Since it’s “Star Wars Day” today, I thought I would write a little about what they mean to me. This won’t be about how great the films are…that goes without saying. This is more of a generational thing. As far back as I can remember, the Star Wars films have been in my family in one way or another.
I can’t remember where or exactly when I saw the original movies. I wasn’t even a glimmer in my Dad’s eye when A New Hope came out. But I do remember that I saw the films when I was very young and how much I loved it. It was simply amazing for a young day dreamer like me. The lightsabers! The space battles! But most importantly, I started my life long love affair with Darth Vader.
I guess I should have known things were a bit off when all the kids I knew wanted to be Luke Skywalker and I wanted to be Darth Vader. Whenever we would reenact lightsaber duels, I always claimed Vader. What wasn’t there to like? He had the mask, the intimidating voice, he wore all black…I couldn’t get enough of him.
I wasn’t the only one who loved the movies. I would say my Uncle Dean was probably the one who encouraged not only my love of film in general, but of Star Wars. Uncle Dean used to always talk about film in general. He actually pursued filmmaking for a while. He would have the coolest books and movies, Star Wars chief among them. Basically, he taught me to embrace my love of these films. Which is weird because he recently told me he never knew I was a die hard Star Wars fan.
And I think I know why.
I’ll admit that after the prequel trilogy came out, I lost interest. Don’t get me wrong…I geeked out when that first Phantom Menace trailer came out. There was going to be a new Star Wars movie! And it was about Darth Vader before his fall to the Dark Side!
Take my money now! Or maybe take my Mom’s money since I was just a jobless kid at the time.
Then I actually watched it. I tried to convince myself that I liked it. I’ve always been an eternal optimist, I know no one sets out to make a bad movie. But I couldn’t get past how bad The Phantom Menace was. There was stuff to like (Darth Maul and “Duel of the Fates” for the win!), but it wasn’t enough to generate the excitement I felt when the original movies came out.
And here’s where some of my fellow Star Wars fans will probably tell me to turn in my Geek Card: I didn’t see Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith in the theater. I eventually saw them, but was still “meh.” The dialogue, the stilted acting, Lucas’ strange obsession with “Nooooo!!!”…I hated it. The Phantom Menace and the other prequels nearly killed my fandom for Star Wars.
But a strangely wonderful thing happened. The prequel trilogy was the introduction to the younger members of my family to Star Wars. I remember Uncle Dean’s daughter Claire dressed up as Padme Amidala once (Natalie Portman’s character…Luke and Leia’s mom…seriously, if you don’t know who that is, why are you reading this?). She will proudly show you a picture of herself in this costume if you ever ask. And as of the writing of this article, Claire told me that she still has some of the “shrine” she had created to Padme in her childhood room.
Uncle Dean’s fandom of these movies never really faded. He told me he still wanted to see the movies because visually there was nothing like them. And he was right. While I still have issues with the stories, the prequel films are some of the most visually imaginative films I’ve seen.
And my godson Vincent went through his Star Wars phase at this time. He watched both the Original and Prequel trilogies. I remember when he asked me who my favorite character was (He liked Obi Wan, I believe…correct me if I’m wrong if you’re reading this Vincent!). When I told him it was Darth Vader, a look of confusion washed over his face.
“But he’s the bad guy,” he said.
“Was he really?” I replied.
Vincent was still pretty young at the time, so I didn’t get into a long debate about how Darth Vader had the best character arc through both trilogies, but I loved that I could share this universe with him. He eventually outgrew the Star Wars phase, but I remember that time pretty fondly. Though I’m pretty sure he would want to debate now. You never completely shake Star Wars…
I began to appreciate the prequels because a whole new generation of fans were awakened to a universe that I loved. I look at it this way: The prequels weren’t for me, they were for a new generation. Padme was Claire’s Darth Vader. Obi Wan was Vincent’s Darth Vader. And Uncle Dean never forgot that these films are supposed to be fun.
George Lucas, you are a diabolical genius. And I’ll always respect you for that.
May the Fourth Be With You!