Star Wars has been an active part of my life literally as long as I can remember. There hasn’t been a time since I’ve been able to remember that Star Wars hasn’t been a key mythological piece of my life. Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars: A New Hope) was the second movie I ever saw in a movie theater. The first movie was Rocky. Depending on when my parents managed to get to the theater I was under a year old or just had my birthday. We will just go with the fact that it was one of the greatest gifts my parents could have given one year old me.
Obviously I don’t remember seeing it. However, the fact that I was a part of that mythos in the theater experience is something I hang onto. Because of my parents dragging a baby along into the theater – I can say something that few people under forty can say – I saw all the Star Wars movies in the theater. I have even seen them all more than once.
As a child my grandparents bought me Star Wars toys. Around age 4 I got the TIE Fighter that had wings that popped off. Unfortunately the wings eventually separated from the plastic supports that made them pop off. My father spent way too many fixing and gluing the wings, but eventually I just had a TIE Fighter without any wings. It didn’t matter; this was still an important toy of my childhood. From taking the figures into the sandbox or keeping me company on road trips – Luke, Han, R2-D2, and the rest kept me company. My grandmother was going to get me the complete collection of figures. Unfortunately she passed away when I was six. For some reason the rest of my family was never as invested into satiating my Star Wars desires.
By the time I entered into Open Door for elementary school everyone was obsessed with Star Wars. It was a regular thing to play Star Wars on the playground. There was the four-way jungle gym that was the Millennium Falcon when we played. The monkey bars were normally designated to be an X-wing for whoever was Luke that day. I dressed up in cheap Star Wars Halloween costumes in my younger years, but eventually these became hard to harder to find. I always wanted one of the good Star Wars masks. Spencer’s at Midway Mall carried an assortment over the years – including the helmets for Vader, Stormtroopers, Boba Fett – and curiously a Tusken Raider. My parents wouldn’t buy me the expensive masks. It wouldn’t be until the prequels were released that I would get a decent Vader helmet. I also own two high quality Stormtrooper helmets and toy quality helmets for Boba Fett and Clone Troopers. Every time I put them on, I’m transported back to that playground in Elyria.
Around my seventh birthday I had money that I was going buy myself a birthday present. I knew what I wanted, it just depended on if the store had it. My parents drove me to Gold Circle and let me loose with my babysitter. Why my babysitter was there, I had no idea. Maybe she wanted to buy a new record. Regardless she went to take me to the toy section to pick out something to buy. I wanted a light saber. This wasn’t one of the nifty light sabers that retract like kid’s have today. This was a tube on top of handle that stayed open full time. It was the best that it could be at the time.
This light saber was my prize. It made swooshing sounds as you swung it. It would have allowed me to finally be the Jedi I always wanted to be. My babysitter had other thoughts. She told me that it would break in a couple days and I should get something else. Now I was seven, so I was cowed by the authority figure my babysitter represented. I tried to argue and justify, but it all just died down. She talked me out of it and I bought something else. I bought something that would last longer and I would get more playtime with. The thing is, I don’t remember what that was. I’m sure I just bought whatever she thought was best for me. I chose it to shut her up and so I wouldn’t feel bad about getting lectured. The thing is, whatever it was, it is forgotten. I still remember the pain of not getting that light saber over thirty-two years later. That sucks.
Sometime after this the Star Wars craze ended for most people. The toys dried up at the store. People stopped discussing it. If you were still a fan, it was no longer being a part of a moment in pop culture – you were a geek. If I was lucky I could catch the movies when they were aired on TV as part of a yearly event in the same way that the Wizard of Oz was shown. The thing is half the time my parents wouldn’t allow me to stay up and watch the whole thing. I would get to see the movie just up to the Cantina scene for many years. It is annoying now that I look back that my parents wouldn’t allow me to stay up. Anytime the special movie was the Wizard of Oz of The Sound of Music they happily allowed me to stay up to eleven or twelve to watch the whole thing. Their idea of an event is much different than that of an adolescent that rarely got the chance to watch his favorite movie.
Eventually it came out on VHS tape, so occasionally I managed to rent one of the movies. These kept them fresh in my mind. When the Amherst Library carried them I would get them every few months when I stayed over at my grandmother’s. One day in the Vermilion Library I saw the strangest thing. It was a Star Wars book. It wasn’t the Han Solo Adventures that I had read or the novelizations of the movies – it was something new. It was the Timothy Zahn trilogy. Outside of the Marvel Comics, this was the first step into an extended universe of Star Wars. I devoured them. I think by now I’ve read them at least three times. I finally knew what happened after the movies and my strong passion was reunited. Unfortunately we still lived in a world where a Star Wars fan was a geek. I had no one to share it with.
