Find your Star Wars
The very first Star Wars movie (or the 4th, depending how you feel like counting these things) came out the same year as I was born. As far back as I can remember, I was a Star Wars kid. I don’t remember when I first saw it, but I must have been pretty young. I do remember all of the toys I had. My parents did a pretty good job of spoiling me with the things, even when times were tough. For a young boy growing up in the early eighties, there was little more prevalent than the all encompassing universe of Luke Skywalker and friends. It was wish fulfillment at its best. Heroes and villains, outer space, daring duels and feats of heroism, cute characters and scary ones, good triumphing over evil. Like all things in the life of a young boy, it eventually got replaced with new stories and toys (GI Joe and Transformers both came a calling in the mid-eighties), but for me, Star Wars was my first love.
In 1999, when The Phantom Menace came out, I was in my twenties. Dumber than I thought I was, way more sure about anything than I should have been, but still, that same feeling came back to me. I was warped back to my childhood, giddy with the thought of these stories being brought back. Except it wasn’t quite right. This has nothing to do with how good or bad the prequels were. It’s not as simple as that. Even if they were really great movies, they still weren’t quite right. They didn’t capture that same feeling that the original trilogy did. There was lack of urgency to them. They simply didn’t “feel” like Star Wars, and I can’t explain it any better. I wound up seeing all three in the theater, but it wasn’t what I felt like it should have been. Instead of a return to my childhood, it was something vaguely connected, but still out of reach.
When the deal with Disney was announced, and the promise of a new trilogy brought about, there was a sense of giddiness in me. I don’t know why, but I had good feeling about it. Fast forward to the first trailer/teaser that came out, and that wave of nostalgia came back. There was so little to really go on, but what I saw seemed somehow right. But being an adult in his late thirties, it was something I pushed down. I’m not a kid anymore. While I’ve always had a fanciful imagination, I just couldn’t let myself get wrapped up in something that could very well be a large disappointment.
When The Force Awakens was released, I waited. I hate crowded movie theaters, long lines, and rowdy people. I wanted the hype train to die down a bit, and have the chance to watch the movie in a slightly more enjoyable atmosphere. I saw the movie about three weeks after release, in a cinema that had a lot more people in it than I expected, but still wasn’t as packed as it could have been. In the weeks leading up to my viewing, I had been more or less spoiled to the big events in the movie. I’m on the internet pretty constantly, it was almost impossible to avoid. It was upsetting, and I was pretty sure it would mar the experience. I sat in my seat (and let me also mention that my wonderful wife was there with me, braving a crowd for a movie that didn’t have anywhere near the same cultural impact for her as it did for me), and waited through the ads and previews.
The title appeared, the John Williams score came to life, and the intro text scrolled down the screen. In that instant, I was 5 years old again. I was that kid who held his Luke Skywalker action figure in one hand, and his stuffed Ewok in another (creatively named "Eewie", for the curious). For the next two hours or so, that’s who I was. This little kid, mouth agape, staring in wonder. It’s not how good the movie was (for the record, I enjoyed it quite a bit) or how amazing the performances were (for the record, I enjoyed them quite a bit), or even the feeling of seeing something new and familiar at the same time. It was simply a return to a comfortable old friend that I hadn't seen in a long while. It was a return to a time when life was ridiculously simple, when worries were practically non-existent, and when I could just let go to the fantasy.
And that’s my Star Wars. Something that can take me back to a time in my life where I didn’t have to be an adult and worry about adult things. Where I was just a kid sitting down on a couch with my parents, enjoying a bowl of popcorn and watching something wonderful. The sound of a lightsaber as it swings, the roar of a Wookiee, the beeps of a droid are all reminders of that time. I’m convinced that we all have a Star Wars. Something that lets us escape, something that takes us back, something that gives us a small break from the harshness of the world. We can’t live there, not anymore, but we can go and visit every once in a while.
That’s my one piece of wisdom for today. Find and enjoy your Star Wars again, even if it’s just for a small bit. And for those out there with kids, try and enjoy their Star Wars with them, and maybe introduce them to yours. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a princess that needs saving and a Wookiee that’s yelling at the droids. And where did I put that lightsaber…