I entered this world in the jundland wastes of Tatooine, 1977. And do you know what my very first words were? “But I was going to Toshi station to get some power converters”.
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be Luke Skywalker. In the make believe stories of my action figures, my little toys, I was Luke Skywalker. In the stories in my head, that I dreamt up as I couldn’t fall asleep or in the shower or when I just needed to escape from the world, I was Luke Skywalker.
The First Trilogy
By the time I was conscious of anything, there were already three movies. I was a child of Return of the Jedi (still my guilty favorite of them all). I loved Ewoks, I had the village and the hut. I loved the pageantry and Saturday-morning swashbuckling of the skiff over Sarlacc, of Endor Han and Vader’s turn. And I loved the original celebration in the forest as the Ewoks sang their song.
My parents were the OG fans. We had a VHS copy of Star Wars taped off CBS, with the recording strategically paused at ad breaks, but not cutting out these phenomenal fan interviews.
These were glimpses of the already vast sub-culture of late-70s Star Wars fandom. These people who were claiming to have watched Star Wars hundreds of times. These people who dressed up in character, just because. My people before I knew they were my people.
I was born in the jundland wastes and so were they.
My family moved to India in 1985, and I took that VHS, those action figures, village, hut, a road full of promise and a head full of doubt. I moved to India, and Star Wars was the piece of America that I carried with me.
A couple of years later, I met a friend at school who spoke Star Wars. He had moved to India from America (from Chicagoland too!), and he knew how to say Jedi. Not only that, he had dozens of Star Wars toys at home.
Naturally, we became best friends.
We played with Star Wars toys on alternating weekends, at his house, then my house, then his house, then my house. We did this well past the age when boys played pretend. But we continued. This was our little America, our little parallel universe where Luke Skywalker and friends went on absurd adventures and everything made sense.
One time, my mom and my best friend’s dad went to a parents teachers conference. The teachers complained that all the boys in class were getting very unruly, starting to use abusive language. On the ride home, my best friend’s dad told my mom: “I don’t think we have to worry about our kids. They’re still playing with little toys every weekend.”
The Second Trilogy
In the mid-90s, Internet access was very spotty across India. I was once visiting a friend’s house in New Delhi and was killing time on the Internet. I put in starwars.com on a whim and my mind was blown.
They were making a new movie. They were making THREE new movies. They just cast the guy from Schindler’s List. What is happening i don’t even can I haz mor internet?
I’ve written about this in some detail before, but my relationship with the early Internet is deeply intertwined with my relationship with Star Wars. Building a Star Wars web site–– this Star Wars web site–– was how I learned how the Internet works. Which is also why I have the job I have today.
In the run up to Episode I, I was running a (this!) moderately popular web site, with an international staff across three continents. Episode I was not a movie, it was an event and I was a minor player in the public relations campaign. I was narrating from the sidelines, I was feeding the beast, I was living the dream. I wrote about the rumors, the news, the things that weren’t news but were random Star Wars facts, the things that weren’t random Star Wars facts but just the time a guy on FRIENDS mentioned Star Wars and so on.
That first trailer was magic. I watched a tiny thumbnail from dial-up hell and then one day they played it on MTV in our college apartment and I ran across three rooms in time to catch the misty gungan beasts walk out.
The movie was going to come out in May in most countries, but not until October in India. OCTOBER! I went to America that summer and watched it a month late. And then I watched it over and over in the Yorktown cinemas where I could walk to from my sister’s apartment. The movie was magic. Star Wars was back and I was the greek chorus.
In retrospect, I understand why a lot of people didn’t like Episode I. I loved it. I loved it every time. I grant you it was wooden, it was stilted, Jar Jar was Jar Jar. The greek chorus abides.
By the time Episode II came out, I had moved back to America and this site was still going strong. I went to Celebration II in Indianapolis and stood in lines among my people. These were the promised people of the CBS VHS tape in the promised land of the Indy convention center. I watched Empire and Jedi with an auditorium full of us and it was the greatest movie-going experience of them all.
I stood in a line around the block for Episode II midnight show and cheered when Yoda did his acrobatics. My parents, the OG nerds, came to that one too. I could see the cracks in the prequels, but it didn’t bother me much. Sifo-dyas be damned.
When Episode III came out, I was married, had a real job. My wife and I went to the Framingham AMC a couple of hours early for the midnight show. There was nobody there. We sat in an empty theatre with a handful of other people until it gradually filled up. No lines, no pageantry. The diaspora was dissipating.
I still love Episode III, and it probably has some of the best scenes in the prequels (Palpatine at the opera), but the dream was over. I had a job and a wife and there were no more Star Wars on the horizon.