My senior year of high school I took drivers education. In that class was a guy named Muska. One night it felt this weird guy from class was following me home so we started talking. His cousin’s house was a couple of houses down from my own. He went there until his parents could pick him up. As we did these regular walks we became best friends. We bonded over Star Wars. He introduced me to the X-Wing video game since my family just got a computer. We worked through the Super Star Wars Trilogy on the SNES. He exposed me to the continuing Star Wars universe in the books that picked up after the Zahn novels. We hunted through Jamie’s Flea Market for cheap old figures. It was a match made in geekdom.
The first time I got to see any movies from the original trilogy in the theater was in 1994. There was a theater on the other side of Cleveland that was showing all three movies each night for three nights. Muska, my girlfriend Kim, and I packed into the car and made the hour drive to see the shows. When we got there on Friday night A New Hope was sold out. We opted to watch The Empire Strikes Back instead. It was as fantastic as you can imagine. The next day was my graduation party. I told everyone to arrive early because I was going to be leaving in the evening to go back to the theater a second time. I had a shortened graduation party – because of Star Wars.
Logically you would think we would have seen Return of the Jedi. Unfortunately Kim stated that she wouldn’t comeback a third night. I don’t know if there was some place we had to be or why Muska and I just didn’t plan on coming back by ourselves that night – but this was are last trip to this theater. Knowing this we opted to watch A New Hope. Seeing it on the screen was everything I could hope for. However, I regretted that I could not see all three.
A few months after that I shipped off to my singular year of college. Over the year I went through four and half roommates. The half room mate was a guy who slept on the couch – yet didn’t attend the school. It was a college cliché that I lived through. My last two room mates though; they both had a love of Star Wars that was parallel to my own. Late night Star Wars discussions and playing X-Wing on the computer lead to a great bond that I will always remember them by. Towards the end of the school year I bought an iguana. It was already quite large and I named her Mara Jade after a character in the Zahn novels.
After school I knew I wouldn’t return. I lived at my mother’s house for about a week before I was back together and living with Kim. Unfortunately she didn’t want an iguana in the apartment. It was the light saber issue all over again. I loved my iguana, yet wanted the approval of a female. It did have more weight that I was living with this one. Because of that I ended up giving Mara to one of my college roommates who took her back to school. It was sad and she was a good a lizard.
Living with Kim was difficult in many ways. I think the largest is that while she enjoyed geek things – she didn’t want to be seen as a geek. She refused to wallow in the geek mud like I am happy to do. She had an original Empire Strikes Back Millennium Falcon in the box (opened and in played with condition) – yet it always sat away in the closet. She didn’t understand my obsession. They were just movies to her. I would sit and read through Star Wars books and magazines – she would read trashy romance novels. She went from dead end job to dead end job – I followed the start of what would become a lifelong career in IT. In theory she was the person I was with that was just like mom – yet I don’t talk to my mother anymore either. It just wasn’t going to work for the long haul.
At some point while we were living together, one of her friends just left the military. He had a ton of money to spend since he had been overseas. For some reason, this guy I hardly knew, bought me the 1995 THX edition of the original trilogy. Later I would find out that he had a thing for Kim. Yet, I got a 100.00 collection of the Star Wars movies out of it. Was he trying to get brownie points with Kim by buying me gifts? Was he trying to get brownie points with me so he could go out to the bar with Kim without me saying boo (I wasn’t of age yet)? Don’t know – don’t care – I had Star Wars. I watched those videotapes so many times that I don’t really care what they ended up doing or not doing. She isn’t on my list of highly regarded people anyways.
It was almost three years since I had last seen the movies in the theater. The Special Editions of the original trilogy were being released. I was still dating Kim (unfortunately). I was ecstatic that I would get a chance to see these in the theater again. I was going to go on opening day and have a blast. I was going to take a light saber, make some Jedi robes, and embrace the geekdom that surrounds and binds all the die-hard fans together. But there was Kim…..
Kim and I had purchased light sabers when they first came out. I hoped it would, but it never filled that void of the lost light saber of my youth. While Kim would take hers up to the haunted schoolhouse, she was embarrassed of it. This was flying a geek flag being a twenty-something with a light saber and she did not let that flag fly. She started making rules about the opening of the movie. There would be no costumes or she wouldn’t attend. All light sabers can go, but they had to stay in the car. There would be playing in line. It was like this person didn’t know me at all.
The problem lied in the fact that I was about fifteen miles from the theater in Sandusky, OH. I was twenty years old, but I never got around to getting my license. I would sometimes drive her car illegally without a license, but I couldn’t take it that day. Muska was busy that day and couldn’t go. I couldn’t find another ride that was available. I had to concede to her rules – though I did embarrass her by doing Star Wars lines with the crowd while we waited to be let into the theater.
