Why Star Wars Matters

One man on why Star Wars means so much to him, and why it continues to matter...

This article originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.

It’s a surreal and exhilarating time to be a Star Wars fan.

After Revenge Of The Sith closed off the prequel trilogy, many of us said our bittersweet farewells to the franchise expecting little else in the future, which in its own way brought a sense of relief. Despite the many enjoyable parts within the three new movies, we had witnessed George Lucas show a previously absent cynicism about the story and its construction in everything from dispelling the mythical beauty of the force with those wretched midi-chlorians, to confessing that he’d padded his original story idea that would have filled a single film, across three.

He also made it quite clear that Anakin Skywalker did not like sand, not one tiny bit.

Ad – content continues below

Yet many of us still thrilled at the spectacle and cheered during such sights as the Darth Maul/Duel of the Fates kick off, Mace Windu’s bounty hunter beheading, or Yoda speed impaling a rather ill-advised clone trooper, spinning the negativity that grew over the years into statements containing words like “but we got the Clone Wars cartoons as a result and they’re pretty awesome”. Even as someone who remains a prequel defender for the most part, there’s always going to be a part of me that would like to see Episodes I, II and III re-made by an array of different filmmakers, as was originally rumoured, but I’d consigned that hope to a distant corner, along with any thought of getting a new series of films.

However, in what felt like quite a sudden turn of events, Lucas had no sooner sold the Star Wars rights to Disney, when JJ Abrams found himself in the middle of a desert filming a whole new chapter in the tale and that gut pounding sense of excitement was back and greater than ever.

And now here we are. The Force Awakens is about to be unleashed upon the world and for someone like me, who’s been a lifelong Star Wars devotee since my Dad took me to see The Empire Strikes Back at the grand old age of four, there’s a strange mix of emotions swirling around from my brain to my stomach, that can’t quite work out how I’ll react when those fateful words hit the big screen again.

On the one hand; there’s a rational part of my brain that acknowledges that Star Wars is just a film and that it shouldn’t matter how and when I see it, but then that’s almost completely overwhelmed by the total and utter love I have for it, that means I’ll no doubt burst into tears at least once during my first screening.

It seems crazy really that it can still hold so much power, when age brings about so many changes in life, but in breaking down some of the many facets contained in the Star Wars universe, things start to make a little more sense as to why it holds such a special place in peoples’ hearts. So let’s take a look at some of them while trying to keep our nerves about us in the face of an impending cinematic landmark.

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

Many of you probably remember (and more than likely took part in) the Jedi census of 2001, where people across the world took the opportunity to mark their religion down as ‘Jedi’ in a movement that was dismissed by many as a joke that swelled beyond expectation, or a political move to have such questions removed from the poll. But for some of us the reasoning was quite different.

Ad – content continues below

Having never found answers or comfort in any existing religions, I’ve often felt a slight spiritual void, but in tough times I’ve always turned to movies for sense of relief and escapism. Since Star Wars was the start of my obsession with cinema and has remained a constant throughout any other challenges life has thrown at me, it wasn’t until the census that I really noticed exactly how important it was and suddenly it felt justified to jot the word ‘Jedi’ down with a certain amount of purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t carry a lightsaber on me at all times, while donning a brown robe and muttering “Luminous beings are we…” but I have always taken many of the same positive influences and reassurances from the fictional words of Yoda et al. and the emotions and serenity it can instil do have their parallels.

For anyone who watched the documentary Star Warriors about the 501st Legion and all the great charitable work they do, there was the incredibly powerful moment where one father relayed the loss of his son to leukaemia but how, before the young boy passed, both of them had found support through their love of Star Wars and from those people who knew them through that world. It’s a profoundly upsetting story, but reassuring and lovely to know that coming to terms with such an inconceivable loss can be helped by such a passionate community.

“I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”

The bond that Star Wars can form between a parent and child, as mentioned above, is something not to be underestimated.

From a personal perspective it played (and still does) a core part of the relationship I have with my own father, as it was a love shared from the moment I first saw the Hoth Wampa swipe Luke off his tauntaun, as we took our seats at the cinema a few minutes late back in 1980, to meeting back up when the Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back was back on the big screen. Or ducking out of work to fly to New York together to watch The Phantom Menace, ending with the all-day back to back Star Wars event at the Empire Leicester Square, which saw all six films play out and finished with the premiere of Sith.

My word, there were a lot of Pringles and cans of Red Bull ingested that day.

