Star Wars and I go way back; I was introduced to it at a very young age by my father and was instantly entranced by it. Yoda, Luke Skywalker and Jabba the Hutt were my favourite characters at the time and my father often pokes fun now at how I used to pronounce Luke as “Loop” when I was a child. The series was what got me so interested in space and even science and I remember nights when I would stare doe-eyed at the stars and imagine myself flying an X-Wing. Star Wars really is like a fairy tale – it has a protagonist who is the quintessential good-guy, a villain who is as evil as the protagonist is good, a fantastic story that takes place in many elaborate locations, the age-old notion that good always triumphs over evil and of course, a happy ending. Just like a fairy tale, Star Wars has endured, maybe even grown, in popularity in the 38 years since its inception.
I remember being very confused by the ways the movies had been numbered – I remember being stumped by the fact that the fourth movie, A New Hope was made before the first, The Phantom Menace. I didn’t really know the history of Star Wars at the time and thus, it was one of life’s big mysteries, that is, until I asked my father about it many days later (I don’t know why it took me that long) and he answered the burning question. Star Wars has a very special place in my life because of the massive impact that it has had on me. The Jedis are the embodiment of good, of what is right, of purity of mind and spirit. I always wanted to be a Jedi when I was a kid and there were many times when I would spend almost an hour trying to move a door or a bucket by using the Force or try to force-choke my annoying cousin (that’s more Sith, but hey, a lot of Jedis have temporarily turned to the Dark Side. For example, Kyle Katarn). I would have lightsaber battles using these plastic lightsabers that my grandfather bought for me from a toy store with that same annoying cousin who I tried to kill by holding three of my fingers in the air.
Many of my values and a large part of my understanding of right and wrong stem from Star Wars. Han Solo returning to help Luke in the Rebels’ assault on the first Death Star even though he’d gotten his money, Luke cutting his training with Yoda short to travel to Cloud City on Bespin to save his friends even though he suspects it might be a trap, Luke resisting the temptation of the Dark Side and refusing to kill his father to become the Emperor’s new apprentice, all had profound effects on me which have resonated through all these years. Star Wars basically gave me my first glimpse of how bad the world around us is and how hard it is to change that. But it also taught me that if you’re willing to work hard enough, you really can “make a dent in the universe”. Luke, despite the seemingly insurmountable odds stacked against him, was able to defeat the Emperor (well, in a way) and even turn his father to the Light Side. Trekkies often mock Star Wars for being too childish or oversimplistic, but it is these qualities that make it so pure an experience. Every age group can identify with it and its message is so simple that even a child can interpret it. Star Wars teaches you so many of life’s lessons in such straightforward ways, be it believing in yourself (Luke switching off his targeting computer and instead using the Force to guide his torpedo to destroy the Death Star) or never doing anything half-heartedly (Yoda advising Luke, “Do or do not. There is no try”).
The characters in Star Wars have always captivated me – Yoda, the tiny, old and initially, thieving green guy who speaks really funnily but turns out to be one of the greatest Jedi Masters ever, Jabba the Hutt, the overgrown slug who’s kind of disgusting, but still cool, Chewbacca, the lovable furball who always brings a smile to your face, but whose bad side you really don’t want to get on, and Han Solo, the poster-child of coolness. From the hot, scorching deserts of Tatooine, to Hoth, the pseudo-Antarctica, the Earth-like Naboo and the volcanic planet of Mustafar, the locations are as diverse and interesting as the characters. There are just so many species of aliens, so many planets and so many interesting characters that it’s mind-boggling. Thankfully, the expanded universe more than suffices when it comes to satiating someone’s thirst for more knowledge of the Star Wars Universe which, by the way, is so fleshed out that it almost seems real.
I have an almost religious routine of watching the entire Star Wars Saga every year and no matter how many times I watch the movies, they never cease to amaze me. That opening shot of the enormous star destroyer chasing Leia’s comparatively tiny ship in A New Hope always leaves me gaping in awe, the scene where Luke walks out of Uncle Owen’s house and stares at the twin Suns of Tatooine during sunset with the Jedi theme song playing in the background always gives me goose bumps for some reason, Darth Vader saying, “No, I am your father” always leaves me shocked even though I’m expecting it. It’s moments like these that make movies great and Star Wars has them in abundance. The score by John Williams is also one of the many things that makes Star Wars the greatest set of movies ever made. I know all of the pieces by heart and often hum them or play them on my violin; I even made the Imperial March my ringtone.
It often saddened me that I was the only person in my age group that was interested in Star Wars; none of my friends showed any interest in it and I yearned to argue with someone my age over matters like “Who shot first – Han or Greedo?” and “Were the Prequels genuinely bad or were they good movies that weren’t as good as the Original Trilogy?” However, when I asked my best friend to get me HD copies of the Original Trilogy, he asked me if he’d like them. I obviously said yes and became his Star Wars guru, teaching him all about the series and frenetically beating him all over the head with information. I was euphoric because he actually came to love the series and now, we have all these great discussions about Star Wars that I envisioned having with someone. Also, the fact that at least someone gets my Star Wars references is a weight off my shoulder.
Being an avid gamer, I’ve always been delighted by the many great Star Wars games that span numerous console generations. My first encounter with a Star Wars game was Dark Forces when my father was playing it and I was sitting on his lap, watching him play. The same follows with Dark Forces II and its expansion pack, The Mysteries of the Sith, though, by that time I had started playing those games myself as well. Being able to wield a lightsaber or a blaster and fighting Stormtroopers or Siths made me feel like a real Jedi Knight and was such a sublime experience for me. I remember that I couldn’t buy Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy here in India because there were no sellers, so when my grandparents went for a trip to the US, I specifically instructed them to buy those two games for me. A wave of ecstasy washed over me when they took the two games out of their suitcase. I played the Knights of the Old Republic series a few years ago and made it a point to complete every side quest, search every box, talk to every NPC and basically get a 100% completion rate. I never really do that in any RPG, but with Star Wars exceptions are made.
Star Wars has permeated to every part of my life – I have Star Wars t-shirts, posters, desktop wallpapers, books and a bunch of other stuff which if my friends saw, would call me crazy. I’m definitely not a fanboy and can certainly see areas where things were slightly lopsided, especially in the Prequels, but I will definitely defend my beloved Star Wars if you needlessly trash it. This year I didn’t marathon the saga because I’m waiting till a day or two before the release of The Force Awakens which is just a month and three days away. It seems like forever, but I’m sure the wait will be worth it. Until then, “May the Force be with you.”
Oh, and one more thing, Han shot first.