"They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally, they became heroes." - Leia Organa of Alderaan, Senator - From the novelization of 'Star Wars' by George Lucas, published in 1976.
(Spoiler: I'm going to let my inner Star Wars geek out.)
When I was six years old, my retinas were singed with the sight of a Star Destroyer flying overhead. A malevolent caped figure with a deep, resonated voice struck fear into me. A lightsaber battle that thrilled me and broke my heart when Obi Wan was struck down. A long trench on a battle station that had one fatal flaw that no one except a farm boy from Tatooine could exploit. And how could you lose with a smuggler with the fastest ship in the galaxy?
I clearly remember sitting my seat, shifting in my seat to see over the tall people's heads in front of me. My father took me and sat me on his lap, where I could clearly see the Falcon descending upon Yavin IV. The sound was deafening. The theatre was filled to capacity; people lined along the walls and sat in the aisles. By the end of the year, the Christmas tree would give me the first toys and products from Kenner.
Those years covering Episode IV - VI clearly marked my youth. The original trilogy toys that I managed to score, I've luckily held on to. While my AT-AT walker and Millennium Falcon toys saw them played to the limit, those somehow fell by the wayside. It was the action figures I managed to hold on to, along with the original Darth Vader Carrying Case. No C-3P0 Carrying Case for this boy.
I did have Darth Vader, of course, but in a fit of boredom, perhaps, I put him in cup of water and put him in the freezer. Only his head was spared from the ice. Out of some boyish desire to break things, I ripped his head off, and left his body in the ice. An early premonition with regards to carbonite? I don't know, but I never replaced the figure, sadly.
When the door closed on Luke smiling at Force Ghosts, and the triumph of the teddy bears - er, Ewoks - homemade weapons over the Galatic Empire's vast arsenal of technology - one thing remained with me: you can triumph over adversity, and be strong in the face of overwhelming odds, while making new friends, and winning the girl (initially) who later turns out to be your sister. And not only your sister, but your dad just happens to be the most malevolent and evil being in the Galaxy, who just has a shred of his humanity left.
The launch of the prequel trilogy was something I was all but ready for, and how can your heart not leap at the sound of the Fox Fanfare while you wait breathlessly for the title crawl to transport you away? Jar Jar Binks was not the new hero I was looking for, and Anakin was bratty. Qui-Gin Jinn sadly had to go, but man, he would've been an awesome inclusion had he continued on. I was overwhelmingly disappointed. When the prequel trilogy began to pick up energy and ended on a better-than-expected outcome, I closed the door on any possibility of something new coming along. I wasn't into comic books, nor had the Expanded Universe attracted my attention with the stories that began to fill the gaps.
When Lucas sold the franchise to Disney, that didn't worry me. The stories left to be told and dreamt up are yet to come. And now that The Force Awakens has launched an incredible discussion in regards to theory and cultural impact, I decided that watching all of the films in order, prior to Episode VII was necessary. No, I didn't pay $60 to sit in a theatre from 3a onward, dealing with lack of sleep, uncomfortable seats, bad food, and sticky floors. How can you not want to relive the original trilogy on the big screen, the way they're meant to be watched? Luckily, a friend with access to a screening room and the original trilogy (pre-Special Edition) surprised and delighted me.
The first six Episodes are colossal in scope and reach, as we all know. The trajectory of Anakin's rise, downfall, and redemption - when watched in sequence - is truly heartbreaking. Watching a single Episode is not the way to form a singular opinion, as it changes when watched a whole, the way Lucas intended. The history of the Jedi, the political backdrop (blocking of trade routes - how boring) are starting points, though the manipulation of the Senate and the maneuvering of Palpatine to solidify his power and lure Anakin to his side is the best thing about the prequels. Visually, notice how his costumes evolve over the Episodes. Notice the color palettes he's increasingly infused with, signifying his rise. And best of all, you have Ian McDiarmid giving the character a truly magnificent arc in Palpatine's evolution. By the time Anakin is kneeling in obedience following Mace Windu's failed attempt to arrest him, Palpatine's transformation is mersmerizing. If there's one thing to keep an eye on over the course of the three prequels, it's him. I truly do feel something for Anakin by the time his transformation is complete.
There's little time for human emotion in Episode IV, save for the short moment where we grieve the loss of Obi-Wan as Luke sits sadly, lamenting, "I can't believe he's gone." Empire perhaps is the best of all, with a truly needed development in all characters; and that by the time Han is being scuttled away by Boba Fett, and Luke has learned his paternal fate, you're left with a powerful need to know what happens next. Not to mention Han and Leia.
Episode III comes next with Palpatine's instructions to "execute Order 66." And Lucas was so great about giving the film such a sorrowful moment (beside's Anakin's). The film's depiction of various Jedi suddenly being turned on and struck down by the Clones, next to Obi Wan's realization that Anakin had struck down the Youngling's at the Temple, is horrifying. The film doesn't give us enough to let us marinate on that, because we all know that in the end, it is simply the pure evil of the Sith and ambition of Palpatine to rule the Galaxy in "peace." Try comparing this element of Episode III to events happening today, or go back to history's atrocities, and there will be something to compare this to.
I do feel that Lucas is a true artist and when he went back and released the films in their Special Edition format, he said that he was updating the films with the things he had wanted to do originally, yet the technology wasn't there at the time. While I like that he did that, I'll always prefer the theatrical release versions. There's something about how simplified the effects are without sprucing everything up. But what's cool is that Lucas was able to go back and do that to his films, like the way an artist is always trying to improve his art. It's a weak argument on my part, perhaps, but I agree with him here:
Some would argue that you shouldn't mess with works of art. But he wasn't satisfied. And I don't think artists can ever be. And while he knew that, Episode IV was being hailed as one of the greatest films of all time.
I've seen The Force Awakens three times at this point. I am excited about the future of the franchise. The nostalgia factor is pretty big on this one, for me. I grew up with this universe; these characters. I had the toys; I played in the front yard and let my imagination run wild with stories; I had the original collector cards; I was really into Ralph McQuarrie's concept art, which - cool fact: often a trading card pack would include a McQuarrie original artwork. The original concept art really fueled my imagination, and I can remember looking at the pictures for hours and hours, daydreaming.
It's that daydreaming, memories, excitement, fear, wide-eye wonder and shared experiences with others that has always been the foundation of the series, for me. Each movie represents, more or less, a time in my life, for good or for bad. I've certainly identified myself with Luke, and his journey. Han has always been my favorite, and while his story in Episode VII ends, I am disappointed that he won't go on to have further adventures. Unless the filmmakers turn him into a Force Ghost, and I wouldn't like that. Can you imagine Han Solo merging with the Force? I don't think so. My jaw dropped. I didn't see it coming, but I should've guessed. Ford and Kasdan didn't get their way in Episode VI - to kill him off. This time, they got their wish.
But, the end of Episode VII was an emotional tug at the heart, and so brilliantly done. I did not know how Luke would reappear, and his presence throughout the entire film is felt. But the face-off between him and Rey, and the music, well...all I can say is, I can not wait for Episode VIII and IX and to find out how Luke's story is played out.
The next few years are going to be very exciting. Better yet, wouldn't it be just perfect if I could work in one of the upcoming films? Goal set. GO.