Each time a morsel of news related to the new Star Wars films currently in production hits the web, I get asked the same question by people: “Are you looking forward to the new Star Wars films?”
In short, I am.
I saw the original Star Wars the summer of 1977 shortly before I turned four-years-old, and the other two films on opening day. I may have previously mentioned that my dad took me to see Return of the Jedi opening day (May 25, 1983) the day after I had my tonsils removed. I remember standing in line outside the movie theater with hundreds of other Star Wars fans. I remember the theater erupting in applause when the film began, and again later when Luke sprung into the air to avoid being devoured by the Sarlaac, caught his lightsaber launched to him by R2-D2, and went all Jedi on Jabba’s henchmen.
From 1978 through sometime around 1984, my world was Star Wars. I asked for (and received) Star Wars toys for every birthday and every Christmas for six or seven years in a row. I spent Halloweens dressed up as Darth Vader and Stormtroopers and Chewbacca. I slept in a Star Wars sleeping bag with pillows in Star Wars pillowcases next to windows covered with Star Wars curtains and walls smothered in Star Wars posters. I went to school wearing Star Wars shirts, filed my homework in Star Wars folders, spent my time reading Star Wars books, comic books and newsletters (Bantha Tracks!), and eventually began actively collecting Star Wars toys.
The world wide web was not as mature back in 1999 as it is today. Video had to be compressed so that it would be watchable by dial-up users, which often left viewers with a viewable area the size of a postage stamp and compressed to hell and back in either Quicktime or Real Video format. I was at work the day the trailer for Episode I leaked in the spring of 1999, and when I first watched it — in a tiny, pixelated window on a Russian web page — I got choked up.
The debut of Episode I: The Phantom Menace was as big as any Star Wars release I can remember. People lined up just to buy tickets and lined up again to get into theaters. The day we showed up to buy our tickets the wait was already four hours long — fortunately for us we happened to see a friend of ours who was sixth in line! He bought our tickets and we attended the opening show at midnight. Another friend of mine also ended up with spare tickets so Susan and I ended up seeing it twice opening day.
Continuing the tradition I saw Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith opening day at midnight as well, meaning I saw five of the six Star Wars movies in theaters opening day.
Can I argue that the prequels were as good as the originals? Not really, no. They had plenty of reasons to dislike them (and a couple of reasons to hate them), but they had one main reason to like them: pure and simple, they were Star Wars. Yes, we all agree that Jar Jar was annoying, and, perhaps, Jake Lloyd was not the greatest child actor on the planet… but the chills I got when Obi Wan first met Anakin (or when R2D2 met C3P0) were very real. Those who focused on the maudlin scenes between Anakin and Padme missed out on the excitement of the pod racers.
My Star Wars acquisitions have cooled off since those early days. I still pick up old figures here and there from time to time and occasionally find something new to stick on the shelves, but it’s not like it used to be. I no longer sleep with that Star Wars sleeping bag or keep my papers filed in Star Wars folders, but I do have a “Star Wars room” in my house to display my collection, and more importantly, I still have Star Wars in my heart.
So am I looking forward to the new Star Wars films? You bet I am. They won’t be perfect. There will be things fans don’t like about them. With Disney now owning the rights to the Star Wars universe you can bet we will see marketing on a intergalactic scale. It’s very possible we will see another “Jar Jar” type character to help market the film to children.
At the end of the day, Star Wars is still Star Wars, and both of us — me the adult, and me the kid — will be there again on opening day.