In the coming months leading up to Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (it’s less than a year away now!), a few of us at The Fandomentals wanted to take the time to go back through Star Wars. We wanted to dig deep into both trilogies of films and try to see them with fresh eyes, to explore the good and the bad, the dark and the light and the missed opportunities, and to share our journey with you. We all come from different perspectives. Some of us grew up on the Original Trilogy (OT), while others live in a post-Prequel Trilogy (PT) world.
But before we dive in, we wanted to introduce ourselves. We wanted to share each of our experiences growing up with Star Wars as a part of our lives, and what it has meant to us over the years, as well as what we expect in the years to come. After all, Star Wars has become a machine akin to Marvel Studios cranking out a new movie at least once a year for the foreseeable future. It’s an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan, but some of us have been hurt before.
As the oldest of the crew, I grew up well before the PT came out. I wasn’t quite old enough to have seen the OT in theaters, but my brother was, and I played with all the toys. Being a kid in the 80’s, Star Wars was already everywhere. I do not remember a time before I knew what Star Wars was. One of my uncles had an early model video cassette player (one of the old top-loading models) and somehow had a cassette of each of the films. We probably watched one of them every time we visited. Additionally, they were constantly rerun on cable television (along with those obscure Ewok movies), so I’ve seen all three of them more times than I can count.
By the time Lucasfilm re-released the movies as the Special Edition, I was in high school, and my excited nerdy friends and I went to see each one on opening night. When they came out on video, I bought the boxed set (letterboxed, of course).
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released when I was in college. I think I went to see it in the theater about six or seven times. Thinking back, I’m not sure why I went that many, nor why I bought the movie on videotape when it came out (DVDs were still new). I was so excited for it, and I wanted to like it so much that I feel like I talked myself into liking it. I darn near wore out that videotape. It wasn’t until Episode II: Attack of the Clones that I realized I hated the prequels. I can’t even speak to any one specific thing about them, I just hated them. None of it made sense. They were like cartoons with people shoved in, and not given anything interesting to say or do. I only saw Episode III one time in theaters and it only made me mad. I didn’t watch it again until years later.
I am part of a generation of Star Wars lovers that felt betrayed by Lucas. For awhile, I felt like he had wrecked Star Wars for me. I couldn’t even watch my videos of the OT anymore. All I saw was the awful Special Edition tweaks like Han shooting first, and a cartoon Jabba the Hutt. It just reminded me of how much wasted potential was in the PT. It could have been great. How did it go so badly? For a long time, I stopped caring about Star Wars.
Over time, I’ve softened some. I’ve learned to relax and enjoy things for what they are. I still think the PT is the lesser of the two, but none of the films is perfect. (Except for Empire. Empire is perfect. Fight me.) I look forward to going into this with an open mind and try to pick apart what really bothers me about these movies, and what good is in them.
I am young, relatively speaking, and growing up my parents did not want to expose me to media that they thought might be detrimental to my young mind. So I did not watch any of the Star Wars movies in theaters. I think my first exposure to the movies was the 2004 box set of the original series, the one with silver figures on it. I watched those and thought it was pretty cool, but then my father brought home copies of Episodes II and III and I was hooked.
You read that right: I am a child of the Prequels. I would die for Padmé, Obi-Wan has all the best one-liners, and Anakin is a giant mess but he is still compelling. Even worse is that I am semi-OK with all the Special Editions. Maybe it is because I grew up with them, so I never really knew a world without the bad changes.
After that, my love of the prequels was cemented by the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This 2008 CGI series is said by many (and justly so) to be the prequels that the fans deserved and a redemption for the PT as a whole. All the grievances that people list after a viewing of the PT are corrected by TCW. In fact, it must be clarified here that I was a fan of TCW before I was a fan of the PT.
In my family, watching Star Wars was a special occasion. When one of the kids turned 11 (I have no idea how they came up with this number), my dad took the other two out of town for the weekend while my mom stayed home and did a marathon run of the OT with the newly christened Star Wars fan. Older siblings were sworn to secrecy about everything so as not to spoil the younger ones. As the youngest, needless to say I was excited when my turn came around. I already loved sci fi (Star Trek was my first fandom) and my turn at mom weekend with Star Wars felt like initiation into something special.
I wasn’t wrong. I loved Star Wars. One of my friends down the street had a lot of money (well, her parents did), and we played with the Star Wars legos every day in middle school. I fell head over heels for the Luke/Leia dynamic in A New Hope, which left me all sorts of confused. An eleven year old girl with zero idea she’s bi being attracted to both Luke and Leia and wanting them to get together, but they’re twins? It was a weird time for me.
Anyway, I spent hours playing Luke. Yes, Luke. Like Kylie, I wanted to be Luke Skywalker with a vengeance. I didn’t reconnect with Leia until I was an adult. I read little of the extended universe books, and I can’t remember why to be honest. I’m an avid reader and loved the movies, but can’t for the life of me remember why I never got into the books. I read the Young Jedi Knights novels (and enjoyed them), but nothing else. Actually, I do remember. It was the prequels.
When the prequels came around, I was only a few years out of my shiny fandom experience and ready for new material. I walked away from The Phantom Menace disappointed. Everything about it felt wrong. The asspull midichlorians and the not so subtle Jesus narrative. The uncomfortable stereotyping of not just Jar Jar, but Watto, the Neimoidians, and the rest of the Gungans. It didn’t help that Natalie Portman left me bored where Leia had left me fascinated (and sexually confused). Then Attack of the Clones came out and the fizzle that was Anakin/Padme’s supposed romance made me cringe away harder. Like Ian, I saw Revenge of the Sith once and only once. I felt so betrayed by Lucas that I left the Star Wars fandom basically until The Force Awakens came out.
I’m actually really excited to back and watch everything now that I’m older and have read more meta, especially about the PT. I had such a viscerally negative reaction the first time around, so I’m interested to see if my feelings have changed at all since then. And with all the talk of our favorite Dutiful Princess going around, I am on the edge of my seat to rewatch the OT. I have a very good feeling about this!
All three of us are looking forward to watching these again. To quote Yoda, we must unlearn what we have learned. Our hope is that the months ahead will unlock a newfound love for the series as a whole, or if nothing else, shed some new light on the ones we didn’t love the first time around. Failing that, maybe we can understand what worked or didn’t work for us in each of the films, and it will help us to find the good in the new films as they come out. We hope you will join us. Watch along with us. Laugh, cry, (maybe be physically ill) with us. We will share the experience with you.
Look for us next month as we hop into our tribubble bongo and plumb the depths of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.