Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Force

For the longest time, I was drinking the blue milk.

See, I am the Star Wars generation.  I was eight when the first film came out.  I didn’t grow up knowing Darth Vader was Luke’s father.  I was still young enough when Jedi came out not to mind the Ewoks so much.  I went through the stages of grief when Star Wars sort of died out in the late 80s and early 90s, from anger that he could make Howard the Duck and not another Star Wars movie to acceptance that, if Howard the Duck was any indication, we were better off not getting another Star Wars movie.

But Star Wars was a barely-kicked addiction, and eventually, Timothy Zahn invited me back behind the garage to shoot up for old time’s sake.  Then Lucas came along with some wicked new stuff, and I was off the wagon, buying action figures I wouldn’t take out of the packages, buying multiple Action Fleet X-Wing toys because they had different squadron insignias on them, buying tie-in novels just because they had the logo on the cover.  I was in way too deep.

I bottomed out on May 16th, 2002.  I called Attack of the Clones a better film than The Empire Strikes Back.  I needed help.

I remember sitting there as the midnight show of Revenge of the Sith ended, and the final credit rolled up the screen, the theater still pretty full of die-hards who knew their fix was ending.  I said — only half-jokingly — “Great, now what do I do with my life?”  I wanted to defend the prequels.  I needed to.  I’d given the better part of twenty-eight years of my life to this saga.  What would it mean if I had to write off half of it as a waste of time?

Ultimately?  Nothing.

Because I finally learned the lesson that James Bond fans learned a long time ago:  A View to a Kill doesn’t make Goldfinger a bad movie.

I mean, you don’t hear Bond fans running around saying, “Roger Moore raped my childhood!”  They don’t write off the whole series because of a few bad entries.  They don’t feel like they have to defend Octopussy because they’d be letting down From Russia with Love if they didn’t.

So so what if the prequel trilogy managed to strenuously avoid showing us the one thing we’d waited sixteen years to see (the Clone Wars)?  So what if the dialog was lifeless, awkward and given zero life by most of the actors?  So what if we got midichlorians and Jar Jar Binks?

I didn’t have to like them.  

And what’s more, I didn’t have to stop liking the original trilogy because of them.

Sure, I could be mad that the only way to get the original theatrical cuts of the films was as extras on the Special Edition DVDs.  But I have them.  They’re there.  Luke still blows up the Death Star.  Darth Vader is still Luke’s father, and still has good left in him, and I don’t really care how he turned to evil in the first place.  Han still shoots first.  Yoda isn’t some whirling Dragonball reject.  And no amount of CGI tinkering and clumsy backstory can take that away.

The other night, Hannah and I went to Star Wars In Concert, where the entire Star Wars story was told with a live orchestra playing the music.  And there was my yin and yang up there on the screen, the disappointment of the prequels side-by-side with the nostalgic purity of the originals.  But in the end, as the last fanfare from final piece was soaring into the arena, the old Star Wars logo appeared on the screen, just the way it had looked back in 1977 on that rickety old drive-in screen where I saw the first film for the first time.  And right then, Anakin and Padme and Jar Jar and Mace Windu just didn’t matter.  They couldn’t tarnish the eight-year old kid inside me.  I wasn’t going to let them.

If my relationship with the Star Wars saga could be described with one character, it’d be Darth Vader.  It started off good, turned to the Dark Side for a while, but eventually the bad stuff got thrown down a reactor shaft and I was able to see the light.  And then I was a ghost.

OK, I’m not 100% on that last part, but you get the idea.


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