40 Years of Star Wars In My Life

On May 25th, 1977 the original Star Wars film was released to an unsuspecting public and would go on to become one of the biggest cultural phenomenons of all time. Not even the creator, George Lucas had any inkling what would happen in the following weeks, months and years as his low budget Flash Gordon-esque space opera changed the world.

There’s so much history about Star Wars, and so many people who have regurgitated it better than I, that I’m not going to write about that. I’m just going to write about my experience growing up with Star Wars and how it has affected my life.

One of my very first memories as a child is sitting in the house I grew up in on a green shag carpeted living room floor in front of a big wood-encased television and seeing a trailer for the original Star Wars. The one line and scene that sticks out specifically to me is when Luke Skywalker rushes in to save Princess Leia and removes his Stormtrooper helmet and exclaims: “I’m Luke Skywalker, I’m here to rescue you!”

Something about that struck a chord in me and has never let go.

I never actually got to go see the original Star Wars in the theater. I was only 2 when it came out and so I didn’t see my first Star Wars movie in the theater until 1983 when Return of the Jedi was released. Like a lot of kids my age I saw Star Wars for the first time on home video.
It wasn’t until The Empire Strikes Back came out that I really became fascinated with Star Wars – and was old enough to even register what was going on.
Each Christmas I would get Star Wars toys and it seemed that all my friends and I did was play Star Wars either with our action figures, vehicles and playsets, or by picking up a couple of sticks and making the lightsaber sounds with our mouths as we battled like Obi-Wan and Vader on the Death Star or Luke and Vader on Cloud City.

Star Wars became a huge part of my life and as my parents will attest to, I was a little obsessed.

My dad knew the owner of a local video store in the town I grew up in and he had him record both Star Wars & Empire on to a VHS tape for me. I played that tape to death! I in fact still have it to this day. I watched that tape so much that I can still recite just about every line verbatim from both Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.

So from about 1977 until 1985 I was all about Star Wars. I had a huge toy collection (which I regrettably later sold off in my 20’s) – everything from the Millennium Falcon & the Ewok Village to most of the original action figures and even the Imperial Shuttle. But, as what happens with most kids, I eventually started to grow up and lose interest.
While it was still ingrained in my brain – and always would be – eventually I moved on to other toys (G.I. Joe, He-Man & Transformers replaced my Star Wars obsession around ’85). My Millennium Falcon became a G.I. Joe base, Stormtroopers became Cobra operatives and I stripped a lot of my playsets and vehicles for random parts to make for new and interesting battles with Transformers.

Once I hit Junior High I was done with toys. They all got boxed up and put in the barn and I pretty much forgot about them as I started dealing with more important things – girls. Such is the life of most boys.
Puberty strips us of the care-free and simple life of fantasy and adventure and turns us in to hormone riddled, angsty teenagers.

So life went on. As I mentioned previously, I eventually sold all of my Star Wars toys in my 20’s because I thought; why would I ever want these?

How naive I was.

While Star Wars was always a touchstone for me and something that I took with me throughout the rest of my life, for a long time it wasn’t a focus or really on my radar most of the time. It was something from childhood that resonated, but only as fond memories.
When the Special Editions of the original trilogy came out I was excited. I would get to see the original Star Wars on the big screen and experience what I had missed out on as a kid.
Unfortunately the Special Edition version of the film was terrible and even though I went to watch all 3 of the Special Edition films, it kind of turned me off to Star Wars.
It was the same way with the prequels. I went to see them, but each time I felt let down and discouraged and really felt that Star Wars was in its death throes by the time Revenge of the Sith hit home video.

The magic was gone.

And so I moved on and didn’t think about it too much. It was always there in my mind, and I would go back and watch the original trilogy every once in awhile, or talk with friends about Star Wars, but it wasn’t a predominant part of my life until a few years ago.

In 2013 I saw something on the internet about Star Wars that piqued my interest. I think it was some article talking about vintage Star Wars merchandise, and one of the things they mentioned were original Star Wars curtains. For some reason I got a wild hair up my ass that I had to have a set of these vintage curtains and so I took to ebay to find some. I did, and when I got them it triggered something in me and next thing I know I’m on ebay looking at old Star Wars toys.

It was the Millennium Falcon that really kicked off my renewed interest in Star Wars when I won an auction for a vintage Falcon in the original box. When it arrived I was shocked to see it hadn’t even been used. It was pearly white (most of the vintage Falcons have developed a yellowish hue to the plastic) and none of the stickers had even been applied. It was as if I had bought it off the shelf in 1980.
After that I started buying loose vintage action figures which eventually led me to buying original mint-on-card figures. From there I started collecting Star Wars again and have since amassed quite a large collection of memorabilia ranging from toys and books to board games and promotional items.

The magic was back!

It was really the nostalgia of it all that drew me in and in a sense collecting the vintage stuff was in some way reigniting my childhood.

