Star Wars is a cinematic bedtime story that I’ve enjoyed since the age of seven. My introduction to the series was a 1995 trailer on the Power Rangers: The Movie VHS. The fast flurry of images that highlighted parts of each film in the Original Trilogy transfixed me like nothing before. At the same time, there was something different about this trailer. It introduced a legacy of films and a sense of something that had been made. This would be my slow realisation of movies as a medium with an extensive process and history.
In Christmas 1997, I had received the special edition of A New Hope. At that point, the film appealed to me because it was about a young man trying to become a pilot. I was amazed by the film’s various aerial sequences. They were made with great imagination and craftsmanship.
At the time, I had no Star Wars toys. However, I used to take vintage RAF planes and pretend they were X-Wings and Tie-Fighters, fighting for supremacy above the skies of my bedroom. A New Hope gave me a temporary dream of wanting to be a pilot and a new outlet to express my imagination.
The film also introduced me to violence. The scene with Ben Kenobi chopping off the arm of an alien in the Cantina, (complete with a lingering shot of the arm with blood smeared on the floor), startled me in a way that no other Disney animated film had before. It illustrated that people in this fairy tale could be hurt quite brutally. This aspect would continue to fascinate me with Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. They had tough sequences that cemented the threat of a Galaxy, Far, Far Away. In many ways, this led to my love of horror cinema, later in life.
The summer of 1999 represented my Star Wars fandom at its peak. The Phantom Menace had sparked my imagination with its sense of innocence and impressive setpieces. I also related to Anakin. He felt like an unassuming kid who was plucked and put into a long and far-reaching adventure, beyond his wildest dreams.
The film also inspired me to write. At school, we had an assignment where we had to describe our summer holiday. I wrote about my experiences with The Phantom Menace and the mad capped adventures surrounding the hype of the film. Despite being far away from a film review, the experience was liberating. It provided me with a huge amount of confidence and enthusiasm about expressing myself through the written word.
As I got into my teen years, I started appreciating Star Wars as an embodiment of mythic storytelling and mirror of history. This came in the form of a homework assignment where we had to describe and analyse the Joseph Campbell elements of the story (via the characters and events of A New Hope). I was also studying the rise of Totalitarian regimes in the 20th century. The Prequels provided a fascinating prism to view these topics through.
What’s struck me about the Disney era is how much I opened up to sharing my fandom of Star Wars with others. I had a friend who used to go with me to see each new instalment. Watching the continuing saga through her eyes was an enriching experience.
In 2018, I had the good fortune to appear on an episode of The Wampa’s Lair podcast. I had brought on the topic of what lessons should Rey learn from the past when forming a new Jedi order. The conversation was insightful and fun. And the hosts (Karl and Jason) were exceptionally kind and continue to amaze me with their approach to podcasting and Star Wars. If you’re curious, I appear on episode 296 of the podcast (Jedi Sliding).
Around the same time, Twitter was slowly becoming my primary outlet for expressing my passion for the franchise. Between snappy opinions about various elements of the saga and discussions with some great fans, I also began engaging with the hashtag #ShakespeareSunday. Inspired by a weekly theme, I attempt to pair up a William Shakespeare quote with a GIF or image from Star Wars. My aim is to always find a relevant quote that sheds light on a particular character or element from the films.
There are countless reasons why I love Star Wars. The films are a mixture of high and low art. George Lucas attempted to combine the Saturday Matinee Serials he loved as a kid and the World Cinema he admired as an adult. The famed space franchise also contains a social conscience and universal appeal. They attempt to meld mythology and religion into an accessible and idealistic space aesthetic. But above all, they filter lofty ideas of good and evil, through the prism of family drama, making for storytelling that’s grand and personal.
Like the best bedtime stories, Star Wars has been formative for me. It’s given me the courage to be creative, sooth some of the pains of life and introduce me to a larger world of cinema, writing and history.
As we build-up to the end of the Skywalker saga, what do you love about Star Wars? How did you get into the films? Let me know in the comments below. May the Force be with you, always.