With The Last Jedi now out in cinemas, Alwyn Ash looks back at growing up with Star Wars...
I love movies! I’m extremely passionate about them. And like everyone I have my all time favourites, also understanding how deeply that passion goes. I’m not a fan of sequels or prequels that add nothing to the whole. Tron: Legacy, for example, left me cold. Joseph Kosinski’s 2010 sci-fi sequel to the far better Tron (1982) felt unnecessary and out of place, to me at least. But there are others who like it very much. I never complained on social media, or criticised those others by insulting them and making it personal. We all enjoy different things, and sometimes share equal passions. If we were identical in every way, boy would this Universe be boring! In childhood I remember seeing Star Wars: A New Hope for the very first time in the 1980s, not at the local theatre but on a pirated Betamax cassette tape. The magic of Steven Spielberg’s powerful cinematic tales captured my imagination, and so it wouldn't be unthinkable for George Lucas to achieve a similar feat. And Star Wars was such a skillful adventure, full of space battles, droids, a beautiful princess, a wise old man, the scoundrel and a young farm boy, all brought together by fate. As the years passed, further instalments came and went. But the magic, and fond memories, remained.
The trilogy ended with an evil Empire in ruin, and heroes celebrating. I owned Kenner action figures, and so reenacted my favourite moments. It was a beautiful time that will be cherished always. I grew up. And Lucas unleashed a new instalment trilogy opening with The Phantom Menace (1999). It was the first VHS purchased by me that year. I enjoyed it. Thankfully there was no internet then, so I wouldn’t be aware of any backlash from fans. No name calling, threats or the usual we sadly see today. Did I like it as much as the original trilogy? Perhaps not as deeply, though it still maintained a welcomed escapism from the real world. By the time of Revenge of The Sith (2005), my interest in the prequel series diminished quite a lot. And over the next few years I would join the internet, set up a website, and become actively involved in entertainment news and review writing.
Maybe I see much of the world through rose-tinted glasses, but I rarely slam a movie, instead preferring to look for the good points. If there are no good points to be found then I’d refrain from reviewing at all. I like to enjoy my work, so crucifying a film isn’t my thing. I’ll leave that to others. I also don’t go into a movie with great expectations that may never be delivered by the director. We all love to develop plotlines in our own heads, don’t we? “This is how it should have been” and “What a waste of a good idea”. “Why didn’t they do it my way?” Nowadays we’re all reviewers and filmmakers. We all know better than those whose job it is to bring the plot to screen.
In 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters and introduced us to characters new and old. I was shocked by the murder of Han Solo (played so brilliantly by actor Harrison Ford since 1977). How dare they! I hate J. J. Abrams for letting this happen! Someone end his career before more childhoods are ruined! Seriously though, my childhood was never ruined, it remains intact as beautiful memories, and movies are a time machine, so I can easily go back and watch Luke, Han and Leia defeat the Empire as many times as I wish. Yes, I struggled seeing a favourite hero die in such a way, even today, but that is because I care about the character. I also acknowledge that time moves forward, situations and people change, one momentous victory can be replaced by yet another soul destroying battle. The end of Return of the Jedi wasn’t ruined, at least in my opinion, by the rising of the First Order and the events portrayed in The Force Awakens. It happens. Think of those who survived the First World War only to see the darkness rise again in 1939. They had once celebrated a victory, too. It may be only a sci-fi movie series, but Star Wars acts as a reminder that we shouldn’t take anything for granted, and that freedom and peace are precious. Celebrate today because we never know what tomorrow will bring.
I am yet to see The Last Jedi, though I have read spoilers (I won’t give anything away here). I have also witnessed a lot of negativity online, not just disappointment from true fans who had envisioned something different from director Rian Johnson, but real venom even directed in the path of other fans who have genuinely embraced the movie and its many twists and turns. As I have said, we are all different, and so there will always be diversity among the fanbase. Yes, fans are passionate, and wish to air any grievances; some reactions, however, are voiced in such a way that it is impossible, and depressing, to join online discussions these days. Remember, the cinematic experience is meant to be pleasurable escapism, and if you can’t enjoy it then at least respect that others are having the time of their lives. Why violate their own happiness and excitement by name calling and branding them as not “proper” fans? Yes, I know, “it’s the internet”.
I guess people will be people.
Cinema has always been about change. Sequels bring about a change in circumstances and ideals. What worked in one film might need a drastic turn of events in a follow-up. Nothing stays the same. It can’t. We grow older, and old classics do sit nice and comfortable in our hearts and memories. It is never easy letting go. But that’s why movies are time travel, while we are able to revisit those classics - nothing ever truly dies. Even Han Solo lives, just put in a DVD or Blu-ray of A New Hope and catch the magic.
No childhood is ruined. No franchise is destroyed. We can’t like every new instalment, but what we do love is still there, for the feels and chills.
And before you say it, yes I am not disregarding the changes George Lucas has made to the original trilogy. But, it is not the end of the world, some of those digital alterations actually look quite cool. What the fans want is a choice: original or special edition. That is likely to happen at some point in the near future, we just have to be patient. I’m thankful for Star Wars on Blu-ray regardless. Thankful to Lucas for making it happen, and grateful to those who keep the flame alive.
The Last Jedi will give opportunity for my child self to get out for a while, feel those tingles and experience something truly out of this world.
Follow Alwyn on Twitter @AlwynAsh
Image - IMDb