Tag Archives: Han Solo

The Force Awakens: A Conversation (SPOILER ALERT!)

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens,” you have no business reading this. Find something else to do.

Not so long ago, in a galaxy not so far away … two lifelong Star Wars fans — Lavender, of lavendervroman.com, and Shawna, of earthtoshawna.com — decided to search their feelings and work out their issues after seeing “The Force Awakens,” director J.J. Abrams’ much anticipated first installment of Disney’s new Star Wars trilogy.

Here is the conversation that ensued …

SPOILER ALERT: Last warning! What follows is a free and open discussion of the many plot points, surprises, twists and other developments contained in “The Force Awakens.” If you haven’t seen the film, this review will ruin it for you. That is all. 

Lavender: What did you love about “The Force Awakens”?

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Shawna of earthtoshawna.com.

Shawna: I loved seeing all the familiar faces — Han, Leia, Luke, even Chewie, C-3PO, and R2. I loved all the funny references to the original trilogy, like the stormtrooper who repeated Rey’s Jedi mind trick commands. I thought the new characters were awesome. Rey’s character was reminiscent of Luke’s; Ren was evil and tragic at the same time. BB-8 was more charming than I thought he would be. I know you loved him even before you saw the movie, but I didn’t fall in love with him until I saw him on the big screen.

And Finn, actually, was my favorite new character. He’s kind of the new Han character. Maybe that’s why I like him. Plus John Boyega is just a great actor. I had never seen him in anything before, but I hope to see more of him.

Lavender: I’m glad you have joined the BB-8 fan club! And I’m relieved this new little droid didn’t turn out to be the Jar Jar Binks of “The Force Awakens.” He’s quite a scene-stealer, in the best way possible.

It was great to see those familiar faces after so many years. I was skeptical about that, but J.J. Abrams reintroduces them very carefully and cleverly. One of the people who made the movie for me, actually, was Harrison Ford, returning as Han Solo with hairy Wookie sidekick Chewbacca in tow. I didn’t expect Ford to play such a large part in the film and after some of his recent, rather lackluster movie performances, I didn’t think he had it in him. But apparently Han is the role he was born to play. He stepped right back into those smuggler duds as if only a few days had passed since he last set foot in the Millennium Falcon. His presence really anchors the movie.

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Lavender Vroman

I think my favorite new character is definitely Rey. She is a heroine for the ages, something revolutionary for a female action hero. Abrams has said that he created Rey in hopes that little girls would be able to look up to her and he has more than accomplished his goal. I love how we first meet Rey as a scrappy, lonely scavenger on the hopelessly sandy planet Jakku. Daisy Ridley is so charismatic and makes her immediately likable. Her portrayal of Rey is so independent, and smart, and goodhearted. I like that Finn is always trying to save her — such a gentleman — but he never really has to because she’s already on the task of saving herself. I like that she has technical aptitude and an extremely powerful affinity for the Force. She and Han Solo are the heart and soul of “The Force Awakens.”

Shawna: Yes! What you said about Rey — she is a great role model. She doesn’t need a man to rescue or save her. It bugs me that we are in the dark about who she is or where she comes from, but I guess they had to save that for future films.

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Lavender: We both found a lot to love about this movie, but I think we both had some issues as well. What didn’t work for you?

Shawna: I loved seeing Han and Chewie again too, but I didn’t like that Han went back to being a smuggler, or that he waited so long to reach out to his son. That scene was a disappointment for me, not because Han dies (I expected he would be killed off, because Ford has said he doesn’t want to be Han anymore) but the way he died. Getting killed by your own snotty kid is a crappy way to go. And it was too predictable. How did he not know that Ren/Ben was about to kill him? I’m pretty sure everyone in the audience knew.

Are you as bummed as I am that Mark Hamill had no lines?

It almost made me think J.J. Abrams wanted the seasoned actor (Ford) to have a bigger part in the movie — that he didn’t have as much faith in “I’m-Luke-Skywalker-I’m-here-to-rescue-you.” I felt a bit indignant on Hamill’s behalf. Plus he had to get in shape and grow a beard, and he was only on screen for about a minute. I assume he will have a bigger role in the sequel. I hope we will see more of Carrie Fisher as well.

