Apparently everyone has their own history with Star Wars. This is mine.
My dad saw Star Wars on opening day in 1977, 11 years before I was born. Naturally I was destined to appreciate, if not love, Star Wars.
In 1995, when I was 7 years old, my dad was given the THX Digitally Remastered Star Wars Trilogy box set.
This was Star Wars to me.
I’m pretty sure my dad and I watched all three movies together, although I don’t remember this event specifically. In fact, I don’t remember a time in my life when I hadn’t seen Star Wars. It was by far my favorite thing in the world. This set of VHS tapes were magical to me. The image of Darth Vader on A New Hope was chilling, and Yoda on Return of the Jedi was mystifying. I swear I would just look at the covers sometimes and imagine the movie before popping that tape into the VCR. Return of the Jedi was my favorite. Luke had a green lightsaber and his fight with Vader at the end was amazing! I remember not realizing that Luke, Vader, and the Emperor were on the Death Star until much later. Also the part where Vader discovers Leia is his daughter confused me. I was 7 after all, and didn’t really grasp the internal fight that Luke was having along with the actual fight with Vader; lightsabers are cool! My dad used to chastise me for rewinding the tape just to see the lightsaber fights, “You’ll wear the tape out doing that”. My brother was 4 years younger than me, and I’m sure my mom was not too happy when I let him watch them with me. The rancor scene in Jabba’s Palace scared the crap out of him. My brother ended up loving the movies just as much as I did, and we would play Star Wars all the time, whether we were co-pilots in a snowspeeder taking out AT-AT walkers, or Luke and Han shooting down Tie Fighters as we escaped the Death Star.
Anyway, I loved those movies and specifically those VHS tapes.
Fast forward a few years.
Going to the movies in my childhood was a special thing my dad, brother, and I did. It was like our guy’s “night” out. We’d race to the theater, buy popcorn and M&Ms, and have a good time watching a movie. It was the best! When 1999 rolled around and The Phantom Menace was being released, we were ready to see this movie! Although I don’t actually remember seeing this movie for the first time (I know, my memory is terrible), I fondly remember going to see this movie with my dad and brother. I loved this movie! Qui-Gon Jinn was awesome and Darth Maul was even more awesome! It didn’t matter that the movie felt nothing like the original trilogy, my 11 year self didn’t know how to spell motif, much less understand it. I’m sure my dad was disappointed, but I didn’t notice. It was a new Star Wars movie!
Three years later, Attack of the Clones was released. Again, my dad, brother, and I went to see it together in the theater. I was 14 years old now, and was not loving everything about this movie like I did The Phantom Menace. For starters, the clones never attacked the Jedi, which I thought was a given, since the title said so. Also, the Anakin and Padmé scenes didn’t feel right, although my pervy 14 year old self did like the fireplace scene because you could see Natalie Portman’s upper boob. And the senate scenes were boring and didn’t make any sense; they didn’t make sense in The Phantom Menace either, but I was 11 and hardly remembered them. But I still liked this movie. It had Jango Fett, Obi-Wan, and a ton of lightsabers including Yoda’s! On my scale of favorite Star Wars movies, it was last, but not a bad movie for the 14 year old me.
Three more years and here we are, Revenge of the Sith! I was stoked!! This was going to be amazing!!! I’m 17 years old now, a junior in high school, and so fucking ready to see this movie, I could barely take it!!!! I prepared for this movie. I watched every episode of the Clone Wars Animated series, read numerous articles about characters and theories, I even knew the names of the different alien species. Me, my dad, my brother, and my three best friends went to see the movie together. We waited in line, got some great seats, and held our breath… The opening crawl started and we’re off! The opening space battle was great!… until we got to Anakin and Obi-Wan and the ridiculous dialogue between them. Okay whatever, focus on the big picture. Alright, Anakin’s killed Dooku; that felt kind of quick. Again, whatever, he’s gotta fall to the dark side somehow. Wait, Why is Grevious so much less bad ass than in the Clone Wars? And are Anakin and Padmé living together? That’s not exactly a secret marriage. How is it not obvious that Palpatine is manipulating Anakin? Oh never mind he’s turning him in. Oh sweet, we’re gonna see Palpatine take on 4 Jedi Masters! Hey wait!? No!! There’s no way 3 Jedi Masters would just stand there and die!! Anakin’s here to help I guess? Wow… Anakin just helped kill Mace Windu, that didn’t make any sense. And now he’s pledging himself to Palpatine?! Why did his skin get old?!? You’ve got to be kidding me!! Anakin is Darth Vader now?? no, that was way too fast and didn’t make any sense… and now he’s killing children. fuck… Needless to say, I did not like the movie. So many things went wrong and so many things felt rushed. This was supposed to be the best one! My friends loved it, by the way. I kept my mouth shut, thinking I must have been too critical. It must have been all the online research I did. Yeah, that’s why I didn’t like it… After Revenge of the Sith came out on DVD, I started watching the trilogy over and over again. Each time I watched them they just got worse. I convinced myself that The Phantom Menace was good and that Attack of the Clones was decent. But nothing could convince me that Revenge of the Sith was not garbage. I hated that movie.
I’m going to pause for a little bit, and briefly talk about something very sad. In 2013 my dad committed suicide. He was an incredibly important person in my life, and as I’m write this bit about Star Wars of all things, I’m reminded of just how great he was. Okay, with that out of the way, let’s continue.
Disney has released the first teaser for The Force Awakens. I’m excited again! and nervous. I’ve finally come to terms with just how terrible the prequel trilogy is (The Phantom Menace is still my least hated of the three, but purely for nostalgic reasons). I’m thinking to myself, there’s no way this new movie can be any worse than the prequels. George Lucas is no longer in charge, and they’ve got JJ Abrams who made that Star Trek movie I liked, and Disney spent a lot of money, and I just want a good Star Wars movie, please. So I played it safe, and tried to not get too excited about this new Star Wars. I ignored most articles about the new movie and kept my head out of any theories. I learned the characters names, but stopped after that; I know too much already! It is the end of 2015, I am 27 years old, my wife and I have a 10 month old daughter, and we are trying to find a time to go see The Force Awakens. We needed a grandparent to watch over the little one for the 3+ hours needed to see a movie. We managed to get tickets for Christmas day when my mom was in town. I’m excited! But not too excited. Christmas day is here and we’ve opened presents. My brother, wife, mom’s boyfriend, and I are off to the theaters. As I watched the movie, there were a few times I had to check my cynicism, and let fan service be had, but by the end I was happy. Really Happy! Star Wars was about the characters again! Actual relatable characters that I actually felt attached to. I care about them and want to see more of them. I want to see their struggles and growth. I want to know them as I know my friends and family. I am genuinely excited about the future of Star Wars! And when this new trilogy is finished, I want to share it with my daughter, just like my dad shared his with me.