Maybe the Force Can Stay Where It Is

I owe a lot of my interest in science fiction, films, space, and most other things geeky to Star Wars.  That’s not exactly an uncommon for people in my age range.  I grew up with those films and, almost more importantly considering my age at the time, with those toys.  Many of my fondest childhood memories revolve around the original Star Wars trilogy.

-          I remember getting a Millennium Falcon, the coolest spaceship ever as far as I was concerned (And it might still be.  Sorry, my beloved movie-era USS Enterprise), for my birthday.  I would flip down the front landing gear, hold it like a pistol grip with the ship resting on my arm, and fly it around.  My favorite maneuver, though, was the climb into a roll U-turn that the ship performed near the end of The Empire Strikes Back.  That required gripped the ship by its sides and holding tight so that the large removable panel that revealed the inside of the rear of the ship didn’t fall off.

-          There was the ever-more-difficult challenge of building a Death Star Playset that would actually stand up as more and more of the support beam tabs snapped (And forget about the thin cardboard backdrops for the upper floors.  Those ripped instantly.).  It still looked fantastic once it was built, even if a strong wind probably would have collapsed the whole thing.

-          My parents used my obsession to motivate me.  Instead of an allowance, I could earn a new figure out of the box of them that my parents used to keep in my dad’s closet.  I’m sure they saw it as cutting out the middleman, since I was likely to spend any money I had on new figures anyway.

-          For another birthday, my parents got me a new case for my figures.  The cases, if you’ve never seen them, were in the shape of Darth Vader’s head.  Did I unwrap this case with my other presents? No.  My father snuck into my room while I was asleep and put it on the desk right by my bed.  The next morning I woke up, turned over, and AHHHHHHHH!  I asked my father about that little stunt years later, and he swore that he wasn’t trying to scare me.  Sure, Dad.  That’s why you left a Dark Lord of the Sith watching over your peacefully slumbering child.  Sure.

-          My parents also got me a copy of Star Wars on VHS.  That doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but this was back when video tapes were still new technology.  They got the movie previously viewed from a local store that also rented movies (Blockbuster and stores like it that only rented movies were still years away).  The cost for a previously viewed copy of my favorite movie: $90.  But oh did it get watched, and I was absolutely incensed when one of my friends fell asleep during it. 

-          I remember the day that Return of the Jedi came out.  One of my classmates missed most of school because he went to go see it.  He showed up near the end of the day bragging that he’d seen the film.  In those days before the Internet, we had no way of knowing what happened until we actually got to the movie ourselves.  So did we pump him for spoilers?  Hell, no.  We threatened his life if he told us ANYTHING!

As I got older, I discovered Star Trek, and while Star Wars would always remain important to me, I came to view it as somewhat childish.  It was a live-action cartoon compared to the deeper characters and storylines of Trek.  Yes, I was really that obnoxious about it. 

That said, I still went to see the rereleases of the original films during the 1990s.  I grimaced at the new Jabba the Hutt scene in A New Hope and cringed at the new musical number in Return of the Jedi.  I went nuts over the teaser trailer for The Phantom Menace.   It was a great trailer.  Try to clear your mind of everything that actually happened in that movie.  Clear your mind of Jar Jar, the stilted dialog, and the wooden acting (I’m not making this easy, am I.).  Still, try to take yourself back to a time before The Phantom Menace and watch THIS.

I saw all of the prequels on the big screen.  I even took my son to the Clone Wars animated film (really three episodes of the show slammed together) and to the 3-D rerelease of The Phantom Menace, so he could see Star Wars in a theater.

I stuck with Star Wars through the prequels, which, even though I was an apologist for them at the time, are not great.  Or even all that good in spots.  We made it through that low point to what is now a time of rejuvenation for the franchise.  Disney bought the property from George Lucas, and, based on how they’ve handled the Marvel films, there is every reason to be optimistic that they will treat Star Wars with great care.   We have new movies, at least five of them, in the planning or filming stages.   We’ve seen set photos from Episode VII.  We know Harrison Ford was injured while filming.  There’s no denying that this is happening.

So why am I not more excited? 

I still love Star Wars.  I bought myself a lightsaber just a couple of weeks ago (It’s one of the cool light up toy ones with sound effects and everything.  Someone was selling it cheap, and I couldn’t resist.  I also haven’t regretted it one tiny bit.).  It bothers me that I haven’t been able to convince my daughter to even give the movies a chance.

Why is there part of me that wishes these new movies weren’t happening?  Am I afraid that they’re going to screw it up?  It’s not like the prequels left things on a high note.  And because of that, I imagine extra care is being taken with these new films to make sure they don’t repeat the prequels’ mistakes.  We already know that they’re relying more on physical sets and creatures rather than computer generated ones.

I’m also happy with their choice of director.  J.J. Abrams strikes me as being far better with actors than George Lucas ever was.  I also believe that Star Wars is a better fit for him than Star Trek ever was.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am grateful to him for revitalizing Trek in the new movies, but one of my criticisms has been that Abrams doesn’t seem to be interested in the science part of the science fiction.  He also has discussed his love for Star Wars.  He’s going to put his absolute best into this new movie. 

I think what bothers me isn’t worrying about whether the movie will be good or not.  It’s that I didn’t need more of the story after Return of the Jedi.  I never followed the Expanded Universe or read the post-Jedi novels.  For me Return of the Jedi ended, and they all lived happily ever after.  I know that sounds childish, and it’s absolutely coming from the child I used to be.  He fears that something terrible is going to happen to Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2, or C-3P0 in one of these new movies.  Stories abound that Harrison Ford wanted Han to die in Return of the Jedi.  Maybe now he’s getting that chance, but that’s not what I want to see.  Haven't they been through enough?  Luke lost a hand, found out Darth Vader was his dad, and got zapped by the Emperor.  Leia was tortured for information, chained to Jabba the Hutt, and shot.  Han was tortured, frozen in carbonite, and...okay.  I can't come up with a good third one for him.  The point still stands.  The adventures of the crew of the USS Enterprise should go on forever and ever, but Luke, Han, and Leia earned their happily ever after. 

I don’t have any say in this, though.  Disney didn’t pay $4 billion dollar for Star Wars just to leave it alone, and there are millions of fans looking forward to these new films.  I will be there as well.  I love Star Wars too much not to be, but if anything bad happens to my heroes, my inner child is going to be VERY upset.

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter