I’d Give It A Thumbs Up If I Weren’t Afraid I’d Lose it

A Long Long 28 years ago, in a town too far away to comfortably walk from, there was a little boo who heard about The. Best. Movie. Ever. The little boo really wanted to see this Best. Movie. Ever. but the little boo was only 7 years old and couldn’t yet drive herself to the theaters. So, the little boo begged her boo parents to pleeeeeeease take her to this Best. Movie. Ever. but her boo parents thought the whole spectacle was just too crazy what with the lines and the furor and whatnot. They did promise that the whole boo family would go to see The. Best. Movie. Ever. when it came to the cheapy theater. And thus, the whole boo family only had to wait in line for a half hour to get tickets a full year after the release date of the Best. Movie. Ever.


Eventually, long after everyone else and their brother had seen Star Wars many multiple times, I got to see the picture in its full glory. I was stunned. I was amazed. I had just seen The. Best. Movie. Ever. and it rocked every bit as much as everybody else and their brother said it did. Even after the 47th time of seeing it (them, not me. The boo parents weren’t so into the crazy of the movie). This George Lucas fella did things on screen that had, so far, only existed in imagination yet there they were, larger than life and twice as real. He had space battles that looked like things were actually out in space and not like things that are supposed to look like they are in outer space but really look like things that are on strings against a black felt background with Christmas lights. It was a living thing, George Lucas’s Star Wars world, and I gathered it all in with huge awed eyes.

Now I’m not saying that Star Wars set me on my path of Sci-Fi reading and NASA fan booism but it sure did occupy a large space in my small eight year old world. I was very much all about outer space and other worlds from about that time until my early teens (and to some extent still do enjoy a good story about other people and cultures in different galaxies) and I think Star Wars may have had some influence in that direction. Who knows, but for the longest time if you had asked me what my top ten or even five movies were, Star Wars would be up there firmly at spot number one. Jedi sat comfortably at second and somewhere down the list Empire eventually weighed in, but I was not such a big fan of Empire as a teenie bopper boo. I think Empire, being a much darker and bleaker movie, is one that is appreciated more by people with a few more years and a lot more cynicism under their belt.

Of course now that I’m older and the film industry has gone beyond what Star Wars ever hoped it could, I find that my Best. Movie. Ever. is rather spottily acted, averagely scripted and the F/X are sort of silly. Still, though, like your first love or your ratty old teddy bear from when you were six, there is a soft nostalgic spot in my heart for Star Wars, Empire and Jedi which forgives a whole lot of film mediocrity. They will always remind me of the eight year old, ten year old and thirteen year old boo who sat in the theater anxiously awaiting the lights to go down and the story to unfold. From the pause after “A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” while I waited for the signature exuberant brass fanfare to the final transition wipe to the credits, these three movies not only became part of my childhood, I think they might have become part of my generation’s childhood.

For 22 years there were only the three movies for those of us who were around to actually see them in the theater. Oh sure, we all knew Star Wars was labeled “Episode IV: A New Hope” but no one ever referred to it as Episode IV and I’ve never heard of anyone saying “Remember in A New Hope when they got stuck in the garbage compactor?”. In fact, I think only the nerdy nerds corrected you on that point when you happened to call it “the first Star Wars movie” or “Star Wars” and we all ignored them because to us, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was simply Star Wars or the first movie in the Star Wars Trilogy. The Empire Strikes Back (or Empire in context) was the second and the third, of course Return of the Jedi (or as its close friends like to call it, Jedi). But…there was always that niggling “Episode IV” thing hanging around in the back of our minds.

Were there really three prequel episodes out there somewhere waiting to be made? What story would they tell? Would we get an explanation of the clone wars? Would we see how the Jedi were betrayed? Would we actually get to see on film the descent of Anikin Skywalker?

Ahhhh Anikin, or Darth Vader really. I have always liked Darth (or do I need to call him Vader now since everybody and their cousin is a Darth?) as a villain because he made sense. Oh sure, you don’t tell him where the stolen data tapes are and he’ll squish your throat but if you cooperate and do your best, Vader would pretty much leave you alone. Bad guys with principles are far more interesting than crazy ass bad guys who go around randomly squishing people for the fun/heck/whatever of it. Maybe it’s just me, but while Vader has more or less been the central bad guy of the Empire that we related too, I didn’t mind so much because he had a method and a logic behind his quest for galactic dominance. Plus, he stuck to his rules and a bad guy who has some shred of nobility to him is an interesting bad guy indeed. So imagine my glee when Lucas finally decided to make Episode I and it was all about little Anikin Skywalker.

Glee! If there is one thing that I like about stories, it is finding out the where and why for of what has happened. Nightfall, A Canticle for Liebowitz and even the first three Pern books had that element of “discovering who we were” and I enjoyed the beejeebus out of them. Now, my childhood movies were finally going to get some back history and it was going to be all about how Anikin Skywalker became Darth Vader. GLEE! You bet I was out there opening weekend with my ticket in my hot little hand when they finally released Phantom Menace.

I don’t want to talk about Phantom Menace.

OK, yes I do because Midi-chlorians? MIDI-CHLORIANS?!? Yo, George…what on god’s green earth possessed you to come up with Midi-chlorians? What, they can just test for force? Now at every galactic Red cross, when you give blood we automatically scan for TB, AIDS and Force!