Ad – content continues below

Now we’re facing a whole new trilogy, as well as various spin-off movies, but if there was an important lesson learnt from the prequels it was that each generation should have its own Star Wars and at the end of the day, whether we love or hate the new films, they’re not really ours to covet. A good example of this is that for many children growing up in the late 90s and beyond, the prequels were their first experiences of Star Wars on the big screen and the use of (excessive) CGI was the norm, it was their language and as such they didn’t carry the burden of rage that lead to the ‘George Lucas forcefully interfered with my childhood’ accusations, because The Phantom Menace was their childhood.

There’s certainly little hope that a current crop of four year olds will be as enamoured by the appearance of Han Solo and the other older characters, as those of us with several decades under our belts – the likes of BB-8 and Poe Dameron should (depending on how they play out) be our children’s connection to the material with us, as parents, perhaps trying to take a step back and let them love it, as much as we love our episodes.

Of course I’m writing this down with a cramp in my stomach, as the film is so very close now, so we’ll see if I can stick to my word, though I take extreme happiness from knowing that my little toddler (already able to do a Darth Vader impression at a year and a half old) will be old enough to start his cinematic journey for Episode VIII at roughly the same age I was.

He also has the added benefit of being called Luke, so it’s only right he gets a head start on the universe, though getting him to the end of Empire by the time he’s old enough without someone giving the game away, is going to be nigh on impossible (he already has two copies of the ‘Vader and son’ book and the words ‘I am your father’ are splattered over multiple pieces of kitchenware).

“And I thought they smelled bad… on the outside!”

Of course the mention of Han Solo means it would be remiss not to mention that without Star Wars there might have been no global superstar named Harrison Ford, and that in itself is reason enough to defend the space opera.

It’s always impossible to imagine a notable actor being replaced in such a key role, but Ford’s natural cynicism and charisma keeps Solo the perfect balance of light and dark, as well as grounding the more fantastical elements. What’s more if there had been no Han Solo for him, there might not have been his take on Indiana Jones, Rick Deckard and so on – if there’s an alternate universe where Ford didn’t play those roles, I certainly don’t want to be a part of it.

Ad – content continues below

“My hands are dirty too.”

While we’re on the subject of Solo, there’s also the small matter of his relationship with Princess Leia and how much, even as a child, it mattered. It was impossible not to become invested as we watched their protracted and constantly interrupted love story play out over all three films, with a resolution only given in the closing minutes of Jedi. Rachel and Ross certainly never had to deal with carbon freezing, that’s for damn sure.

It was also important, too, that Leia seems like she was an overwhelmingly positive influence on both boys and girls at an impressionable age and I do worry that since we had her, Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley as the norm back in the day, that we’re still missing quite so many action led and fantastic female leads. So it’s therefore still as important to keep Leia’s presence in our children’s lives, especially with poor Amidala only smooching Anakin after he confessed to murdering women and children, be they Tuscan or not. No pressure on Daisy Ridley then.

“There’s always a bigger fish.”

It’s been incredibly entertaining to watch fellow toy collectors, like myself, exercising a certain amount of restraint when it’s come to snapping up the new Force Awakens merchandise, especially since it now belongs to Disney and hence being stocked and branded on just about everything conceivable like a worldwide opiate – you can almost hear the plotting voices trying to tempt weak willed fanboys into getting at least one shiny item: ‘So you’re not going to buy the figures this time… well how about some Lego, that never devalues… and your wallet is looking quite tatty, how about this new Stormtrooper one? You love Stormtroopers, they wouldn’t let you down even with their new design…’

Only the thought of being ‘Phantom Menaced’ on the toy front has helped to keep a steady hand on the purse strings (I’ve only bought one thing), though of course the reason it matters at all is that we wouldn’t even be in this predicament if Mr Lucas hadn’t had the savvy to option the merchandise rights and set us on the path to movie figure collecting. It’s hard to imagine your childhood without a single Star Wars figure, so I think we should all be grateful for that fantastic plastic advent.

And that’s just a select few reasons why Star Wars matters, though the list is almost endless.

As we approach the start of this new chapter, it’s going to be impossible for fans both old and new not to be swept up in its all-conquering presence. J.J. Abrams might be terrified, but regardless of the outcome he’s managed to give us and our children a new era of Star Wars both on screen and in houses and playgrounds across the world, and for that I’m already grateful.

Ad – content continues below