Star Wars Is Still Star Wars

My name is Matthew and I am a child of the Star Wars generation.

Star Wars was the first real movie I saw in a theater. It has stayed with me always. Every movie since has been a bit of a disappointment.

There wasn’t a single kid in the entire neighborhood who wasn’t obsessed with George Lucas’s imaginary world of lightsabers and stormtroopers.

It dominated all conversations. It shaped all play. All Star Wars, all the time.

Given this, I was surprised to realize recently that I didn’t see Star Wars during its initial release. The original movie hit theaters in May 1977, when I was just three-and-a-half years old. I must have seen it first during its 1979 theatrical re-release.

Theatrical re-release?

They did that with movies back then. VCRs hadn’t yet become part of the furniture in every American living room. If you missed a movie when it was out in theaters, well, that was that. Unless it came back around in re-release, which the big movies did.

Such things are unheard of now. These days you can watch a blockbuster on your smartphone the same day it comes out in theaters. The world has changed.

An example: I once had a friend named Damon. He lived across the street. We played together every afternoon with our Luke Skywalker and Han Solo action figures.

In 1982, Damon moved with his family to Portland, Oregon. There was no e-mail for our mothers to keep us connected. There was no Facebook. I sent him a postcard. He sent one back. But I never saw or spoke to Damon again.

That’s the way the world was then—both bigger and smaller than it is now. Everyone saw the same movies, but distances really meant something. Things went away.

Now, every jot and tittle that ever fell from the brain of Einstein or Aristotle is available for free online, 24/7, in vivid Technicolor and search-engine optimized. We’re living with an embarrassment of riches.

Since becoming a father, I’ve been fretting about how to raise children in a world that doesn’t resemble the one I grew up in. People call the cops now when they see kids playing unsupervised in the neighborhood. What used to be essential has become criminal.

All the risk and adventure is being drained from childhood. Not to mention all the fun.

But Star Wars is still Star Wars and I’ve looked forward to sharing it with my kids. It means something to me that they experience it as I did.

I want them to be terrified of Darth Vader’s demonic breathing. I want them to wonder who will succeed in winning Princess Leia’s heart. I want them to leap from their seats with joy when the Death Star is destroyed.

I want them to be truly shocked when they find out … you know what I’m talking about.

I want them to experience the magic—and be transported by it—the same way I did.

So far it’s working. My kids are obsessed. They want to know everything. No minor character—no Jedi, jawa, or droid—goes uninvestigated.

Paddy took a giant Star Wars reference book out of the library. I was terrified that he would stumble onto an explanation of the Skywalker family tree before he had a chance to learn about it as I had. Luckily, he didn’t.

Watching these movies through adult eyes I can see their value more clearly. The childhood magic is gone for me, but the essential messages remain: don’t let your fear define you; trust your instincts; be loyal to your friends; never give up on family; good ultimately triumphs over evil.

The world may change but those values are timeless. Just like Star Wars.

From the May 2015 issue of Fairfield County Catholic

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