No. No no no! You don’t just prick a finger and Ding! You’ve got force. If all it takes is a tenth grade biology kit to get your blood type, RH factor and force potential where’s the magic in that? Gees, every high schooler from Tatooine to Coruscant would be in back of bio class comparing their midi-chlorians results with their lab partner’s results.

Hey Joffee…what’d you get? I got Padawan on the force scale!

What happened to the mysterious, magical, mystic force power that was set up in the first three (I guess original three now) movies? Pricko bamn you can just read potential on a force-o-meter? Way to totally kill the magic, George. What’s next, going to all the kindergarten classes and explaining how there is no Santa Clause?

All it really took is for someone to have written in the script (George) that certain Jedi can sense untapped potential in untrained people. Make Qui-gon one of those Jedi Master Talent Scouts or whatever and there you go. It’s a much better movie then too because you get to keep the mysticality of the force and plus you cover a couple other plot holes that crop up about force and sensing and whatnot. But no. Midi-chlorians.

Sadly, and very much so, midi-chlorians are not the most offensive part of that movie either. The writing is pretty bad, the acting is not really convincing and I just wanted to take young “Anni” out back and smack some realism into him (Change up number two: Wait for someone who can act to play the lead part in your Vader trilogy…say someone like Haley Joel Osmet. I’d actually believe that Haley Joel Osmet would eventually become Darth Vader. The Jake whatsit kid just made me cringe) but all these pale in comparison to The Virgin Birth [insert reverb f/x here]. What? The midi-chlorians just decided to party down and whoop, Baby? Why can we test for force but Anikin was just sort of miraculously conceived? Why? ARRRGH! My Brain! Hurting!

I’m just going to forget the first prequel ever happened, it’ll keep me happy in my Original Three nostalgia.

I’ve already managed to forget the second prequel happened too, which I’m pretty proud of. No really, while it took me about ten minutes to come up with the name “Phantom Menace” from the dark and infinitely disillusioned recesses of my plork, I could not remember at all the name for prequel two. Whatever, it had bad acting, some arms chopped off (although I really don’t remember Anikin losing an arm. Maybe at the end when they were all in that arena? Sure. Whatever) and more of the same disappointment.

Was Vader ever that whiny? Ech, gads. I remember Vader being imposing with the tall and the shiny, black, creepy enviro suit complete with flowing cape and rad theme music (at least from Empire onwards. If ever I were to become a bad guy I’d lobby for John Williams to make me a theme song just like the Imperial March) and don’t forget the James Earle Jones voice. It was a sweet package of evil, yet in prequel two he hasn’t yet moved on from whiny petulant snot nose and I still want to take him out back and paddle some realism into him. The only things I really remember from prequel two was some sort of rainy planet where they made a bunch of Boba Fetts, Yoda going all pin ball crazy on someone’s ass and some sort of arena fight thing with big old rocks our heroes were chained to. I guess Shmi also died and Anikin killed a bunch of people for it, but I was out taking a pee break during that.

So then, of course, there is a third prequel. The first one made me offensively rabid, the second one didn’t much help (although they did not mention midi-chlorians and Jar-Jar didn’t play a huge role either) so I wasn’t really gung ho about seeing the third one. I wasn’t even ho about it. In fact, I’d have happily maybe caught it on TV or something later or even not seen it at all. However, Mssr. Gonkweasel really wanted to go see Revenge of the Sith so TheMan and I agreed to keep him company. Whatever, at least I’d have finished off the damned trilogy.

The lights dimmed, the screen went black and “Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…” hung there for a few silent beats. Then, in what should have been a much brassier and rich blaring (we had theater sound troubles and a lot of the bass was knocked out for whatever reason), that fanfare started up and I got all “YAY! Star Wars!” in spite of myself. John Williams can write a fanfare that reaches out to you, knocks on your head and says “Listen you! This is a Huge, Action-packed, Epic! Pay Attention” so I did.

And…I liked it. Mind you it’s not a great movie, although next to Prequel one and two it is darned fine outstanding, but it’s not a horribly nostalgia scarring movie either. My summation of the whole deal is that I think somebody (and I’m not going to credit Lucas with doing anything right because he still has quite a bit of suffering to do for unleashing Midi-chlorians and virgin birth) somehow finally got Anikin/Darth Vader right. Finally. I was afraid that Vader would be forever a whimpering brat that somehow in the intervening years between Prequel three and Star Wars (which we are never shown) grows a back bone and some principles but you actually get to see that on screen. It’s pretty satisfyingly done too.

I’d even recommend seeing Revenge of the Sith, it’s dark, it’s got action, de-limb-atation, angst and a sweet scene where Yoda (which, BTW, spell check on Word recognizes) starts kicking ass and taking names. And one of my favorite scenes between the Emperor and Anikin/Vader that nicely showcases crack crazy random guy squishing evil versus evil with principles.

Last year at the booniverse: Scared of losing my thumbs, no updating!

Last last year at the booniverse: Yeah, wastewater R&D can be filled with a lot more disgusting things than folding toilet paper – believe you me – but 75% of anything we did involved TP prep.

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