Along the way I’ve got to do some pretty cool stuff. I worked on a Star Wars fan project called ‘The Kenobi Chronicles‘ where we got to work with the 501st San Francisco Garrison. We went to Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, CA to promote the project. It was my first Celebration experience and I loved it.

I got married and not only incorporated Star Wars elements in to the wedding, but we actually had a couple of Stormtroopers from the 501st be a part of the wedding ceremony!

I even wrote a Star Wars script!

I’ve met a lot of cool people who share my love for Star Wars and overall it’s been a very positive impact on my life. At times I think about how odd it seems to be so influenced by some movies from my childhood – but it’s become so much more than that. Not only to me, but to so many other people across the planet.

It’s been one helluva journey and it’s all culminated to this point in time where I’m writing a blog about my love for Star Wars all these years later.

Things have come full circle in a way. I feel like I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I feel content. I’m 42 years old, I have a beautiful wife who is my best friend, I enjoy my job (most of the time) and I get to celebrate a part of my life that has been with me from the beginning.
It’s almost as if Star Wars was always there waiting for me to re-discover it again when I was ready. And now that I have I can honestly say that it’s made my life richer and fuller having something I’m so passionate about and that I dearly love – just like when I was a kid.

So here’s to 40 years of Star Wars, and to 40 more. I hope I live long enough to celebrate the 80 year anniversary.

May the Force be with you, always!

Listen to me talk Star Wars with my friends over at The Geek Speak Show for their special 40th Anniversary podcast!

Dueling Lightsabers – The Mirroring of Empire VS Jedi

Star Wars turns 40 this year – a profound anniversary which brings up all kinds of nostalgia for fans and even non-fans alike. Whether you love it or hate it, Star Wars has had a cultural impact and longevity unlike any other film before it, or after it.
Although the original film’s 4 decade celebration is paramount in everyone’s mind this year, I’m going to explore the film’s two sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi – and more specifically the lightsaber duels in each film between the hero, Luke Skywalker and the villain, Darth Vader.

While watching the films recently I realized something I hadn’t noticed before – at least not consciously. The duel between Luke and Vader in Return of the Jedi is very similar to the duel in The Empire Strikes Back except it is mirrored. What I mean by that is everything is ‘flipped’. If you watch them side by side you’ll notice things like in Jedi Luke is predominantly on the left side of the screen while in Empire he’s on the right. Vader plays a game of cat and mouse with Luke in Empire whereas in Jedi it’s the other way around – sort of.
While they’re not exactly the same, the same themes and dynamics – even though reversed – reverberate through both battles. I’m going to break down both fights and show the aspects that mirror one another.

In the opening scenes of the Empire duel Vader stands above Luke on a platform. This visually shows Vader’s superiority and dominance over Luke. Luke climbs up the steps to stand eye to eye with Vader. Luke stands on the left side of the screen while Vader stands to the right.

In Jedi Luke and Vader are both at the same height, showing them to be equals at this point and Luke stands to the right of the screen while Vader has taken Luke’s place at the left. You’ll also notice that Luke has his back turned to Vader as opposed to facing him in Empire.

The two then cross swords, again from opposite sides.

We then see the two fight until in Empire Vader knocks Luke down the steps of the Carbon Freezing Chamber.

In Jedi Luke knocks Vader down the steps of the Emperor’s Throne Room.

In Empire Luke’s lightsaber is knocked from his hand and he momentarily faces Vader without it.

In Jedi Luke chooses to deactivate his lightsaber and again he faces Vader without it. In these scenes Luke and Vader are on opposite sides of the screen as well.

Next we have Luke jumping above Vader in Empire when he escapes carbon freezing.

In Jedi Luke jumps above Vader – but not to escape, but to evade.

Throughout both scenes there is dialogue exchanged between Luke and Vader. In Empire Vader first remarks that Luke may not be as strong as the Emperor thought, while in Jedi Luke talks to Vader about how he feels the conflict within him.

It’s a role reversal where in Empire Luke is viewed as weak yet resourceful and ends up kicking Vader off the Carbon Freezing platform and making him fall, while in Jedi Vader is viewed as potentially weak due to his conflict but then shows his strength as he sends Luke falling from his position of power and dominance.

In all of these scenes the mirroring of Luke and Vader’s positions on screen (left and right) remain.

What follows is a game of cat and mouse between Luke and Vader. Both must descend to find the other.

In Empire Luke searches for Vader when suddenly Vader surprises Luke with an attack.

In a similar fashion Vader searches for Luke until Luke surprises Vader when he cries out “NEVER!” and attacks in Jedi.

Leading up to this moment we see the conflict within Luke visually in this scene:

While searching for Luke in Jedi Vader starts to manipulate him by talking about his friends and learning about Leia as his sister. He threatens to turn her to the Dark Side instead of Luke. This goads Luke in to revealing his location and attacking Vader, but also triggers a response in Luke that Vader soon realizes makes Luke even more powerful than before.

