Dan Morris looks ahead to the release of Star Wars The Last Jedi
I still remember the first time I saw it. I was five and my best friend and I were huddled with his three older brothers around their parents’ TV. The room was quiet, but the atmosphere was electric.
Naturally, my friend’s brothers were already seasoned veterans of A Galaxy Far Far Away and had hyped it up enormously. It was the first time I remember feeling genuine anticipation. This, I knew, was going to be good. The fact that it turned out to life changing, however, I was not prepared for . . .
From the battle scenes on planet Hoth to the lightsaber showdown in Cloud City, and – of course – the most famous paternity secret in history, I was hooked. Hook, line and sinking. I ran home at a speed the Millennium Falcon’s failed hyperdrive would have envied to tell my dad all about the baddest baddie in the universe, ‘Dark Radar’ (apologies fanboys . . . I was five, after all). Promptly correcting me on the lead villain’s name – Darth Vader – my dad said he’d also seen this film, and that there were two others, and the one I’d watched wasn’t even the first.
Star Wars captured my imagination as it had done with children and adults since its release in 1977. Within six months of watching The Empire Strikes Back I’d memorised every line from the original trilogy. And for the next five years I devoted all of my pocket money to expanding my collection of merchandise and toys. The prize of my collection? My telescopic green lightsaber just like the one Luke Skywalker had in Return Of The Jedi.
Luke was unquestionably the hero of my youth until, of course, the news came that fans had always dreamed of. The story wasn’t over, and in fact, it was only the beginning.
The announcement of the impending prequel trilogy that would chronicle Darth Vader’s journey to the Dark Side sparked a furore the like of which cinema had rarely seen. It also cemented the hold that the 1990s re-release of the originals had taken on a new generation of fans. My excitement knew no bounds – this time I was going to be a part of the saga, seeing a new Star Wars film when it first arrived in cinemas.
After seeing 1999’s The Phantom Menace for the first time, as far as I was concerned, Luke could take a running jump. The young Obi-Wan Kenobi was the new man in town, and I couldn’t wait to trade in my tattered green lightsaber for one in Kenobi’s signature blue. Though the prequels have been famously criticised around the world, for me, the dream was kept alive over the next six years with the release of Attack of the Clones in 2002 and Revenge of The Sith in 2005.
But then came the heartbreak. Once again it was all over. I remember my 18-year-old heart sinking as I read a review of Revenge, which was simultaneously an obituary of the saga. Silence the ion cannons, shut down the battle droids, Star Wars was no more, and we would never see its like again.
Or would we . . ?
With the dream of making the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs firmly in the dust, it was a cold day at the office nearly a decade later when the news that no one had expected arrived. For US $4 billion, Disney had bought Lucasfilm, and with it the production rights to one of the most celebrated film franchises in the world. Pretty soon the dream of many people was confirmed; this was no trophy purchase, the house-of-mouse meant business, and the reels would soon begin rolling. Star Wars was back.
With the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015, the hearts and minds of fans the world over were taken back to a place they thought had closed its doors forever. J.J Abrams’ reboot of the saga was a success, followed in 2016 by the equally well-received anthology movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Now, in the 40th anniversary year of the original movie, fans are set to watch the second chapter in the sequel trilogy, Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
As ever, director Rian Johnson has kept many of the details of the film shrouded in secrecy. Though if the trailers serve as an indication, fans are set to enjoy a blockbuster smash that will live up not only to J.J’s superb revitalisation of the series, but to the legacy of the original trilogy itself.
Giddy with excitement over the new film, I have decided to reflect on what the franchise reboot means to me. I know, it’s just a film. But to me, and many others, I’m not sure it is. Whenever I watch A New Hope – the original film – I can still smell the garage where my dad laboured long and hard to turn a bicycle pump and a broomstick into my first wooden lightsaber. When I close my eyes to the speeder bike chase in Return of The Jedi I can still feel the grass against my hands from when my friends and I recreated it with our Star Wars Micro-Machines. And whenever I revisit The Empire Strikes Back, I’m transported straight back to my best friend’s living room, flanked by his three brothers, waiting for the adventure to begin . . . And I don’t just mean the film.
Star Wars is a conduit back to my childhood, and sometimes it’s great to remember being a kid. Chances to do that can be few and far between, but I’m confident that Luke, Leia and the rest of the gang will take me there again, and I absolutely can’t wait. Enjoy the movie, and may the force be with you all.