Sunday, May 22, 2005

The League Faces the End of the Star Wars Saga

My earliest memories are of abject terror.

1) Stepping on a bee outside our apartment and getting stung on teh sole of my foot.
2) Realizing that going headfirst down our apartment stairwell was not a grand idea
3) Wanting to crawl under my seat and die when the Tuskan Raider popped up over the ledge and shook his gaffi stick at Luke.

As a wee child of two or so, The Admiral (then just the Lieutenant-Commander) took my brother and myself to see Star Wars. He'd already seen it with my mom and some friends. On a lazy Saturday he took my brother and myself to go see what, for him, was a WWII fighter pilot movie in space.

In our house in Canton, MI, I can recall assembling Jason's Death Star toy and opening the bridge so I could swing Luke and Leia across, blissfully ignorant that the scene was stolen from a Ray Harryhausen creature-feature.

My mother saw to it that, though we didn't have a boatload of money, her kids had some cool Star Wars toys, Star Wars bedspreads and Star Wars wallpaper.

We saw Empire Strikes Back in Dallas, and my mind fizzled as AT-ATs walked across a barren snowscape. I was terrified of the Wampa, and a little disgusted at Han for sticking his friend in the corpse of a TanTan. Yoda spooked me a little bit, and like everyone else, I was amazed at what really lay behind the silly facade. And Vader, that bastard, could NOT be Luke's father. He was a liar.

Hours were lost after school trying to decide what it would mean if Vader WAS Luke's father. Hours were lost discussing the tactical advatange of having your gunner facing backward in your Snowspeeder. Even more time was lost trying to figure out what would become of smuggler who was put on ice for the amusement of an interstellar gangster we'd only heard whispers about.

Jedi was released, and we all went nuts. The creatures were even crazier in this outing. The Empire was seemingly defeated. Ewoks had saved the day. Vader was dead, but he had reconciled with his son, and somehow that made it okay.

Two things in particular stuck out to me upon my first viewing. 1) I liked this Admiral Ackbar guy. I liked his style. 2) Princess Leia in a metal bikini. Sure, I was in maybe third grade, but for some reason it seemed like a good idea.

All was resolved with Jedi. No more stories to tell.

I went to bed under Star Wars comforters for another year or two. My floor was covered in Star Wars action figures and assorted toys for about the same duration.

We all know that reaction to Episode I and II was, shall we say, mixed. But even then, my jaw hung as each new ship crossed the screen, as each new alien wandered from screen right to left. As each new world unveiled itself, alive and well, and not possibly just something plucked from some human imagination.

And, today Jamie and I caught the 5:05 showing of Revenge of the Sith.

Even before leaving, I felt as if I was jumping in the car to head off for a wedding.
"How do you figure?" Jamie asked as I noted the odd sense of uneasy anticipation I had in my gut.
"I don't know. It's like, when we come back, something is going to have ended or changed forever."
And I was right. It's over now. No more Star Wars movies from Uncle George. Not that I know of, anyway.
A lot of folks are going to draw a wry smile and say, "Good. These three sucked." And I'm not going to dispute that. The quality of the movies is almost neither here nor there. The point is, it's over.

Sure, Uncle George has stated that he'll allow some TV shows to be produced, or maybe some cartoons or something. But the feature films are over with. Everything now will be others riding on George's coattails, making a buck and, at best, hoping to catch some of the fire that he brought to our imaginations a lifetime ago.

They run these silly documentaries on basic cable on Star Wars almost non-stop. In each of them, it strikes me as odd to hear someone say, "Well, I thought Chewbacca was a crazy idea. A seven foot ape who doesn't talk?"

I grew up with Chewbacca. He's as familiar as peanut butter. He's like a friend from summer camp you haven't seen in years, but you feel like you can still speak knowledgably about him. He wears a bandolier and carries a bow-caster. He's an exceptional mechanic and pilot and doesn't care much for droids.

And all my life I grew up knowing what a Jedi was, and knowing that making the Kessel Run in under 9 Parsecs is really, really good time. And that Droids aren't allowed in bars. And that The Force will be with you. Always.

I can't imagine not having Star Wars in my life, no matter how much I bitch and complain. And I'll always be greatful to Uncle George for giving me a world to grow up in when I was too tired and bored of my own tiny little world.

It's over now, and whether or not I loved the new movie, it doesn't really matter. We all knew where this was headed, and part of me is glad to know that Uncle George wants to leave us standing on our heads so badly, we're going to all have to reach back into ourselves some 20-odd years and remember that it did all wind up okay. And what an odd way to end it all, on a dark and bitter note with the knowledge in hand that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

So long, Star Wars.

The Force Will Be With You.


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