is worth. We’ll reach a point where the zeitgeist will say: Another Star Wars movie, why? But myself? I’ll be saying Another Star Wars movie….Why not?
EDIT FROM THE FUTURE: The Force Awakens freaking killed! The trailers for Rouge One look amazing! Let’s hope it stays on this way. On a sadder note – RIP Kenny Baker.