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Lavender: For me, that moment at the end where we finally see Luke is when the movie finally comes together. I think I’m more excited about where that moment will lead than about anything that happened in the plot of “The Force Awakens.” Which brings me to my biggest issue with the film.

Abrams does a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of the original trilogy, especially “A New Hope.” From the exotic planets populated by weird alien species, to the old-fashioned wipes and cuts that George Lucas used to evoke the adventurous serials of old, everything is dead-on and totally authentic, in stark contrast to those cold, soulless prequels.

This is good, but at times “The Force Awakens” is so much an homage to “A New Hope” that it almost feels like parody. I especially felt like this whenever Domhnall Gleeson’s over-the-top Hitler-esque General Hux came strutting onto the screen.

The plot of “The Force Awakens” almost plays like a reboot of “A New Hope,” complete with a climactic X-Wing/TIE fighter dogfight and an attempt to blow up yet another Death Star. I’m thinking from this point, all Death Stars should be banned from future installments. I mean how many of those things can there be?

I get what Abrams is doing here — he’s courting the fans who remember the prequels with a wince of pain, while introducing new generations to Lucas’ universe. He accomplishes this as well as can be expected, but I found myself wishing for a little more from the plot.

I wanted more character development, more time to see relationships simmering — especially between Rey and Finn, and Finn and Poe — and I wanted a little more urgency, danger, darkness. There wasn’t really ever a moment where I felt like everything was lost or that our heroes wouldn’t be able to save the day.

It’s funny you should mention the Han Solo death scene because, while of course as a fan I didn’t want to see that happen, I was kind of relieved. That was the moment I knew Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) was a dastardly villain of epic proportions. Before that, I didn’t find him all that intimidating.

I get your gripes about what Abrams did with Han in this movie, but I think it was necessary from a narrative standpoint and in keeping with his character, as hard as some of it was to stomach for those of us who always wanted to see Han and Leia live happily ever after.

Shawna: Yes, it did start to feel like parody, and I agree the worst offender was the jumbo Death Star. That was a “you’ve got to be kidding me” moment for me too. And Hux was too much, blech. I also agree with you about the weaknesses with the plot — it got to be too close to the plot of the first film. I actually didn’t mind that “OK, this person is the new Han, over here is the new Yoda … ,’ but really, must we also have the same plot?

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Lavender: You mentioned you’d like to see more of Luke and Leia in “Episode VIII.” What else would you like Abrams to do with the sequel?

Shawna: I absolutely would like to see more character development as well. I think they did a great job with casting (there were hits and misses in the prequels). I also think the CGI was more successful in this one than in the prequels. Maz felt more real to me than some of the CGI characters in, say, “The Phantom Menace.” Actually, she was more convincing than some of the non-CGI characters, now that I think about it.

I would like to see some questions answered. I thought it was kind of a cop-out when Maz said something like, “That’s a story for another time.” I felt like I was hearing the writers saying, “We’ll figure that out in time for the next movie.”

I want to know who Rey really is. On the one hand, it would make sense if she’s Luke’s kid because of the similarities between them, but also because why would they send some stranger to find Luke? After all they went through to get the map, especially. Why wouldn’t Leia go to him? If Rey is his daughter, why was she dumped as a child on a desert planet, alone? At least Luke was placed in the care of his aunt and uncle. We already have one estranged child in this movie.

If Luke is Rey’s father, then I guess we are just supposed to think Han and Leia and Luke are just really epic failures at parenting. With this being so close to “A New Hope,” I feel that’s where they are going with this — toward a Part 2 declaration of “I’m your father. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.”

And I want more backstory. How exactly did they raise such a stinker as Kylo Ren? He’s a bit of an entitled brat. He is a lot like Anakin. I am interested to see what happens with him in the next movie.

And if we could actually see Gwendoline Christie’s (Captain Phasma) face next time, that would be nice. That is, if she survives the trash compactor.

I am interested to hear your thoughts on Poe. I heard he was originally supposed to die in the TIE fighter crash, but Abrams changed his mind. And who is Max Von Sydow supposed to be? Do you have any theories on that?

