The Harbinger Online

Staffer Reminisces on his ‘Star Wars’-filled Childhood as First Episode Is Re-released

Few things have been as constant in my life as “Star Wars” has. I’ve loved the movies since before I can remember, watching the original trilogy over and over when I was little and letting it set my imagination ablaze. It transported me to a dazzling universe of space heroes, alien creatures, Stormtroopers and of course, lightsabers. And no matter how old I get, I never have, and never will, leave that realm.

Early on, I became so swept up in it that, at least for a couple months, I traded in the Lamb name for Skywalker and would only respond to “Luke.” I even made sure to wear only one black glove, covering my robotic right hand that I got after my father accidentally slammed the car door on my normal hand’s fingers. It didn’t help that he kept making Michael Jackson jokes about the glove.

“Star Wars” especially held a huge stake in my landscape of toys–I was particularly proud to have a Millennium Falcon ship that doubled as a special carrying case for figurines. Anytime I was at Toys “R” Us during my childhood, I’d immediately rush to the SW section. My collection of SW action figures expanded as time passed, allowing me to increase the scale of the battles I orchestrated at home, sometimes recreating scenes from the films, sometimes making my own. And so what if I mixed different series together occasionally – Boba Fett and Iron Man made great partners in crime.

But it was my sixth birthday party that had me most excited for the series in my life. “Episode I: The Phantom Menace” was premiering shortly before my birthday, so obviously, I had to have a “Star Wars”-centered party.

My parents rented out an upstairs room at AMC Town Center 20, my friends all came and gave me SW gifts and we ate a SW cake. Then they all got seated in the theater as I received a tour of the projection area and was able to personally start the film. As soon as the first image appeared, I ran the hardest in my life to get down to the theater so I wouldn’t miss any of this monumentally important movie, not realizing there was 15 minutes of previews.

While more mature viewers were disappointed, I loved this new installment. Hell, I was even a fan of Jar Jar Binks; I was too young to know better. But at this point I was finally old enough to truly appreciate the real cinematic experience of something as awesome as lightsaber battles on the big screen. Before, the original trilogy had always stirred in me a love for the power of films and how they could take you to a whole different world, yet it was here that I really started to develop my definitive passion for movies in general.

My mom was the sci-fi lover who originally started me on “Star Wars,” and it was my pleasure to extend it to my little brother alongside her, as early as possible. While he was still learning to talk he wore a Darth Maul T-shirt everywhere, for several years, and I can’t really picture him at that age in anything else. He joined me in making the action figure battles even more spectacular for many of our childhood years, and to this day we’ll still have an occasional lightsaber duel.

As I aged, my interest in the saga continued to grow, and sources like Wikipedia became my wise teachers. I remember spending hours reading through the extended canon of the SW universe, learning everything from the species names of the different Jedi Council members to what Luke Skywalker did after the final film, and the names of his children, his grandchildren, etc.

I came to appreciate the fact that my VHS copies of the original trilogy were the theatrical versions, not the special editions that George Lucas altered for the worse (Han Solo shot first, damn it!). When limited edition DVDs of the theatrical versions were released back in 2006, they were the first items on my Christmas list, and you can bet I’ll keep those over the further-revised, recently-released Blu-Ray versions.

And as far as the video games go, there’s still no beating the two “Star Wars: Battlefront” games. Actually getting to play all my favorite battles from the movies and many more, as a soldier on an expansive battlefield, was a dream come true. I can’t think of any other activity that my brother and I shared together, for hours upon hours, that we enjoyed more.

Since entering high school, I haven’t stayed as intensely knowledgeable about the SW extended universe, but I’ve still kept the saga close to my heart. I’ll jump at any chance to make a nerdy SW reference or joke, like using “rancor” on a vocab test as “Luke Skywalker killed the Rancor in Jabba the Hutt’s Palace.

So even though I now recognize “The Phantom Menace” as the worst entry in the series, it is still “Star Wars.” Because of that, I was so ecstatic to see it on the big screen that I went to the 3D midnight premiere carrying four lightsabers with me. Remembering my exciting first time seeing it, I made sure to bring along a friend who’d never seen any of the movies, so to initiate the wonder of “Star Wars” with the best possible viewing experience.

Plenty of detailed costumes populated the audience, from a teenage girl in Sith garb to a fully plated Stormtrooper outfit, and the theater was filled with a general air of such enthusiasm that, immediately upon entrance, I felt like that six-year-old birthday boy running to the movie again.

I hadn’t watched “Episode I” in years, and quite frankly, it was much worse than I remembered. Jar Jar Binks was annoying as hell, and the dialogue oftentimes felt stilted and cheesy. There were too many scenes of boring politics, several of the alien species were incredibly racist stereotypes and I realized how many other great child actors would’ve been better to play Anakin. However, the podrace had my pulse pounding and Darth Maul remains one of the coolest villains I’ve ever seen, so the battle with him seriously kicked ass.

Despite all the flaws, I still loved going to see it, mainly because “Star Wars” is that cross-generational pop culture icon that allowed me an instant connection with anyone in the theater, of any age. A nerdy sophomore kid in front of me put me to shame with his vast knowledge of everything “Star Wars,” and I felt an overload of geekdom half an hour before midnight. I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.

Winning my lightsaber duels after the show was just the cherry on top.


Favorite “Star Wars” scenes

1. Mustafar Lava Battle – “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”
Of all the saga’s lightsaber battles, none are cooler or more intense than the epic fight between Obi-Wan and Anakin as volcanoes erupt around them.

2. Luke vs. Vader and the Emperor – “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi”
In the series defining moment of good vs. evil, Luke triumphs over Vader and the Dark Side, but as the Emperor then bests him, Vader finally fulfills his destiny.

3. Daddy Issues – “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”
Many consider this the best entry in the saga, and the twist at the end has a lot to do with that. The Vader and Luke confrontation is absolutely classic.

4. Darth Maul is AWESOME – “Episode I: The Phantom Menace”
The whole movie builds up to this point, and when Darth Maul finally faces Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, it’s one of the saga’s most electrifying battles.

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Alex Lamb

Alex Lamb joined Harbinger his freshman year and became East's resident film critic. He also worked his way up from being a videographer on the Harbinger Online during its rebirth in 2009 to the convergence editor his senior year. He graduated in 2012 and still writes movie reviews, only now at the University of Kansas, where he is double majoring in Film and Media Studies and Journalism. He plans to become a movie director. Read Full »

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