Since 1977 I have been somewhat obsessed with something that captured my imagination like nothing else before or since. I was just a kid when my Uncle Ed took me to see the then new release science fiction movie by George Lucas: Star Wars (at the time the full title was confusingly Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope – what happened to the first 3? It took a few decades to get that answer!). What a mind-blowing experience it was. Good versus evil on an epic scale between the rebellion and the empire. I remember afterwards continuously drawing pictures of the characters, creatures (the cantina scene alone was incredible) and the amazing spaceships in which they crossed the galaxy.
Obi Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO, Tusken Raiders, Jawas, Stormtroopers, Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin, the Dianoga in the garbage compacter, Star Destroyers, Tie Fighters, X-Wings, lightsabres, blasters and the Death Star with its ability to destroy a planet! Too much for a kid to handle? No way, it was amazing!
I remember the long and excruciating wait for The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983) to be released but they were so good to see. Your favourite characters returned with the introduction of so many more like Yoda (“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”), Emperor Palpatine, Boba Fett (“He’s no good to me dead!”), Jabba the Hutt (“ho ho hoh“), Bib Fortuna and Lando Calrissian along with a host of new creatures like the Wampa, Ugnaughts, Tauntauns, the Sarlacc pit, Ewoks (“yubnub”)and the mighty Rancor. Seeing the bad guys hit back was great in Empire and learning that Darth Vader was Luke’s father was a shocking experience at the time (no internet spoilers back in those days)! Now this was the way to write a movie.
Many years later in 1997 they released the “improved” versions of the original movies with better image quality, added scenes, changed scenes and more advanced special effects (for the time). It was fun to see the movies on the big screen again but ultimately the changes didn’t really improve the movies and today I still prefer to watch the originals.
The same happened when the prequels (Episodes I to III) were finally released – The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005). It was cool to see a young Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi along with a host of other Jedi such as Qui Gon Jinn and Mace Windu and see the development of Anakin Skywalker into a Jedi who and ultimately became Darth Vader. Along with the rise of Darth Vader, earlier we got to meet new Sith lords (on the dark side of the force) like Darth Maul and Count Dooku who were great characters too. The manipulation of Senator Palpatine (Darth Sidious) to take over the senate and the galaxy was a great story line, the introduction of Queen Amidala (the mother of Luke & Leia) and the battles, special effects etc. were great too but again they didn’t quite capture my mind like the originals (the good news was it opened the franchise up to a whole new generation). Alas the introduction of these new movies also led to more tinkering with the originals with scenes changed such as the replacement of Sebastian Shaw as the force ghost of Anakin Skywalker by Hayden Christensen who played Anakin in Episodes II & III.
Looking back, apart from Jar Jar Binks (why George, why?) the prequel movies were actually pretty good but they just didn’t quite have that same impact on me as the originals did. None the less I still enjoyed them and relished the opportunity to revisit my favourite galaxy far, far away.
The good news for Star Wars fans is that in 2012 Lucasfilm was sold by George Lucas to Disney who are now making Star Wars sequels with the first (Episode VII) to be released in December 2015! Details are sketchy but it sounds like elements of the many excellent books written about the Star Wars universe following the events of Return of the Jedi and the downfall of the Empire will be a sound basis for a great deal of storylines. I cant wait to see what they come up with!
When it comes to the characters of Star Wars you find yourself loving or hating them (sometimes a bit of both). The personality, abilities and actions of each character is what makes the movies so enjoyable for a vast audience across the world. Whether it is the bickering between C-3PO and R2-D2, Luke’s struggle with the dark side, the wise words of Yoda, the dark evil of Emperor Palpatine, the antics of the Ewoks, the aloofness of Han Solo, Chewbacca’s strength and loyalty, the fighting skills of the Jedi, Darth Vader’s dark powers and so on. The paths that form these identities are fantastic and really draw you into the movies.
While recently visiting Ottawa in Ontario, Canada I went to see the Star Wars Identities Exhibition which highlights how the identities of Star Wars characters were formed based on the forces of the environment they grew up in (like Luke and Anakin Skywalker on the planet of Tatooine), family, mentors etc. and how it relates to your own identity. You are issued with an electronic bracelet which you can use throughout the exhibition to build your own Star Wars identity and choose which side of the force you want to be on. I took the path of the dark side of the force and joined the Emperor (I always liked the baddies the best) and ended up being a fighter pilot trained by the legendary bounty hunter Boba Fett! The following is the full profile I received:
I was raised on the gas planet Bespin, where members of my community made their living designing and manufacturing cloud cars. On holidays my friends and I would traditionally watch the cloud cars race just off Cloud City.
My parents required discipline from me but gave me support when I needed it, and I inherited my natural abilities from them. Later on I spent some time with the great bounty hunter Boba Fett, whose guidance left me with knowledge I still use every day in my job as a fighter pilot.
I remember this one time when I was attacked by a Wampa and badly injured. I didn’t let this affect me too much, though; instead I worked tirelessly to protect Wampa habitat to avoid future attacks.
People often tell me I’m a generally adventurous and curious person, I also tend to be organised and prepared. But the most important thing to me is power: it’s pretty obvious to me that one should follow the leader or get out of the way.
The Force is very strong with me, so I wasn’t surprised when the Emperor tracked me down. When he offered me limitless power in exchange for my allegiance, I leapt at the chance and turned eagerly to the dark side.
This identities aspect of the exhibition was pretty cool and fun, but the main draw card was the vast number of props and costumes on display from all the Star Wars movies. From droids to Jabba’s mechanical eyes and everything else in between, what a treasure trove it was!
The Star Wars series was an epic space adventure. To this day no other movies have truly captured my imagination like this and decades later the impact on kids today is much the same when they discover Star Wars for the first time (good parenting I say!). The Identities exhibition has a fantastic collection that brings back all those great memories. If you are a fan and haven’t seen it, make sure you go along to check it out. You will not be disappointed. May the force be with you.