I know I saw them all opening day, but I don’t remember if I attended all of them with Kim. I never dressed up. I never took a light saber. I was shamed in the fact that I would participate in the culture, but was still silenced. A few months later I finally got my license and my own car. A few months after that I broke up with Kim, started dating the girl who would become my wife, and never looked back.
The girl who would my future wife was someone who didn’t care about what people thought if she was carrying a light saber around. She was someone that wouldn’t necessary wallow in the Star Wars geekdom mire – but would happily watch me do it. I could let the Star Wars flag fully fly. Granted, she is someone who identifies more in the Star Trek universe – but not everyone can be perfect.
With the Special Edition movies being a success it was announced that a new trilogy was being created. This one was going to be telling the story of Darth Vader. We were all extremely excited. I went down and purchased four tickets for the midnight showing of A Phantom Menace. The movie was being shown at Midway Mall cinemas in Elyria, Ohio. I took my wife Xie, Griffaw, and Josh from work. We waited forever for Josh to show up at the theater as the lines were getting longer and longer. They were showing the movie on three – four screens. People were in costume. Storm Troopers wandered about. It actually was the crowd I had hoped the Special Edition would have been. Star Wars set it’s flag in the sand and out came what will be a series that will never be put down.
Of course there are haters that will state they have always hated the prequels. Did I enjoy episode one as much as the original trilogy – no. But, Star Wars is Star Wars. We had something new; we had to wrap our heads around Midichlorians. We had to deal with Jar-Jar being added for kids the same way Ewoks were added years before. It didn’t matter. Watching Obi-Wan and Qui Gon Jin in the opening of the movie was enough to tell us Star Wars was back.
I got to wander through toy aisles and see Star Wars figures again. Things were great and since that time in 1999 Star Wars hasn’t been able to be silenced again. It has been pushed to the side a bit, but it hasn’t gone away. That really is the important part of leaving a lasting legacy.
By the time Attack of the Clones was released we had relocated across the country. I had a job at Symantec and the team I was on would go see the big geek movies as a group. We did it with the Lord of the Rings movies; we also did it with Episode II. We purchased tickets to the evening showing as a group and about thirty of us went together. We went to the theater at Springfield Mall in Oregon. This was the first time I saw a Star Wars movies with not just my fandom peers, but a large section of work peers also.
The very next day my Brother-in-Law came down to visit for a few days. What did we do? We went and saw Episode 2 again. I really think the best part of this experience was watching the crowd go wild when Yoda went into battle. No one was expecting it, but at both showings I saw that weekend the crowd cheered. It was a collective emotion gasping for release.
Since the release of A Phantom Menace there was discussions of a MMO coming out to take place in the Star Wars universe. On June 25th, 2003 a co-worker came back from lunch. He had a copy of Star Wars Galaxies. Immediately I told my boss that I was going on lunch break. I went to Springfield Mall in Oregon and purchased two copies of the game. Since this was an MMO we couldn’t do the normal buy a single copy and put it on two computers method we did in the past. When I got back to office I immediately called my wife and told her the news. We were both excited and knew what we would be doing that night.
By the end of the weekend we had characters on the Intrepid server. I went by Creeva Murkado and my wife was Xie ‘lanthia. I wrote a few pieces on Star Wars Galaxies over the years. The best article I can refer you to a piece called Intrepid History – An Entertainer’s Farewell (read it here). It was an important part of my life. My wife considers herself Xie and refers to her given name as her slave name. I could rehash and do a few thousand words on it here again, but I’ll save that for another time. We lived and breathed in that universe. For the fans it solidified the feelings they always had. On Facebook and other places online I’m still friends when many of the people I knew from the game. They are people that will be with me always – all because of that shared love for Star Wars.
In 2005 Revenge of the Sith was released. This would be the first of the prequels that I wouldn’t make it to the midnight showing on. Because of work obligations that kept me up all night we had to go in the morning. At the theater located at Valley River Center in Eugene, we saw the first showing of the movie the next day. This movie was the best of the prequels.
To say I like it would be too shallow of a statement. Of the whole story arc, this is my second favorite (The Empire Strikes Back being the first). This is the movie that the other two built up to. Unfortunately since it was the first showing of the day and not the midnight release, the theater wasn’t packed. It lost a bit of being “in the experience”. It was great being in attendance of the collective enjoyment of that special moment. Because of the harshness and pain as Anakin finally becomes Darth Vader (pre-classic dark outfit) it is the only movie my son hasn’t seen yet. We talked to him about it a few weeks ago. We explained our reservations and asked what he thought. He opted to wait a bit longer to watch this one.
There had been discussions of a live action Star Wars TV shows before Revenge of the Sith was released. We are still waiting for that today. In 2008 in preparation for a new animated show Star Wars The Clone Wars was released in theaters. I like to refer to it as the forgotten Star Wars film. It takes place between Episode 2 and Episode 3 and it continued on with a TV Show by the same name. Xie and I saw this on opening day at the theater in Ontario, OH. It had a very light crowd because it wasn’t hyped that much. Honestly, until I got there I didn’t even know it was animated.
