A long time ago, in a Galaxy far, far away……
That sight is what greeted this 8-year-old lad as he sat in awe of the huge screen in front of him in a slightly empty cinema in 1977. The orchestral score that followed it a moment after meant, unknowingly, that big things were in store. Those iconic words and sounds were the introduction to a lifetime connection with Star Wars. I am proud to say that it was my Father who took me to see Star Wars at his insistence but those two hours of immersion in the film, Episode IV A New Hope, changed me more than it did him. I was lucky to be at the right age at the right time. 40 years on and I’ve seen every single Star Wars film at the cinema and still feel as excited at the prospect of seeing the latest film as I did when I was 8.
The introduction to A New Hope was read, and then the camera panned down to the surface of an unknown planet, a space ship flies overhead firing its lasers at an unseen adversary and then the adversary appeared engulfing the screen firing its laser-cannons at its prey and igniting the imagination of every fellow kid in the cinema. Star Wars had arrived. I can’t explain how it feels to look back on that time as a school kid obsessed with Star Wars, the envy I felt when a classmate got bigger and better toys and more action figures than I did, I wanted to be in Star Wars. I wanted to be Luke Skywalker, I wanted my own droid. I demanded my own X-Wing Fighter!! I certainly wanted to help Darth Vader meet his demise, I wanted to be Han Solo and I wanted to kiss Princess Leia. Obi Wan Kenobi, Ben Kenobi…. “Dad, why is he called Obi Wan and Ben?”, to be fair, I did ask questions during the film to be met with “Watch the film” but not as many as I did after the movie had ended. I was shown a world where humans existed outside of the mundane world I knew, it was just inconceivable to think that there was actually a Galaxy far, far away and that there were humans in a different situation to us and a different cultural existence, ok an 8 year old wouldn’t know what that meant but over the years it dawned on me. 1977 was the year that can never be bettered, until 1980 that is.
(Once again) A long time ago, in a Galaxy far, far away….
Our heroes are back? A snow scene? In Star Wars? And it’s a sequel (whatever one of those is, “Dad, what’s a sequel?”), giant walker things that look like huge mechanoid dogs firing lasers? Huge laser cannon’s blasting Star Destroyers. Princess Leia telling Han Solo that she loved him and him replying with “I know” before being shock frozen in Carbonite. I can go on about all those wonderous new things that took Star Wars to a whole new level that you just never expected in Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back but there is one thing that was the talk of the playground at school for days, Darth Vader is Luke’s Father? NO WAY!!!? How can that be?? You spend two films and three years getting to know Luke Skywalker and then bam, he finds out that the most sinister and evil man in the Universe is his Dad, I can still feel the gasp that went round the cinema when Darth Vader announced, “No Luke I AM your Father!”, similar to the loss of the greatest Star Wars character of them all, Han Solo in Force Awakens but I’ll come to that another time. We ALL were with Luke when he said “no…. NO!…… NNOOOOOOO!!!!!”.
I digress but Empire hit a subliminal chord that has reverberated through my life. I never realised, but then at age 11 I have an excuse, that Empire would be such a pivotal film in the trilogy, not that we knew it was a trilogy back then. In fact in Star Wars in general, you just don’t have three films painting a wider story. Ok, today you do with the likes of Harry Potter, Fast n Furious (ok do I get extra brownie points for mentioning Harry Potter and Fast n Furious in the same sentence?) Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s a film trilogy was something new and unexplored and made Star Wars a unique and fresh franchise. The information we can get today just by searching Google on our phone whilst waiting for the bus was not available back then, you had to actually read a magazine or watch a tv program to get your information, it was more fun and also developed a silent patience for information that we all just don’t seem to have these days. I’m a huge advocate of reading, factual information as well as reading fiction but factual floats my boat, and I love reading the stories about George Lucas’s vision for Star Wars. And being a Screen Writer myself, I can understand the loyalty to characters but also the sheer enjoyment of putting them through the thick of it and how they get to be greater at the end of it. It truly is the best fun writing a story. I actually went against the grain when everyone said that Empire was the best film of the trilogy, I thought it was until 1983.
(Here we go again) A long time ago, in a Galaxy far, far away….
Return of The Jedi and this one was unique to me, it was the only film of the three that I didn’t go to the cinema to see with my Dad. This is kind of a regret of mine but trust me, Dad and I made up for it through the years discussing the facts of space flight and exploration, I’m proud to say that my Dad was a genuine Rocket Scientist and a published one at that. So a discussion of whether the Millennium Falcon did the Kessel Run in “less than twelve parsecs” was an interesting one with Dad because we actually debated what was a parsec more than whether the Millennium Falcon was fast. Anyway, there is so much to say about Return of The Jedi that I just don’t know where to start. The Speeder scenes in the forests of Endor, the Ewoks!! The submission of Luke accepting that Darth Vader is his Dad and together they defeat the Emperor who was more scarey to a young kid than any of the Alien films put together.
I suppose now is as good a point to mention that the Star Wars trilogy of today (A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of The Jedi) are not the films I saw back in 77, 80, and 83. In 2004 a Special Edition was released with CGI improvements. To me the original films with the original finishes ARE the classics. I have them all on VHS and I still have a video player. Without wishing to burst anyone’s bubble, the inclusion of the Hayden Christensen Anakin at the end of Return of The Jedi was as damaging to the film as it was if you’d put Mickey Mouse there. Hayden Christensen had no right to be put in place of Sebastian Shaw, in fact Sebastian Shaw had no right replacing David Prowse, but that’s a debate I’d like to have after a beer and some peanuts. Suffice to say, I was privileged to grow up in the evolutionary framework of the Star Wars films. I watched our heroes grow old. I have Chewbacca seat belt covers and a Stormtrooper steering wheel cover in my Stormtrooper white SUV car. I drink my morning coffee out of large Star Wars mugs. I have star wars t-shirts and hoodies and I was proud as anything to take my partners 13-year-old Son to see Rogue One at the cinema and to see The Last Jedi with my best mate Ryan, who got so angry after Han Solo’s death in Force Awakens that I almost had to take him to a therapist, but that’s another conversation for another time.
I’ve since met a couple of actors who have been part of the trilogy films and they make an honest and decent living on the Comic Con scene and hats off to them, there is as much a need for the original trilogy as there is for the latest film. There are 48-year-olds- out there walking, living and breathing the original trilogy who are in the same happy place that I am in when I think of those Star Wars films and having mock light sabre fights with any pole shaped item that springs to hand, a pool cue, a torch at night, and obviously, the light sabre sound has to be impersonated, sometimes badly but it just doesn’t matter, it’s childish fun. A local ferry company has three ferries, they are all named after birds of prey, the Red Osprey, the Red Eagle and the Red Falcon. On May the 4th, the unofficial Star Wars Day, the Red Falcon becomes the Millennium Falcon and the ferry company get some Stormtroopers and Darth Vadar to be on the ferry and greet passengers for the day, such is the impact of Star Wars in today’s society.
Return of the Jedi was the last great Star Wars film of the last century. I firmly believe that it was right to continue but the “prequel” trilogy” had so many flaws in it, notably Jar Jar Binks for one, and whoever cast Hayden Christensen needs to be incarcerated on Hoth for an eternity oh and please don’t get me started, in fact yes, lets start! I feel sorry for the kids of the three generations of Star Wars fans over the years, the Prequel generation, the Force Awakens generation, they really didn’t have the immense fresh wonderment of the original trilogy, the best generation was THE Star Wars generation, the original and the best.
Until next time, stay safe and stay great and may the force be with you