Do you believe in the Force?
I was 2 years old when “Star Wars” was released in 1977. I was 5 when I saw “The Empire Strikes Back.” I remember the intense revelation that Darth Vader was Luke’s father, Yoda levitating Luke’s X-Wing, and that I wanted a pet tauntaun.
Seeing “Return of the Jedi” in the theater was a bit more memorable, as I was 8. The first thing I remember about “Return of the Jedi” was that everyone was calling it “Revenge of the Jedi,” but then they changed the title.
“Return of the Jedi” was nothing short of thrilling. The rescue of Han Solo from Jabba’s palace was like nothing else I had seen before. And I know everyone likes to hate on the Ewoks, but 8-year-old me was excited when my mom bought Wicket and Logray figures along with the Jabba the Hutt action figure, complete with dungeon and Salacious Crumb. Such cool toys. I think we got them at Sears.
My mom bought a bunch of the figures that year, which was unusual. My mom loved the movie, and even though she let us play with the toys, they were hers.
I wanted to be Princess Leia. My thin blond hair didn’t lend itself to Leia’s fabulous intergalactic hairstyles, but that didn’t stop me from insisting that my mom put my hair in Princess Leia buns anyway.
I know I’m not the only one who can say the Star Wars movies were the first sci-fi films I saw, and the first I loved. They kicked off a lifetime love of fantasy, science fiction, and adventure.
The early ’80s had so many movies I loved — “The Neverending Story,” “E.T.,” “The Dark Crystal,” “Splash.” I wanted to be a mermaid, to make friends with a botanist from outer space, to ride a luck dragon.
Like so many of us who grew up on the original trilogy, I groaned when Jar Jar Binks appeared on screen. But Jar Jar, like those nasty little teddy bears, was there for the kids. And while the franchise may not be FOR kids, the films spark the imaginations of kids, and bring out the kid in all of us.
My son is a Star Wars fan, but I don’t think the movies are as epic for him as they were for those of us who watched them in the theater, because they came at a time before the world was saturated with 24/7 entertainment in the form of computers, cable TV, DVDs, etc. We didn’t go see “The Empire Strikes Back” and then get back to our Minecraft game. We absorbed Star Wars, we thought about it, we dressed up like the characters and acted out scenes from the movie. Star Wars got under our skin and into our consciousness.
I didn’t love the prequels as much as I loved the original trilogy. They aren’t as good; that’s part of it. But also, the original stories are the ones I saw when I was little, when I believed in the Force, and in magic.
People who don’t care about Star Wars or sci fi probably think we are all crazy, those of us who are as giddy as little kids, waiting for the new movie to come out. But there is just something so … visceral? universal? What is it about these movies that speaks to us? Is it the triumph of good over evil? The combination of adventure, suspense, romance, and a dash of humor? Is it the story? The special effects?
I think one of the things I love most about Star Wars is that the universe George Lucas created seems so REAL. It’s so believable, and it’s so COOL.
I’m no longer the little girl who believed in fairies and unicorns and 900-year-old Jedi masters, but I still watch the old movies because those familiar characters are like old friends, and for a few hours, I believe in magic again.
Read more of Shawna’s sci-fi musings at earthtoshawna.com.
Photos courtesy of EarthtoShawna.