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Lavender: I wonder about Max Von Sydow as well. I’ve heard many theories, including that maybe he’s Boba Fett, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Abrams has left us with a lot of questions, which is what I’m sure he intended. It’s going to be a long wait for “Episode VIII.”

I would have liked to see more of Oscar Isaac as Poe. He seems like a scoundrel and we need more scoundrels in our lives. Just as we were beginning to like him, he went missing for half the film. And I agree that Phasma is the Darth Maul of “Force Awakens.” Such a cool villain and a woeful lack of screen time.

I agree with you completely about Abrams’ use of CG imagery. He was obviously very conscious of the pitfalls of the CG-saturated prequels. I loved the blend of motion capture, puppetry and other practical effects. It felt right. And when he did use computer fx, they looked fantastic. The scenes with the Millennium Falcon were breathtaking, as were the aerial dogfights. And I, too, thought Maz was a great character. A little bit Yoda, a little bit Edna Mode.

I think your instincts about where Abrams is going with the sequel are correct. It will be interesting to see what director Rian Johnson does with it. After “Looper,” I really trust his vision.

I hope there will be more risks taken with “Episode VIII.” I can’t fault Abrams for playing it safe with “The Force Awakens.” Playing it safe is much better than totally destroying the Star Wars legacy. So overall, I’m satisfied and looking forward to what’s next.

Shawna: Yes — so many great characters introduced, but so little time. I was more than satisfied with the film, despite all my griping. I had chills when the opening crawl came up and the John Williams score started playing, and I was still thrilled by the end of the movie.

“Episode VIII” can’t come soon enough! We will have to content ourselves with watching “The Force Awakens” a hundred times while we wait.

Photos: Courtesy of Shawna, earthtoshawna.com; Fawn Kemble; makingstarwars.net; http://www.carolina.cl; http://www.comicbooknews.com; wall.alphacoders.com. 

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Leia, the Disney Princess with a Blaster

BY FAWN KEMBLE

Before Merida and Mulan, back when I was a girl, there was only one badass princess in my life.

While Disney princesses of the time lay passively awaiting their prince, or whined to their fathers, or cleaned house, we strong little girls could dream of being more than just the romantic interest of the main character. We too could be Jedi princesses, powerful forces in the Rebel Alliance.

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Fawn Kemble

When we meet Leia, she is on a mission to save her entire planet, not prancing around in a ball gown or sweeping up. She risks her life for the greater good. She is an active member of the team in the Star Wars trilogy (What? There were only 3, right?).

Yes, she is rescued by Luke and Han, but Han ends up frozen for a bit and Luke needs help all the time. She, just like them, has the opportunity to grow as a character and to have greater concerns than who she’ll end up with. In fact, she ends up in an intellectually stimulating relationship, on equal footing with Han.

I know she is not the perfect feminist icon (don’t even get me started on the gold slave Leia bikini), and most of her Jedi powers aren’t developed until later, in the book series.

Still, as a little girl, I never felt like I couldn’t run around with a blaster or lightsaber with the boys, they never said girls couldn’t be Jedis, and she has some of the sassiest lines to quote and requote.

Now, I call my lovely, feisty, intelligent little niece my Jedi Princess and I hope that when she’s a bit older, she’ll want to go to Disneyland with Leia buns and a blaster as her Disney Princess outfit.

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Fawn Kemble, dueling with nephew Graden.

Fawn Kemble lives in L.A. and gets to be a professional feminist, helping pregnant women. She got sucked into that Star Wars life at a young age by her oldest brother and her sister, Lavender Vroman. She didn’t choose the Lucas life, it chose her.

Photos: en.wikipedia.org; courtesy of Fawn Kemble. 

Four Life Lessons from the Skywalker Twins (for My Children)

By DAVID RIVAS

“Walmart TV ads inspire and motivate,” said no one ever. When they feature fan-boy/girl parents and a fanboy grandpa mentoring their young listeners with Star Wars-related advice, however — as the retail behemoth does in a recent ad campaign promoting their new Star Wars merchandise in anticipation of the much-hyped “Episode VII” — we can make an exception. The commercials really capture the essence of my experience with the epic space opera.

