My Life With Star Wars

On this, what many consider a 'Star Wars Eve' of sorts, I have to find a way to contain my excitement. With the bluray release of the complete saga, it seems that Star Wars fever is taking everyone by storm once again, and it's caused me to visit where I began with the series, and the overwhelming affect it has had on my life, not only with regards to forming my imagination, but also giving birth to the same analytical mind that helped spring forth ideas such as Nitrobeard.

It was my 11th birthday, January 15th, 1997, and I was traveling around with my Grandmother, visiting toystores and trying to decide which awesome toy I wanted as my birthday gift. I couldn't find anything that fit the bill, and my Grandmother, knowing how distraught a child can get by not finding a cool new trinket for their birthday, decided we should have a movie night. We made our way to Movie Gallery (that callback just blew your mind, didn't it?), and on their display televisions, I saw it. I saw the perfect gift, and it would be mine.

As I watched this trailer for the theatrical re-releases, I had to have it. Thankfully, the THX VHS-format trilogy had been available for about a year and a half at that point, and were easy to locate. That night, my grandmother and I sat together to enjoy what would become the most influential story I would come to know. As I gazed in wonder at the worlds being shown, my grandmother told me of how the films changed our world in the '70s and '80s. I still don't quite grasp what that must have been like (Jazz Singer, and the double-whammy of Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind could be the only pre-Star Wars comparisons, Blade Runner and Lord of the Rings post-Star Wars), but looking back, I'm extremely jealous.

Fast forward to 2005. At this point, I have had the original Star Wars Trilogy memorized, and have watched Empire Strikes Back enough that my first DVD copy actually wore out, a feat I've never achieved since. I've seen Episodes 1 and 2, and while I don't love either one, I respect their entry into the franchsie, as I realize they weren't aimed at me, specifically. I'm in the heartland of Texas with my great friend (and fellow jedi) Peyton, and it's about 8 am. The morning's a typical May morning, a slight chill with the breeze, but otherwise sunny and welcoming. It also didn't hurt matters that we were first in line for Episode 3, a line which would grow into a few thousand people throughout the course of the day. Posing for pictures, talking to news crews, and playing Star Wars Stratego were the highlights, as was meeting the masses of fellow Star Wars fanatics. The day went by extremely quickly, and I remember it fondly. I mean, how could I ever forget posing for this masterpiece?

 We sat with our fellow Star Wars brethren, and enjoyed Episode 3, which was easily the highlight of the prequels (which may be damning praise for some). To make the night MORE historic, though, as the climax of the film started, and as the iconic Darth Vader helmet was being lowered onto Anakin Skywalker, the film burned. 'Of course the film would burn', I remember thinking as the lights came up. The audience started freaking out, and we were refunded our money.

I genuinely felt bad for the theater's manager, as she was swelled up with tears and couldn't apologize enough. I honestly didn't mind, and neither did the majority of the 2,000 attendants. It was all part of the experience, and with the fame we achieved from being mentioned on Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Conan O'Brien (who made the best one-liner: "Bad news for the film burning, but the good news was, 2,000 computer programmers sprung into action"), we became part of Star Wars infamy.

Plus, how can I be angry when Peyton and myself had the honor to meet amazing people like this? The stormtrooper made his suit from scratch, for the record:

 

Star Wars has been in my blood for a majority of my life, and I proudly proclaim that fact. With the Bluray release coming tomorrow, I'm seeing more and more posts and opinions dealing with bad blood, Lucas becoming more and more 'insane', and how we (as fans) are owed the original, unaltered trilogy. I have a lot to say on this matter, but it seems like I'm not alone in my somewhat tolerant mentality: Here's an amazing editorial from Javier Grillo-Marxuach, a former producer on LOST, and creator of The Middleman (which I've yet to see), in which he dedicated one year of his life to go WITHOUT Star Wars in any form. There's a few paragraphs here that speak extremely directly, but truthfully, towards a majority of the cynics. He says it better than I ever could:

Let me explain. For a decade-and-change, "George Lucas raped my childhood" has been the rallying cry of many a disaffected gen-x/yer whose dreams of a repeat performance of their age-of-ten-stand-up-and-cheer movie going experience were dashed by the prequels. To those who have said it, I have one thing to say, and it comes from the heart:

Fuck You.

George Lucas didn't rape a goddamn thing. He GAVE me my childhood. He provided the fat, pale and sensitive boy I once was with a vibrant, imaginative and optimistic idea of what storytelling could be. George Lucas engineered a waking dream that evolved into an overwhelming desire to become a creator on my own right. I am where I am thanks, in great part, to George Lucas. I went to the University of Southern California film school because that's where he went. I make TV, films and comics because he showed me that it is possible. If I should ever meet the guy, I will shake his hand and thank him... then go about my business... without making further eye contact.

Some would argue the issue of artistic intent or lack thereof. They'd say the prequels were a cash grab. They'd ask "Who does George Lucas think he is to continually revisit and revise his work to sell it back to his fans?" Followed by "And did there really have to be that many Expanded Universe books?"

My answer to them is also simple. Who gives a shit?

Are we really entitled to have "the originals" at our disposal because we shelled out at a proto-multiplex back in 1977 and liked what we saw? The privilege to have a piece of artistic work at our fingertips, exactly the way we remember it, on-demand and in real-time, is so modern an idea that we have absolutely no way to say for certain to what it is that we have the right. No one has had that right at any other time in history. What makes us such special snowflakes?

 I realize that it's not the most popular opinion. Extensive fans of any hobby come to define themselves by their interests. It sets us apart from one another, but it also brings us together with a shared sense of experience. Car enthusiasts meet up during festivals to discuss and showcase prized possessions to fellow gearheads. Tattoo artists get together and talk shop, as do chefs, programmers, gamers, and even polka musicians. Star Wars has always been a passion of mine, and the experiences it has given me are worth their weight in gold, and no amount of tinkering, fooling around, or editing is going to change that fact.

But no, that's fine, 'true fans'. Talk about how your childhood is being destroyed. While you do that, think on this: Maybe George Lucas has nothing to do with it, and it could be the shitty attitude you've developed for yourself over the years.

As I go out tomorrow, and purchase my bluray of Star Wars, I may get goaded, I may get my share of dirty looks, and I may get told that I'm 'part of the problem', and that George Lucas would 'release the proper versions' of the original trilogy on whatever format of choice, if it weren't for me and people like me.

That's all well and good, and it may be the truth in some regard, but you know what? I've met people like me, and I've shared some incredible experiences with 'these people', and I can affirm that they're some of the most amazing, polite, creative, well-spoken, and influential people I've ever had the honor to meet, and instead of sitting back and being cynical, they're out loving life, talking shop, and spreading the joy that this film series has given to millions around the world, and millions to come.

This, to me, is what Star Wars is about, and I take great pride in associating myself with such an amazing family. I can't wait for my children to be introduced, to fall in love, and to wonder what their potential in this world is, the same way I did back in 1997.

May the Force be with you.

-Wes