That night, I quoted Auden ( bring out the coffin, let the mourners come ) on the site in my review and went to bed. I’m still embarrassed by that review, but it really felt like something died that night. This web site chugged along on inertia, but there was no drive. For nothing now could ever come to any good.
The Third Trilogy
I was afraid when they announced the third trilogy. And gradually I became apathetic (as Yoda said, fear leads to anger, anger leads to apathy as self care, to protect form future disappointment. Disappointment is the path to the dark side.). The casting was interesting, and it was nice that we were getting the old gang back together, but this was no longer my Star Wars.
I have two daughters now. I gave them all of my old action figures, the Ewok village, the hut. We play with them together, occasionally. I own a house now, and various corners are mini-shrines to Star Wars. But my kids don’t really care for Star Wars. Maybe they will some day, but I’m not counting on it. So this was no longer my Star Wars.
That was until the first trailer. I went to watch one of the hunger games movies at the Boston AMC to catch the trailer on the big screen and JJ had me hooked. Boyega over Tatooine (I know), the speeder across the fallen destroyer, X-wings over water and the falcon. The falcon was what broke me.
When The Force Awakens dropped, I was in India on vacation. I went to watch it with my sister and an old college friend in the theatre there. It was good to see the old faces, Boyega and Isaac were fun, but it felt predictable and safe. Rey was what made the film.
If I had been born in 2009 instead of 1979, I would have entered this world in the niima outpost, Jaaku, 2015. And do you know what my first words would have been? ”That’s just Teedo.”
I would have been Rey.
The thing that had me intrigued after The Force Awakens was: where will this story go next? To a certain extent, I understood the necessity of TFA. You had to bring the old fans back and reassure them. But you had to introduce the next generation of Luke, Leia and Han as well. As you spend the next three movies knocking off the original trio, you had to build up the new one. Which made The Last Jedi more interesting to me: what would they do next?
The Last Jedi is my favorite Star Wars movie since Return of the Jedi. It is tender, it is muscular, it is comforting and yet it is the most surprising mainstream movie I have seen. In the red throne room, in the middle of the movie, there is a moment when the audience literally has no idea where the trilogy will go from here. Where literally all of Star Wars will go from here. When was the last time a big budget movie had a moment like that?
Rian Johnson gave me a movie I didn’t know I needed.
(HERE THERE BE SPOILERS)
Luke Skywalker died and gave us permission to let go of the past. That the Jedi were a misguided cult, the past was flawed, Star Wars was just a movie, Rey was a nobody and that was okay. In fact, that was preferred to the alternative, because that meant anybody could be the next Luke Skywalker, anyone could be the next hero and that the masculine urge to revere the past leads only to ruin. Star Wars was not a story of hereditary super powers, but a story of the kid from a moisture farm who made it big and saved the galaxy. Star Wars was not a story about House Skywalker, but about the orphan girl from the junkyards of jakku who went up against the devil and won without compromise.
Even better, Luke Skywalker died and set Star Wars free from generations of old men who thought they owned it. That you weren’t a Star Wars fan if you couldn’t name every bounty hunter that Vader hired. That you weren’t a Star Wars fan if you hadn’t suffered before Star Wars was cool, before the dark times. That you weren’t a Star Wars fan if you didn’t meet some narrow rec.arts.sf.starwars.misc definition of the true fan.
Luke Skywalker died to set us free. The Star Wars of the future was the Star Wars of Rey, Poe, Finn, Rose and maybe Ben. House Skywalker was dead, long live House Skywalker. Now is the age of nobody. Of everybody
And then came The Rise of Skywalker. Just when we thought we could get out, JJ pulled us right back in. Even the title mocks me. House Skywalker was dead. What was this dark fiendish thing?
The Rise of Skywalker is the movie I knew I didn’t need.
A return to the old ways of House Skywalker v. House Palpatine, where everybody knows your name. And your name determines your powers. And your name determines whether you’re worthy of screentime in this increasingly small-minded universe.
TROS is a narrow, inward-gazing film with lines and set pieces that exist solely as fan service. TROS takes no time to let any emotion sit with the audience. Chewbacca died, haha just kidding no he didn’t. Here, meet this lady on planet x, oh look her planet blew up, oh look she’s still alive. Remember Rose Tico, haha, no we don’t.
But all of that is fine. I loved the prequels, so who am I to complain about all of that? The fundamental flaw of TROS is that it doesn’t love The Last Jedi. The two movies sit in opposition with each other. All the promise of a post-Skywalker (and post-Palpatine, little did I know) era was thrown away. And it breaks my heart.
And so one more time, Star Wars is over. I have no WH Auden to quote, because that’s not what I feel this time. I’m through with love, I’ll never fall again. There will be other trilogies, but they can never bring the thing that used to be.
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be Luke Skywalker. But Luke Skywalker’s story is over.
Thank you, Rian Johnson.