My older brother and I, thirteen years and no other siblings between us, had very few common interests; sci fi was one of them. I vividly and fondly remember my brother, a responsible grown-up NASA engineer, and I, a typically apathetic teenager, bonding while making a three-movie theater sprint to catch the 1997 theatrical rerelease of the original trilogy in one day.

I also fondly remember introducing my then skeptical girlfriend to the saga as we watched the new trilogy in the early 2000s. Despite its flaws, Episodes I-III served as a gateway drug into the beloved galaxy far, far away, and as an inspiration for one of my favorite Halloween costumes. She has since become my wife of eleven years and a bigger nerd than I.

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Halloween circa 2003.

More recently, George Lucas worked his magic as I watched all six films consecutively with my children (an eight-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter) — Episodes IV, V, VI, I, II, and III, in that order, as God intended.

By the time Anakin turns to the darkside, a single tear rolled down my son’s cheek, and I knew he got it. Now, my family and I, along with the human race, eagerly anticipate the robe-clad, lightsaber-wielding bonding that will take place on December 18, 2015, when “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” opens.

Those Walmart commercials rightly suggest that this story has a propensity to bring people together, despite generational gaps. Anthropologists or sociologists can explain how it’s ingrained in our collective psyche and shape what we value as a human race much more eloquently, and more convincingly than I’ll attempt here.

I’ll simply share four life lessons that I hope my kids can learn from the Skywalker twins.

Solving Problems with Non-Violence

I know. Lightsaber duels, spacecraft dog fights, Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen’s charred remains: these hardly seem nonviolent. An entire planet gets blown up in the first film. Although it’s hard to imagine playing Star Wars without mouthing the obligatory electrified sound effects of lightsabers as they crackle together in an inherently violent, epic battle, ultimately, Luke saves the day through an incredible act of nonviolence in “Return of the Jedi.”

Luke surrenders himself to the Emperor and Darth Vader, hoping to buy his friends time to destroy the deflector shield generator protecting the second Death Star so the entire rebel armada can sneak up on the Empire and win! Or so he thinks. Really, this turn out to be an elaborate ruse to destroy the rebellion and capture Luke.

This act of sacrifice seems to be in vain. After Forcing his dad off the stairs in battle, Luke says, with a confidence fueled by a blind, Force-driven faith that Vader can still be redeemed, “I will not fight you, father.” Eventually, Luke’s pacifist stance results in finding himself at the business end of the Emperor’s Force-lightning. Unable to bear the sight, Vader suffers a fatal wound, saving Luke from the Emperor.

Luke’s sacrificial decision to abstain from violence inspires the remnant of Anakin Skywalker that was deep down inside of Darth Vader to commit one final act of self-sacrifice, and the universe is saved. Star Wars teaches us that nonviolent conflict resolution encourages others to do good.

Kids, in real life, if we were all merely decent to one another, conflicts can be avoided.

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My kids posing as Finn and Rey on Halloween featuring the Antelope Valley’s desert landscape as a background.

Subverting Unfair Societal Expectations

May I harken the Walmart commercial one last time, specifically the scene where a mother asks her daugher, “Why doesn’t Leia just let the boys rescue her?” The adorable little girl mumbles a character analysis that I hope my daughter will always come back to when she reflects as an adult why she thought Princess Leia was so cool: “Because she’s a modern, empowered woman unfettered by the antiquated gender roles of a bygone era.”

In a turn of fate that my daughter loves, Leia takes the blaster from one of her rescuers, and blasts a hole in the wall to rescue herself, Luke, Han, and Chewie. She’s an accomplished leader, who despite taking a beating, keeps going.

So much so, she impresses Darth Vader with her resilience to withstand interrogation in Episode IV. She plays an active role in leading the rebellion, particularly as she gives orders to the squadron circling around her like a team gathers around their coach in locker room listening to the battle plan before the Battle of Hoth in Episode V.

In Episode VI, Leia rescues Han Solo (again) from his carbonite captivity, and steps into to the frontlines in the climactic Battle of Endor, while nurturing and befriending the Ewoks. She finds that perfect balance between warrior and nurturer found in the greatest of leaders.

A well-rounded character and role model, Leia even speaks some of the most memorable lines in the series. Just to quote a few:

“Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.”

“Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”

“Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder.”

“I know.”

Don’t let society’s gender roles limit who you are. Son, embrace artistic and emotional expression. Daughter, play with whatever toys from whatever color Target aisle you like. Defy expectations, especially to do what you know is right. Never resist a witty quip.

Seeking Instruction from Wise Teachers

The theme of looking for help from those more seasoned than yourself comes across prominently throughout the six films. Luke has to look to Yoda and Old Ben, even post-mortem Ben, for guidance in the Force. Even Leia, the embodiment of self-reliance (as discussed above) in the series, opens the story with a call for help to the venerable Obi Wan Kenobi, the galaxy’s “only hope,” exemplifying what a healthy balance of independence and dependence looks like.

I suspect that since Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Artoo, and Threepio, who have been around the galaxy a time or two, are in the forthcoming installment, this theme will continue. Now seasoned and thirty years wiser, the original cast will mentor Rey, Finn, Poe, and BB-8.

Just like age can erode chasms between generations, mentorship acts as a bridge, simultaneously connecting us to the past while influencing the future. Maybe it’s just because I’m a school teacher by trade that I’m placing such high esteem to the mentor relationship: I feel like I bring my positive learning experiences to my teaching practice, and I hope that in turn, I’m positively influencing the future, both with my students and my own children.

So, kids, learn what you can from the teachers (in and out of the classroom) in your life. Then go and do likewise; be the Obi Wan in someone’s life.

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That time I ran into Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker himself, at a USC football game. We spoke about film, life, and beating UCLA. USC lost that day.

Success Can be Achieved Amid Setbacks and Failures

Luke, with the help of his diverse band of friends, redeems his father, and restores order and hope to the galaxy. But the voyage, like a sloppily navigated hyperspace jump through an asteroid field, was bumpy … and it didn’t just take 12 parsecs either.

Luke loses his aunt and uncle, his home, and his right hand, finds out his dad’s been trying to kill him, and he kisses his sister. In fact, the first twenty minutes into “Return of the Jedi,” Luke has gotten himself and all of his friends captured by Jabba the Hutt. Just as all seems lost, Luke pulls a reverse diving board stunt, catching his brand new upgraded, green lightsaber in the battle over the Sarlacc pit.

What losses did Leia suffer? Oh yeah, she just lost her entire home world!

Each entry in the six-film series features a peripeteia, a reversal of fortune at a moment when all seems lost: When the proton torpedo shot needed to destroy the Death Star is an impossible shot; when in front of you Darth Vader stands pointing a lightsaber and behind you is the endless Bespin sky; when you’re locked out of the shield generator control room while surrounded by stormtroopers on the forest moon of Endor.

Whatever your metaphor of choice, you learn from setbacks and try again.

Kids, when life gives you the blues, make blue milk.

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David Rivas lives in Lancaster, California, with his wife and two kids. He teaches English and the ways of the Force at Highland High School.

Photos courtesy of David Rivas.

The Night Han Solo’s Blaster Came to Visit, or My Life With the Force

When I was 13, my dad came home with a surprise.

He was working at a hobby shop on Avenue I, where regular customers would bring unusual collectibles for show and tell.

One day, a film industry guy stopped by with a movie prop he thought my dad would be interested in.

My father convinced the man to let him take Han Solo’s blaster home for the night so he could impress his kids.

I don’t actually know if the fictional gun came from the set of George Lucas’ famous trilogy or whether Harrison Ford ever touched it or if it was just a convincing replica.

It didn’t matter. It was like Christmas at our house when my dad came strolling through the door with one of the coolest looking pieces of hardware in cinema history.

My siblings and I spent the rest of the evening posing for photos with the coveted weapon in the backyard, make-believing we were slumming it at Mos Eisley Cantina or caught in the thick of battle on Endor.

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My dad, Gordon Kemble, with the purported Han Solo blaster. 

My dad was always very sweet about bringing me whatever Star Wars items he came across at the shop — books, role playing games, whatever odds and ends he could find.

It was six years after the release of “Return of the Jedi” and merchandise from the trilogy was scarce. Lucasfilm had yet to fully capitalize on the franchise’s marketing potential and souvenirs were difficult to find.

