May the 4th be with you – a nostalgic look at Star Wars

Picture of Star Destroyer with words may the 4th be with youMay the 4th. Star Wars day. Back in 1977 a Galaxy Far Far Away crawled up the screen of a theatre near you. Since then, a whole new generation has been introduced to the worlds of the Force and an industry is in full swing, churning out books, toys, games, costumes – you name it. Yes, the science is suspect (at best), the worlds are alternative Earths, the aliens awfully humanoid. But through it all, I loved it and I still do.

Back then, I was teaching. My ten-year-old class loved the new movie. I didn’t go and see it until the long summer break, some nine months later. I’m not a great movie fan and science fiction for me was Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Bradbury. I’d LOVED 2001: A Space Odyssey, so this kid’s SF fantasy romp was beneath my level of sophistication. Still, needs must. I went along to the movies and was surprised to find I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lucas hadn’t needed to call it “A New Hope” back then. I particularly, especially loved that opening scene where the ISD (Imperial Star Destroyer to those not in the loop) chases Leia’s consular ship. Yes, I ducked. That was truly awesome.

But when The Empire Strikes Back was released, my mood changed from “what fun” to a gibbering, orgasmic mess. I saw that movie four times in ten days. Why? Luke Skywatcher? Nah. Luke never did it for me. Han? Yeah, okay, not bad. Darth Vader???? Oh, yesssss. Tall, dark and powerful. In ANH he was portrayed as a shouting bully-boy with smudges on his face mask, albeit with a quirky sense of humour. In TESB he has grown. He’s the man in charge. His face mask gleams. His sense of humour is still there. And he’s got… EXECUTOR. Be still my pounding heart. The ultimate spaceship. Oh, man. That scene where Vader is at the picture window on the bridge, surveying the Imperial Fleet, every massive ISD dwarfed by the mighty flagship. Excuse me while I dribble. And with the Imperial March playing in the background – da da da dada da dada daaaahhhh…

I bought the figures, the models, the books (don’t bother) and eventually, the movies – in VHS (I still have them). I reckon I’ve seen TESB a hundred times or more.

I couldn’t wait for Revenge Return of the Jedi. But it didn’t really do it for me. Oh, the speeder bikes were cool and Executor was back. But some of it was so… dumb. Like Leia in a metal bikini. WTF was Jabba the Hutt intending to do with her? I mean… you hear the stories about sheep and camels. But really? Surely Jabba would be expected to take a fancy to one of his own kind? Later on, the Emperor’s idea of persuading Luke to join him would’ve had him kicked out of the snake oil salesmen’s guild. Very clumsy. And building another Death Star with the same intrinsic fault? Dumb dumb dumb. And then they crashed Executor. My heart was shattered.

Still, I was desperately disappointed when the series ended. Fortunately, spin-off books began to appear, some worthwhile, some garbage. Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy was a stand-out (here’s my take on why) and Brian Daley’s The Han Solo Adventures was also well worth an afternoon or two. Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was a bit of fun, set between ANH and TESB.

Like many others, I was ecstatic when Lucas announced the three films filling in Darth Vader’s early years. But I’ll talk about those movies another time.

Your turn. What did you love and hate about Star Wars? Are you still a fan?

10 thoughts on “May the 4th be with you – a nostalgic look at Star Wars

  1. Diane Burton

    Back in 1977, I wasn’t into sf at all. Time mag did a huge spread on the movie that looked interesting, but it wasn’t until I heard John Williams’ souring theme on the radio that I knew I had to see that movie. I still remembering that feeling of WOW. I was hooked. Couldn’t wait for the ESB. I agree, Greta, “Luke, I am your father” is the best line ever. Totally unexpected. Star Wars hooked me on space adventures. Thanks for reminding me of the awe and wonder I felt 30+ years ago.

  2. Paul Trembling

    I was about 19 when the first Star Wars came out, a young Royal Navy seaman in Hong Kong. I can still remember the sheer impact of that opening scene – the Imperial Star Destroyer coming over our heads – and it just kept on coming… I’d never seen anything like it. In fact, I don’t know if there had ever been anything quite like it before. And the rest of it was spectacular and fun. I enjoyed all the other Star Wars films as well. Ridiculous though some of the ideas were (dog-fighting space ships, etc.) I never had any trouble suspending disbelief (at least while the film was running)!

  3. juliabarrett

    Interesting. I remember seeing Star Wars – was on a date. I was impressed with the special effects, not so much the acting but I did like Han Solo and the Wookie. I much preferred the actual story in The Empire Strikes Back. The acting and special effects were better. But Revenge of the Jedi? Laughable. Even back then it was a big joke. One of those movies you’d like to forget was ever made. I like the brief parody of Revenge of the Jedi in Happy Gilmore much better than Revenge of the Jedi.

  4. Steven J Pemberton

    I live in the town where those films were made (or where the interiors were shot, anyway), and there are banners and plaques commemorating them in the high street. Quite surreal when you’re out doing your shopping…

    I was a boy when the original trilogy came out, and my memories of them have been coloured by later viewings as an adult. One thing that does stick in my mind from the first time was my shock at the end of ESB when the good guys didn’t win. I must have been aware that a third film was coming, but not for another three years – an eternity to a nine-year-old…

    1. Greta van der Rol

      Yes, that ending was certainly different. The “I am your father” line was great – loved that. So what did you make of RotJ? Were you disappointed?

      1. Steven J Pemberton

        RotJ was a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, though the Ewoks were annoying. At the time, I didn’t really understand the stuff about Luke’s destiny, but could ignore that because of all the cool action sequences.

        It also has what I think is one of the best lines of the trilogy, said by Vader to an underling when he reveals that the Emperor will be personally supervising the construction of the new Death Star: “The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.”

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