What Star Wars taught us
Today is May 4th. To the non-Star Wars literate among you, that makes it ‘Star Wars Day’, the unofficial holiday in recognition of the world’s greatest film franchise. Don’t @ me.
It is a testament to the global power of Star Wars that a simple pun on the film’s iconic well-wishing catchphrase has spawned an annual event.
Today, Disney+ in the UK will be releasing the final film in the Skywalker Saga for viewers who missed it on general release at the end of last year. Or the hordes of us determined to watch it again.
Every generation has their own stories, but Star Wars manages to transcend eras by creating a new chapter of the legend for each new generation. Like James Bond and Doctor Who, each age group has ‘their’ Star Wars stories. You may prefer something older or newer, but there is one part of the story which came out while you were young, that was written for you; the one that is inescapably yours.
For me, it is the prequels. Born in the late 1980s, I was enchanted and first captivated by the remastered release of the original Star Wars films in 1997 – when the original Star Wars became Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. But it was the 1999 arrival of The Phantom Menace which gave me a part of the story to call my own.
Those prequels are not perfect. No film is perfect. But I loved them. I remember realising with shock as I watched the first part of the story unfold aged 12, that I would be 18 when it reached its conclusion.
The barrage of negativity which surrounded the films did not really affect me. I gasped at pod races and rolled my eyes at Jar Jar Binks; I fell in love with both Padmé and Natalie Portman; I relished every moment of a young Yoda and sat and looked keenly for the first hints of darkness in Anakin.
The stories looked different, they felt different because we knew where we were heading, but they were our stories.
And they were stories which, despite the outcry from older fans, had their moments. I still maintain that Sir Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku and, in particular, Ray Park’s Darth Maul would have a good shout at being the best villain in almost any other film series. The fact they are not is less a reflection on them than a testament to the iconic status of Darth Vader.
Equally, of course people griped. The older generations felt they were having their stories taken away from them. The new chapters were too flashy, with too much CGI and too much story which did not fit in with their view of the Str Wars universe. Some self-appointed purists in my own generation joined in. Indeed, we are now doing the same to the new films, claiming that The Last Jedi tore apart the mythology.
Such criticism and passion are a credit to these stories and the power they have. People own them, they love them, and they protect them. When that sort of passion is ignited, you will always create anger when you craft newness. People want it to remain perfect to their vision – but no two visions are the same.
At its heart this is a story of good and evil. A story which taught us important lessons:
Ø Don’t always be looking to the horizon
Ø Recognise you are a part of something bigger than yourself
Ø Embrace the differences in the people and world around you
Ø Repay your debts
Ø And, in the immortal words of Obi-Wan, the Force will be with you, always
And so, with that in mind, I will be taking my seat this evening to watch this story I love come to a close one more time. I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the ride.
May, as they say, the Force be with you.
Photos courtesy of StarWars.com