Over the course of the past year, I’ve made the effort to expand my dialogue about storytelling by going beyond the boundaries of books and out into the mediums of TV and movies. I do so by devoting a least one post every other month to an overview of a TV show or movie that’s reached a significant time in its history (i.e. series premiere, series finale, film release, anniversary of a release/premiere, etc.). Previously, I discussed my thoughts about the latest Pixar film, “The Good Dinosaur.” Today, in light of the release of the newest film of the saga, I discuss my love for the much hailed (and dissed) space opera, “Star Wars.”
WARNING: While this post will be focusing on the “Star Wars” saga as a whole, there will indeed be spoilers from “The Force Awakens.” Read at your own risk.
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” That plus the iconic serialized text crawl launches the beginning of each and every “Star Wars” film, both old and new. Whether they are fans of the saga or not, many people are at least familiar with what it’s all about, as it follows this ongoing war between the Galactic Empire (currently the First Order) and the Rebellion (formerly the Republic, currently the Resistance). All is going on at the same time of the rise, eventual fall, and aftermath of Anakin Skywalker (later Darth Vader); a Jedi turned Sith who was prophesied to bring balance to the Force (an energy field that binds all and everything together in the galaxy). There are three trilogies of the saga. There’s the original trilogy from 1977-1983 that follows Anakin’s children, Luke and Leia (along with their friends Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO) as they take on the empire, there’s the prequel trilogy from 1999-2005 that’s set three decades earlier that chronicles Anakin’s involvement in the war and his descent to the Dark Side, and there’s the sequel trilogy that started this year that’s set three decades after the events of the original trilogy, where we follow the old characters as well as new ones.
My introduction to “Star Wars” is probably not that unique. I was introduced to it at a very young age when my dad one day decided to put in a VHS tape of the one that started it all: “A New Hope.” I remember not only loving the classy feel of a group of misfits of a hero’s journey, but also the world they were in, complete with droids, lightsabers, and spaceships such as the Millennium Falcon. I remember hearing my dad say as the credits started to roll that “you can watch it again when you’re older.” Even though I didn’t show it at the time, I was taken aback that he even said that, for from that moment on, I was hooked.
It did wind up being another few years before I watched “Star Wars” again, and in a way it was good that I waited that long, for the remainder of the trilogy got far more complicated in terms of learning that Darth Vader is Luke’s father and that Leia is his twin sister he’s been separated from since birth. But I loved it even more with the introduction of Yoda in “The Empire Strikes Back” and the Ewoks in “Return of the Jedi.” I also believe that “Star Wars” is the reason why I have developed a likeness to stories- both fiction and non-fiction- of people discovering family members they never knew existed.
It was around this time where I decided to write my own seventh “Star Wars” film, for I was curious even then what happened to the characters after the defeat of Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire. It was a story that I wouldn’t DARE show anyone now, but I was quite proud of it at the time, as I spent an entire summer working on it, before sending it to Lucasfilm, in hopes of getting it made. I got my work returned back to me over a month later, with a letter from the then director of business affairs explaining to me why they couldn’t accept it, but also to not let that stop me from doing what I love. I even got an official Jedi knight patch as well. I look back on that experience with fond memories.
#TBT: In the summer of 2001, I decided to attempt to write the seventh "Star Wars" film. I spent the whole summer, working very hard on it, before sending it to George Lucas, accompanied by a letter. A little over a month passed before I heard back from them. Since they were in production for "Attack of the Clones" at the time, it was the then director of business affairs who responded. She was very kind by explaining to me why they couldn't accept nor read my work due to it being unsolicited, but she also encouraged me to pursue writing and storytelling if that's what I love doing. She appropriately ended the letter with "May the Force be with you" and even enclosed an official Jedi knight patch. Yes I was a little disappointed at the time, being nine years old and being told no due to heavily enforced laws and policies. But I was mostly happy, not only to hear back from Lucasfilm but also to have someone encourage me to pursue what I love. I wouldn't DARE show anyone the script nowadays (remember, I was nine when I first wrote it), but it was that moment in time that's helped me get to where I am now as a writer… And I cannot wait to see the REAL seventh "Star Wars" film tonight. #StarWars #screenwriting #earlyattempts
It was 2001 at this point when I saw the entire original trilogy and had written my own “Star Wars” film. It had been two years since the first film of the prequel trilogy had been released and one year before the next one came out. Following “Return of the Jedi,” I saw “The Phantom Menace” for my first time. With about a good decade and a half separating the two films, technology and visual effects have developed incredibly and as is the case with the entire prequel trilogy as we all came to see, it became like a toy for George Lucas that he couldn’t stop playing with; to the point where it slowly began to appear in special editions of the original trilogy as well. That, accompanied by the performances (or lack of) by the actors (with a few exceptions) and weakened writing, made these films feel not at all like “Star Wars” films but rather as… something else (I don’t know). Being a kid when the prequels were released, I didn’t think too deeply about it then. What I did know was Hayden Christensen was a really bad as Anakin and that Jar-Jar Binks should NEVER have been created.
That’s why within the past year, as we saw more trailers and TV spots of the latest installment, my hopes rose in terms of this one being the first good “Star Wars” film in three decades. Not only did the snippets of practical and computerized special effects catch my attention, but also the return of the original actors and the introduction of the new ones (in particular Daisy Ridley and John Boyega). I saw it on Thursday evening and like many others, it exceeded my expectations. Sure it had a few holes, but otherwise I really LOVED this film. There were so many plot points and elements that caught me off guard, as well as my attention (and this is where the SPOILERS begin):
- Humor was brought back into the “Star Wars” universe (in particular BB-8’s thumbs up).
- There was nostalgia all around, not only in the appearance of the old characters and the spaceships, but in other ways as well (i.e. Rey lives in an AT-AT and Finn’s number in his name FN2187 is the same number as the cell Leia was held in in “A New Hope”).
- There were SO many more female characters than there ever were in the original trilogy, and that even included a main female character wield a lightsaber for the first time (which is really the only thing that remained the same between my version of the seventh film and the actual one).
- I COULD NOT believe Kylo Ren is Han and Leia’s son and that he killed his own father!
There’s more where that came from but those are the ones that came to mind. “The Force Awakens” brought back the energy of adventure from the original trilogy and took it to a new height, which is why I want to see it at least a few more times while it’s in theaters.
I’ll always have a love of “Star Wars.” Despite its flaws, it’s a hero’s journey unlike any other that makes you believe that you too can aspire to be someone like these characters. It’s stories like the ones in the films that I love the most.