Love and Star Wars
Way back in April of 2014, I uploaded a blog titled, A Sad Time In A Galaxy Far Far Away… in which I discussed my feelings toward Lucasfilm changing all extended universe stories to non-canon/legacy status. When writing the blog, I was furious with the decisions made by Lucasfilm, but at the same time I could understood why the choice was made. I’ve left a link above so you can go back and read it, but needless to say, I wasn’t impressed.
As a long time Star Wars fan, Lucasfilm shifting previous continuity and stories to a legacy status hurt me deep. Even to the point where Episode VII was tarnished by my negative feelings for the franchise and those in charge. I failed to see the ‘magic’ as others had when The Force Awakens released, and deep down harboured a slight resentment toward the film, characters and producers for the way they intentionally disregarded all references to the prequel trilogy.
“The prequels were crap. They ruined Star Wars and George Lucas is best kept away from the franchise!”
Well, those are not my feelings.
You see, I am 32 years-old and being that I was born in 1984, I missed the major hype of Star Wars growing up. Yes, I came to watch them on VHS being introduced to them by my parents, but it never bothered me when George Lucas went back and changed special effects or added scenes in, or even when Greedo shot first. I mean come on folks, you’re complaining about who shot first, when it doesn’t really change Han Solo as a character, if that is your argument. He was still going to shoot Greedo, now he shoots half a second later. Anyway, the audio and visual changes were actually a welcome addition considering the quality on the original VHS copies were terrible and washed out. At the end of the day, George Lucas owned the films, and could do as he pleased with them.
In 1997, the original went through a digital restoration process to both sound and video and included touched up effects to better take advantage of newer CGI. I watched all at the cinemas, except for Return of the Jedi and I’ll never live that down. But the experience of travelling on a bus and tram to the cinemas with my older brothers to watch them was amazing. We even had our Star Wars passports stamped upon each viewing. In Australia, we have a mass chain of theatres called Hoyts Cinemas. The Highpoint shopping centre had a life-size X-Wing on display in the car park to celebrate the films release. I remember going during the day and seeing the spaceship in the car park, unfortunately you couldn’t get within five meters of it, but my tiny little nerd mind was blown away.
These same versions were eventually released on VHS in full-screen and widescreen which blew my mind seeing the difference in store. “You mean I can actually see Storm Troopers on the sides of the screen?” SOLD!
So as you can tell, my love for all things Star Wars was at an atmospheric level by this stage. Mind you, this was 1997, and already the films had been with me for about five years via video store rentals.
After the films were released at the cinemas, it was all about Star Wars. Even when it came to gaming, I remember spending birthday money on a PC game called Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. My brother had the first game which introduced Kyle Katarn, but in the second game he discovered force abilities which allowed you to use a lightsaber. Games like Super Star Wars (trilogy) allowed me play as a Jedi before, but Dark Forces II was first-person and contained lightsaber combat. Deflect incoming blaster bolts and use force powers to destroy enemies. A moment in the game even allowed the player to kill a Dark Jedi and fall to the dark side. The entire game had me playing over and over again even delving into the multiplayer with a friend from school.
It was one of the first times playing a Star Wars game which actually had me feeling like a Jedi, or Dark Jedi, and introduced live action cut scenes into the series with lightsaber effects from movies. Kyle Katarn proved one of my favourite characters in the expanded universe, and the Moldy Crow was an inspirational starship.
Dark Forces II, proved to me that Star Wars could exist outside of the original trilogy and even that other Jedi could win me over.
The experience of this game lead to me playing numerous games on the PC, until eventually it was too old to handle the sequel, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. Although I owned it on PC, the game ran at about 2fps, so I had to wait until the release on GameCube about half a year later. But the adventures of Kyle Katarn continued for me and only solidified my love of the expanded universe even more. A rich source of material for fans to fall in love with, and something Lucasfilm took away when making all the stories non-canon.
By 1999, Episode I was ramping up for release. I was turning 15 in that same month and managed to get a job at the local video store. Dream job. Episode I was hitting cinemas in weeks and the store was a buzz with people chatting and renting the original trilogy leading up to its release. Expectations were extremely high, and mass speculation spread about what it would contain.
In the same shopping centre I worked in was a K-mart. It was always busy and came packed with a huge Star Wars setup. Everything from toys, CD’s and novels flanked the area, with clothes and bedding items too. I remember buying The Phantom Menace soundtrack with my second ever pay cheque. Mind you I was without a CD player of my own, so once I got home, I was forced to spend the next hour on the main computer in the house and just listened with headphones on. I needed to soak up the John Williams score and to this day, it is still absolutely marvellous. Needless to say, I later purchased a Discman just to listen to all the Star Wars soundtracks I owned. To be able to hear the musical scores while walking to and from work, just made the time fly.
