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In the summer of 2014, I decided to show my girls the original Star Wars trilogy. As a big fan, this scared me. What if they hated it? What if they got bored? Could I handle the rejection?
The good news is they loved it, and as we've begun re-watching it in anticipation of Episode VII, watching them watch the movie is as fun as watching the movie. The girls get tense, excited, frightened, and cheer when the Death Star blows up.
A million essays and blog posts have been written about what George Lucas and his team did right in the original film, so I won't belabor it here. But as I watched if for the thousandth time, three things struck me about why these films have become such a big part of my life.
Star Wars fueled my young imagination
I spent much of my childhood lost in my own imagination, an ongoing game called Rocketship. It was a mash-up like only kids do, fueled by Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, The Man from Snowy River and books written by Jack London, C.S. Lewis and Dr. Suess. It was a strange world of horses, lightsabers, magic and young love.
Star Wars was a massive part of it. My heroes fought with lightsabers. My villain looked a lot like Darth Vader. Space battles were fought with x-wings and star destroyers. Astromech droids were used by good and bad alike.
Though there were pieces from a lot of pies in my imagination, Star Wars dominated it. It still does. I can spend hours upon hours in the world Lucas created, and maybe it sounds cheesy to say, but I can never really repay Lucas (and others) for unlocking the creative mind of a young, middle child.
Luke Skywalker was my hero
I know that most men my age would probably mark Han Solo and his twin Indiana Jones as their boyhood heroes. I love those characters, but Luke felt more like me. We're two movies too early, but I was always struck by his journey from naive farm kid to wizened Jedi, of thinking violence is the answer, to refusing to kill his father. Luke is, perhaps, my favorite film character of all time.
Lucas takes a beating often for his screenwriting and dialogue. But this movie is filled with great one-liners. These are my favorites:
- "Could someone get this walking carpet out of me way?" Princess Leia
- "What an incredible smell you've discovered." Han Solo
- "Well, more wealth than you can imagine," Luke says. "I don't know, I can imagine quite a bit," Han replies
- "Wonderful girl. Either I'm beginning to kill her or I'm beginning to like her." Han Solo
- "Look, Your Worshipfulness, let's get one thing straight. I take orders from just one person: me," Han said. "It's a wonder you're still alive," Leia replies
- "I find your lack of faith disturbing." Darth Vader
I quote this movie almost every day and it showed me very early in my life the value of a witty one liner.
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There is a lot of debate in geekdom about which movie is best out of the original trilogy. Some take the original, some Empire, and some Jedi. I can see the validity to picking any of the films. I think that Empire Strikes Back is the best film, but I still think this is my favorite. It's the one that sparked my imagination, that started it all. And though some of the effects haven't aged as well as others, it's completely re-watchable almost forty years later, and the most influential movie in my imaginative life.