I became a disciple of Star Wars in a vacuum of sorts. I was 12 when I saw “A New Hope,” not in a theater, or on Blu-ray, or on a 60-inch flat-screen, but on the old television set in my great-aunt’s den.

Despite the humble presentation, I was awestruck by Lucas’ space opera. I remember the sight of C-3PO and R2-D2 shuffling down the shiny corridors of the Death Star, the thrill of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker’s rescue of Princess Leia, who was no damsel in distress, the hilarious suspense of the trash compactor scene, the mysticism of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the allure of the monk-robed Jedi, and of course, the brilliance and majesty of the lightsaber.

I really did think that someday the lightsaber would exist.

I saw the trilogy out of order. My sixth-grade teacher showed “Return of the Jedi” as a reward. Surrounded by classmates who had all seen the movie long ago, I marveled at Luke’s transformation from restless farm boy to noble Jedi warrior. By the end of the film, I was doing the “Yub Nub” dance right along with the Ewoks.

I then convinced my parents to rent “The Empire Strikes Back.” We took it to my grandparents’ house because they had a VCR. Finally, I was privy to the full mythology and the darkest and perhaps richest chapter of the trilogy, which was a little over my head at the time.

I wouldn’t see Star Wars on the big screen until the great re-release of 1997, a joyous occasion despite Lucas’ infamous tampering with his original imagery.

And I wouldn’t experience the heady, comforting rush of communing and commiserating with other Star Wars fans until 1999 when a certain prequel fanned the flames of frenzy over the franchise once again, for better or for worse.

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Camping out for tickets for “The Phantom Menace.”

Since then, I’ve enjoyed living in a Golden Age of Star Wars fandom, largely thanks to the efforts of Disney.

Merchandise is readily available, discussion is lively, and new developments are constantly on the horizon. It’s more than I ever dreamed of as a little girl, pretending to fly through the trenches of the Death Star in my very own X-wing starfighter.

This Golden Age will hit an unprecedented high on Dec. 18 with director J.J. Abrams’ new chapter in the franchise, “Episode VII — The Force Awakens.”

Whether this new entry in the series is spectacular or an epic failure, Star Wars will remain an integral part of my life. It’s sacred to me in a way that will not fade or change.

In a way, I owe my career to Star Wars.

My fascination with the franchise led to an abiding curiosity about cinema. I wanted to know how George Lucas brought the Rancor to life or created the awesome jump to lightspeed.

I subscribed to Lucasfilm Magazine so I could find out. I checked out books from the library on editing and cinematography and sound.

One of my first articles at the newspaper where I spent nearly 15 years writing about film was a well-meaning but misguided defense of “The Phantom Menace,” which was taking quite a critical drubbing.

I’m not going to claim that Star Wars taught me about love, but however weird it may sound, it is a significant part of my marriage.

My husband Nick and I were seeing other people when we camped out in the parking lot of a mall to be the first to snag tickets for “The Phantom Menace.”

By “Attack of the Clones,” we were dating. By “Revenge of the Sith,” we had tied the knot.

Star Wars isn’t the glue that holds our relationship together, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

Not a day goes by that we don’t find ourselves talking about “The Force Awakens.” Some girls dream of diamonds from their beloved. My fondest gift from my husband is a red Force FX replica lightsaber. I’ll treasure it always.

More importantly, those first, indelible images of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford  in Star Wars taught me that I didn’t have to conform to what society might expect of me.

Sure, I wanted to dress up as Princess Leia for Halloween. She was, refreshingly, a princess who did much more than waltz about in a ballgown and tiara.

But early on I discovered that I didn’t really want to be Leia. She didn’t get to wield the lightsaber. We never saw her embrace her powers or her path to the Force. What I wanted to be was Luke Skywalker or Han Solo.

Star Wars helped me realize that as a girl I could be a Jedi, I could pilot a starfighter, I could shoot a blaster, I could save the galaxy from the evil Galactic Empire. So why should I limit myself in real life?

As I grow older, Lucas’ universe keeps me connected to my childhood self, the one who stood with Luke, gazing at the setting twin suns of Tatooine, dreaming of what the future might hold.

I hope it will always hold more Star Wars.

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