So as you may be able to tell by now, even before The Phantom Menace was released, my excitement levels for this film were through the roof. I had a handful of toys, all unboxed, the novel and script for the film which I refused to read. Even when I didn’t have money, I still spent my lunch breaks browsing the Star Wars section at K-mart and practically had the films on loop at the video store to build up buzz. Not that it needed it.
Leading up to the release, the making of and behind-the-scenes programs were on TV. Remember, the internet was slow back them. All the information about the new bad guy, Darth Maul, left me dying for the film. And the whole surprise of his dual lightsaber hadn’t been spoiled for me before the film.
Then it was released. The Phantom Menace came out on a Thursday in Australia and my parents took me and my oldest brother to see it on a Saturday evening. A few days of avoiding people at the video store and no reading reviews, but I had the soundtrack on loop. Then Saturday night came around and I sat down in a sold out cinema beside my brother and parents. I shared a large popcorn and coke with my brother and as the trailers played, I was nervous with anticipation.
And then the 20th Century Fox fanfare hit and instantly my brother and I put away the popcorn and coke. We were silent. I still remember the moment, sound and smell of the cinema as Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan sprung out of the room was lightsabers whirling cutting down the droids in their path. This was everything I wanted in a Star Wars film after years of the original trilogy and various video games.
I was 15 years old at the time, and all my hopes and dreams of what I wanted from a Star Wars film came true.
The hardest part was talking about the film at school. Being a nerd was tough because it wasn’t cool back then. If you were a nerd, you were bullied. Yet, I found another Star Wars nerd like me in the form of a classmate named Erin. She was cool and we never spoke until she noticed my Darth Maul binder amongst all my things, and that was it, we quickly became friends.
It was just a great time to be a Star Wars fan and as the years went on and people hated on the film, it only increased my love for it. The Phantom Menace was, for me, what A New Hope was to everyone else. I grew up watching it at least five times at the cinemas and each time only made me fall in love with it more. I would read the script and novel over and over again with the soundtrack on repeat. I collected all the newspaper clippings I could find and did my best to work my way through Ewan McGregor’s back catalogue of films. I even had Darth Maul’s lines of dialogue written on the inside of my binder at school and would practise the lines to try to sound like him.
My love for Star Wars really intensified with the prequel trilogy. It was a whole new set of films that were mine, and not my parents. It was kid friendly and let me live out the fantasy of what it would be like to be a Jedi. I wrote scripts and stories set during the prequel era, read comics with new characters and delved into the expanded universe novels set after Return of the Jedi.
Even as Episode II and III released, in 2002 and 2005, my love for the series never wavered. I read the novels, comics and collected the toys and some LEGO. I listened to the soundtracks and watched them on repeat at the video store and at home. It was only when Lucasfilm banished the expanded universe to non-canon, and production for Episode VII kicked in, I started to really dislike the way the series was moving. It seemed like Lucasfilm was distancing themselves from the prequels, wanting nothing to do with them. As a massive fan of the prequel trilogy, this really hurt me.
I’ve never understood how people can blame George Lucas for ruining their childhood by making changes to the original trilogy. Or how the prequel trilogy ruined the Star Wars films. Frankly, they didn’t. But if those three films bug you so much, just don’t watch them.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is if you don’t like the movies, just ignore them and move on…which I guess Lucasfilm and Disney have done by not acknowledging them for the past few years. It’s all about imitating what worked with the original trilogy and putting them out. And to be honest, if rumours for Episode VIII are to be believed, that trend will continue.
However its not all bad news for my recent lacklustre love of Star Wars. You see, even though most of my favourite characters are either not spoken about, banished or no longer exist as part of the new canon, my love for Star Wars is still there. I’ll always have the prequel and original trilogies to watch and the soundtracks to listen to. And in time I’ll grow to appreciate the new films like I do the older ones. And with the recent release of the new Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer just being released, my love for Star Wars grows again.
In the two years since writing the original Star Wars blog post (found at the beginning), I’ve mourned the loss of characters that are no longer part of the canon universe, but at the same time, those characters still live on in novels, comics, video games and toys. I have grown to understand why Lucasfilm moved the series away from the prequels and closer to the original trilogy, and I can’t blame them for that.
But just so everyone knows, I grew up with the prequel trilogy close to my heart and George Lucas, for me, continues to be a brilliant story-teller. He gave me stories and characters that are among some of my favourite of all time. He gave pop culture the most awesome weapon to ever be created, and a power in the Force that everyone at some point has wished they could use to grab the remote.
At the end of the day, I thank you for taking the time to read the thoughts of a nerd who has too much time on his hands. And I appreciate you understanding that these are my thoughts on why I love Star Wars.
I hope you all have a great day, and may the Force be with you.