I am part of a worldwide cult, founded in the 1970s. Our numbers are legion, and growing every year. Some of us are more devout than others, and while all are welcome, you have to know how to navigate the touchy social strata of our now-Balkanized faith. Yes, dear Internet, I am a Star Wars fan.
I thought I’d commemorate the recent sale of Lucasfilm to Disney with a few thoughts. I joined the cult in 1980. One of my earliest memories is going to The Empire Strikes Back with my parents when I was three years old. I can still see, through an open door, the Millennium Falcon flying against a backdrop of clouds during the previous screening, as we waited in line for our turn. In a recent conversation with my parents, my mother remembered taking me to this screening, but we couldn’t pin down when it happened. She said there was snow on the ground outside, but we both thought it was during the opening weekend, which was in May.
I actually have no idea when I first saw the original Star Wars. I was born in 1977, so it couldn’t have been the original theatrical run (or, at least, I wouldn’t remember it). Maybe it was during one of the re-releases (1981, 1982…?). Maybe it was on TV. I do remember my father bringing home an 8mm projector and the 20-minute digest version of Star Wars (along with Superman II, and a few others). Part of the fun of watching this truncated version of the movie was when my father would play the film backwards in order to get it back onto the original reel. Nothing like watching stormtroopers fly, backwards, up out of the pit in the Death Star and start receiving shots back into their blasters. My father initially had no memory of this when I brought it up to him during that recent conversation, but later, a murky memory started to surface. Obviously, it was more important to one of us than the other.
It’s no secret that many believers of my generation were completely disappointed by George Lucas’ prequel trilogy of 1999-2005, and frothingly enraged by the changes Lucas continued to make to the original trilogy as it came out on each new home video format. To many of these many believers, this is Lucas, the original Prophet, becoming his own Heretic.
I remain relatively more positive about the original trilogy changes (maybe I’m less orthodox). Yes, there are changes I don’t like, but there are changes I actually do like (small e.g. Cloud City looks better with something other than white walls in every single scene). The strange thing is that there are actually changes to other movies that bother me as much as the changes to Star Wars bother other people. The only explanation I can come up with is that, to me, the essence of the original trilogy, most of what I loved as a child, is still present, even if occasionally obscured.
By the way, when people talk about getting the original movies, unaltered on DVD or Blu-ray, they don’t really mean it. No one wants the version where Obi-Wan had to go through three jerky jump cuts to activate his lightsaber before fighting Vader. Everybody wants an altered version, just a differently-altered version.
When it comes to the prequels, I’m also more forgiving than average. I find it mildly annoying when people my age offer this (or an equivalent) critique: “Jar Jar Binks! Grrr!” Certainly, the prequels fall short of the Glory of the Originals. Well short. And even calling them good movies is a stretch. Nevertheless, the prequels do contain some goodness for Star Wars (Darth Maul, anyone? Ewan McGregor’s pitch-perfect tribute to Alec Guinness?). I’ll probably even show them to my children without muttering grumpily in their ears.
I’m certain that these thoughts, which I have not heard from many (any?) Star Wars fan of my generation, are enough to warrant serious consideration of my excommunication from the cult.
In the very least, I expect I can be labeled a small-h heretic.