As I'm sure you're already aware, STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE is back in theaters as of today, newly ''enhanced'' with 3D. Unlike many of my peers, I don't hate the movie - nor do I hate George Lucas for continuing to tweak his universe. Instead, I just choose how I will enjoy it on a case-by-case basis. Despite all the changes over the years, nothing can take away the memories I have from experiencing it the first time around. That said, I haven't rushed out to see the first prequel in it's dimensionally-expanded form. I'm more surprised to realise that it's 13 years old already.
I've been a fan of STAR WARS since the original film, and while I can't recall the first time that I saw the 1977 "Episode IV," I remember getting into the toys prior to seeing THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK in 1980 (that's me in he Polaroid on the right, with my SEARS Cantina Adventure Set), and I fully remember seeing both that film, and 1983's RETURN OF THE JEDI in theaters. The latter we actually saw twice, as the first screening was interrupted by my crying sister, and moving to the "cry room" (if anyone remembers those) wasn't exactly a move that enhanced the first viewing.
I was big into the STAR WARS saga - periodically finding new ways to experience it, like the "SUPER" STAR WARS series of games for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. I dug it when it wasn't "the cool" thing to do. Then the reissues happened in '97, and I became a little too into it for awhile. After slowly dabbling with buying an action figure here and there, eventually I became a hardcore STAR WARS-collecting addict. I dumped tens of thousands of dollars on every figure, vehicle, and trinket that caught my eye. Eventually, my wife and I had a "Star Wars room."
Pictured above: Just one "Phantom Menace" section of my former STAR WARS Room.
The addiction carried into the release of THE PHANTOM MENACE in 1999, and through ATTACK OF THE CLONES in 2002. By the time REVENGE OF THE SITH arrived in 2005, thankfully I had weaned myself off of the STAR WARS drug. While I enjoyed the movie, I bought none of the toys. I had been burnt by the constant onslaught of reissues, repaints, and otherwise undesirable figures that I still had to have in order to be a completist. At the same time, I realized that I'd been buying into the hype to fill some kind of void - a void that was never really filled because it wasn't ever really there.
The prequel trilogy wasn't for me. It was for a new generation of kids, and while I'd always have my trilogy - they would have theirs. Not saying that they couldn't be enjoyed by all ages, but the level of enjoyment would be vastly different for kids and adults. My Star Wars was gritty, grey, and boxy. Their Star Wars was shiny, colorful, and sleek. A few years past it all, and I actually stopped putting my "prequel" Hallmark ornaments on the tree at Christmas, opting exclusively for those representing the OG Trilogy.
By 2007, I'd parted ways with about 99.5% of the Star Wars items that I'd amassed in the years since those "Special Editions" of the original trilogy. Storage space was a factor, as was the lack of desire to pack and unpack again after a couple of moves. Contrary to popular myth, the "worth" of these "collectibles" seldom really increases to any level of "investment" potential, but rather sinks as many items hit the clearance bins. In fact, sans a few rare items, most of the toys are so mass-produced and hoarded by collectors/dealers/jerks in their original packaging, that the "worth" becomes near nothing from a sales perspective. The true worth is for them to be played with and enjoyed. For me, the final push to clear out the collection was driven by a personal and professional disaster - I'd put everything I had into a movie project that ended up being destroyed after I made the decision to work with the wrong people. It was one of those indie-filmmaking nightmares that you always "hear about," but never know anyone that it happened to. Well, I was one of those guys. For pennies on the dollar, all of those R2-D2s and Darth Vaders helped my wife and I start the slow process of a financial rebuild.
As a parent now, I first shared STAR WARS with my daughter on DVD a few months ago. At 2, she didn't really understand what was happening, but she liked what she saw, though we didn't make it through the entire movie. The "glimpse" was there with that twinkle in her eye. Chances are, that like her Dad, she won't remember that first time she saw STAR WARS. But she'll remember everything that comes after it...
Today it snowed here in Northern Illinois. We've had a mild winter compared to recent years, but today of all days - the day that a STAR WARS film hit theater screens once more, our neighborhood took on the characteristics of an icy planet known as HOTH. After getting the little one all bundled up in her snow suit to head out for a snowman-making session, I looked up at a few items from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK that loom on a shelf high-up within my home office. There, next to the Millenium Falcon and AT-AT were a Wampa and a Tauntaun. I looked down at my daughter and said, "Daddy is going to get you something to play with outside."
At first she thought that the Tauntaun and Luke Skywalker was a "guy on a horse." By the end of the day, she was very clearly saying "Tauntaun" and "Wampa" as she recapped our adventures when Mommy came home from work. While we did make a miniature snowman, she spent a good amount of time playing with the figures against the snow-covered landscape. At one point, she even dropped the Wampa on our concrete steps - his arm becoming appropriately detached. When we came inside, she didn't want to let the guys go.
She played with these couple of figures for another half-hour or so. "I really like these guys," my little 2 ½-year-old said.
Just like Daddy, I have a feeling that she'll come to love the Star Wars universe through the original trilogy... and by the time the 2015 reissue of the 1977 original takes place, she'll be just the right age to experience it on the big screen for the very first time.
I think we may take AT-AT out into the snow tomorrow.
About James: A work-from-home Dad with a pair of daughters (Released in 2009 and 2012) - James Zahn is The Rock Father™.
Bringing over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry into the parent blogging landscape, Zahn is a regular contributor to Chicago Parent, serves as a PBS KIDS VIP (Very Involved Parent), and has guest blogged as a member of the Sprout Kindness Crew.
Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for the likes of FEAR FACTORY, DIRGE WITHIN, PRODUCT OF HATE, ARCANIUM and others, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands.
James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Blogcritics, Fangoria, Starlog, The River Cities' Reader. Slowfish, Oil, and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360, and in 2013 he's been quoted on CNN, Babble, The Huffington Post, and The Good Men Project, in addition to making appearances on ABC News and WGN.
Learn more here.
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