In Empire Vader uses his mastery of the Force to best Luke by using other objects to attack and weaken him, making him more susceptible to Vader’s offer of joining the Dark Side.

The battles ensue as in both films we wind up on a catwalk.

During the final moments of both battles we reverse again as in Empire Luke lies back with Vader’s saber pointed at him while in Jedi it’s Vader who lies back with Luke now pointing his lightsaber at him.

And of course in both films Luke and Vader each have the same hand cut off.

Now, both wounded and seemingly defeated, Luke and Vader are each faced with a choice in both films.

For Luke it’s discovering that Vader is his father and not only the choice of whether or not to believe it, but also the choice of joining Vader or seemingly falling to his death.

For Vader it’s choosing to remain loyal to The Emperor or choosing to save his son and turn against his Master, dying in the process.

In both films we also have someone falling down a deep chasm. In Empire it’s Luke jumping and falling, yet saved at the last minute.

In Jedi it’s The Emperor who is thrown down a shaft to his death.

You’ll also notice that in Empire the bottom of the shaft is black while in Jedi it’s white. Personally I feel that the black represents the darkness of the unknown combined with the information Luke has just learned while the white represents the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ so to speak where the evil has been defeated and good has prevailed.

So there you have it. That’s my breakdown of the lightsaber duels in Empire and Jedi and how they’re mirrored as well as some of the symbology inherent in these scenes.

Mirroring and repeating has been a common theme for George Lucas to put in the Star Wars films as he mentions it in the behind-the-scenes of The Phantom Menace and how it “rhymes” when you have similar scenes, dialogue and actions reflecting similar things seen in the previous films. Much like a musical cue being re-used to evoke a certain emotion or understanding.

I hope you enjoyed my analysis.
These are strictly my interpretations of the scenes and do not necessarily reflect George Lucas’ original concepts or ideas. But I thought it was pretty obvious that the fights mirror one another and I would be shocked if it wasn’t completely planned that way.
I also doubt that I’m the first person to mention this, but I haven’t been able to find any other information on it so I thought I would post my own thoughts on the matter.

Thanks for reading and may the Force be with you!

My Star Wars Script

original Star Wars artwork by Ralph McQuarrie.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge Star Wars fan. It’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
Recently I got inspired to write my own Star Wars script. It wasn’t something I planned to actually shoot or try to shop around for any reason (not that I really could since it’s all owned by Lucasfilm) – it’s just a creative, fun project focusing on something I thoroughly enjoy.

I’ve been writing scripts for a long time and it seemed natural to use those skills to pen my own Star Wars story. I used familiar characters (Lando Calrissian, Biggs Darklighter, Ben Kenobi, Darth Vader, Jabba the Hutt, Boba Fett, etc), familiar settings (Tatooine, Star Destroyers, Coruscant the Millennium Falcon) and set the story a few years prior to the original Star Wars film, A New Hope.

Luke Skywalker and his good friend, Biggs Darklighter.

I wanted to tell stories of characters who were either not around at the time of the original film, or who were mentioned or seen only in passing. While we see Jabba The Hutt, Boba Fett and Lando Calrissian in Return of the Jedi & The Empire Strikes Back, I though it would be interesting to see these characters prior to those stories and how they might actually know each other.
I also wanted to expand on characters like Greedo and Luke’s Uncle Owen & Aunt Beru.
Even though I’ve included major characters such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, they’re not pivotal characters, but more-so plot devices used to move the story along.
I’ve also introduced a few new characters of my own creation and used them in ways so that it makes sense why you’ve never seen or heard of them beyond this story.

Overall I wanted it to feel like a Star Wars movie. I of course took a creative license with the source material, but I’d like to think the characters you know and love sound and feel like they would in these situations.

Jabba the Hutt and his minions.

It was a fun exercise in writing and very enjoyable. The nice thing about writing a script for something you know intimately well is it practically writes itself for the most part. Although I did do quite a few revisions to get some of the dialogue and timeline just right, the bulk of the story played out like a movie in my head.
I wrote with the feel of the original Star Wars and although it touches on and references things we see happen in A New Hope, I also used the prequels as a very real part of this world’s history. While I’m not a big fan of the prequels, they are canon and they enrich the characters’ backstories and make for some interesting motivations.

The Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader.

The script is titled “Memories of a Jedi” and may not be about what you think it is. Originally I was using the working title “Tales From Tatooine” but discovered a Star Wars fan film of the same name so I opted for something different.
I will say that there are A LOT of good titles taken by Star Wars fans for other projects.

I thought it would be a good idea to release the script right before Star Wars Celebration as a chance for fans to read it while traveling and maybe even talk about it with other fans.

The script is available here as a PDF to read and share. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

May the Force Be With You!