I can say I walked out of the theater saying that it felt right. I didn’t like the sub-story about the baby Hutt – but I don’t have to like every single nuance of the Star Wars universe. This movie showed us that there was hope for more Star Wars movies. Since the prequels turned the first six movies into Anakin’s story – there was a sense of completion to it all. There was talk of future movies taking place after Return of the Jedi – but that is all it was, talk. A few months after I had the TV show – I was expecting that is as good as it was going to get.
In 2009 Xie and I had a child. I did get shot down on baby names such as Luke, Han, Anakin – but this kid was going to grow Star Wars. He did not watch the movies in his first year of life like I did – but before his second birthday the Star Wars bug bit him. It wasn’t even my direct fault.
We were feeding him in a high chair and I was playing through the Super Bowl commercials that year. The kid Darth Vader VW commercial came on and he was transfixed. He wanted to watch it over and over again. He had his first experience of Star Wars and wanted into that world.
He did take a year off in 2014 to be Iron Patriot since he loves Iron Man. This year however I got to put back on the Stormtrooper helmet and escort Kylo Ren around the neighborhood retrieving candy. The Imperial March was still blaring – but that’s because there hasn’t been a theme released for Kylo Ren. It is interesting watching him at this age. Kylo Ren to him is what Darth Vader is to me. Though I identified more with the Rebel Alliance, he identifies more with the Imperial Order. To each their own.
When he was a year old he stayed over at my father’s for Halloween. Since he was so young we weren’t going to take him around the neighborhood. My father happened to take him out to an event in Reynoldsburg. They stuck him in a chicken costume and I guess he enjoyed the evening. My father did make sure that he sent a picture of my one-year-old son and a Stormtrooper. Maybe he was always destined, regardless of my love for the series.
When my son was almost three he got to see his first Star Wars film in the theater. Well, kind of. It was announced that they were going to re-release all the Star Wars movies in 3-D. The only one they actually got around to releasing was The Phantom Menace. Opening Day we took Lex to the Palace Theater in Lorain to see it. It was a later showing and Lex was three years old. He fell asleep before the Pod Race ever occurred. I don’t think I fell asleep during Empire Strikes Back – but hopefully for my parents I did during A New Hope. At least he will be able to say he was there.
Lex has watched through most of The Clone Wars episodes and some of Star Wars Rebels. He has a menagerie of toys – and since I found them on clearance a few years ago, a whole army of Stormtroopers. He is a Star Wars addict through and through. During Force Friday we went out early and did the Toys R Us and Target visits. That was when he decided that Kylo Ren was his go to Halloween costume. He is my little Imperial, unfortunately he doesn’t get to see The Force Awakens opening day.
Seeing that Revenge of the Sith was a bit rough and he likely wouldn’t be able to do a late night, we opted not to take him opening day. Xie and I are going and bearing through the crowds to keep the tradition of seeing it opening day. I know that there are Thursday night showings, but I purposely wanted to see it on opening day – the 18th. I purchased my tickets the day the pre-release went on sale. We are going to be seeing it in Ontario, OH at 10:20PM.
We are hoping that there is no extreme violence from taking him to see the movie. If that’s true we are going to try and take him on Sunday. If not it will be over Christmas break. He’s not going to get into the excitement of the crowd yet. I’m hoping that maybe the next one he will be seeing on opening day.
When Disney purchased Lucasfilm and Star Wars it was hard. At first was fear – the fear that they would Disneyfy the universe. Then I looked to the Marvel movies and many of these fears were alleviated. The second was what does this mean? Well in retrospect it will be good – overmarketed but good. I do have a bit of anger in the fact that they removed the extended universe canon. That was one of the key points of the Star Wars Universe – everything that was published was canon. Some of it good or bad, but it was all canon. It took me a bit to get over that – but I’ll let it go for now. I just hope I get what I need out of the new movies.
What do I hope out of the movie? I hope I get the same thing I got out of the prequels. No matter what someone feels about the quality of the prequels, they did what they needed to. Every Star Wars movie transported me. I didn’t care about Jar Jar or trade negotiations. All those fell to the background. I was a kid playing in a sand box and flying a TIE fighter without wings around the house. I was on the playground jungle gym believing it was the Millennium Falcon. I was yearning for the Gold Circle lightsaber I never got. I was a kid again. As long as it can make me feel that, I don’t really care about the overall plot.
May The Force Be With You, Always.
With the exception of the first image and the movie posters, all the rest are prints by James Hance. I have these hanging on the walls of my house. If you find them interesting, you can pick them up at this website – www.jameshance.com.