What Star Wars means to me

I don’t even remember my life before Star Wars. In a lot of ways, it was my gateway between Disney cartoons and the rest of the cinematic world. As best I can remember, I first saw the original trilogy when I was around 7 years old. It was the 20th anniversary of A New Hope’s release and two years away from the prequels. I still have the VHS box set of the original trilogy that introduced me to this galaxy far, far away. Star Wars has been a part of my life for more than 25 years, and with Episode IX coming out this month, I wanted to attempt to put into words what this story has meant to me.

It’s difficult to even try to describe how much I love Star Wars, but Yoda said “there is no try,” so I’ll do it anyway. It’s been such a fixture in my life that I often take it for granted and don’t really think about what it really means. But I have so many vivid memories throughout my life that center around Star Wars.

  • I remember watching the original trilogy on a portable TV (you know, the ones with the built-in VCR) we would take on long road trips when we were kids – before the days of iPads or even portable DVD players.
  • I remember dressing up as C-3PO and Jar Jar Binks (I know, ew) for consecutive Halloweens when I was probably 9 or 10 years old.
  • I remember when Revenge of the Sith came out and my friends had a week-long marathon of the entire series at my house. My dad created a homemade screen out of bedsheets that we projected the movies onto.
  • I remember having to leave my second or third viewing of Revenge of the Sith early because I had to go get my wisdom teeth taken out. While I was drugged up I remember dreaming that I was actually in Star Wars.
  • I remember the countless hours and days I spent putting together Star Wars Lego sets – all of which I still have today.
  • I remember getting the voice-controlled R2-D2 toy for Christmas when I was around 10 or 11. I had him exploring our lake house when he accidentally fell down a couple of stairs. It screamed just like in the movie whenever R2 gets hurt and I laughed about it for the rest of the day.
  • I remember having a mini-marathon before The Last Jedi came out with a new group of friends, watching Rogue One through The Force Awakens all in one day.

I feel like every new Star Wars movie I see is my favorite Star Wars movie immediately after watching it. Sure, they’re not all perfect (the prequels have some serious issues), but now I can appreciate each entry in this saga for expanding the galaxy and introducing us to characters we’ve grown to love. Each movie has incredible moments – some better than others – that remind us of the joy and wonder of stories.

Star Wars has been around for every major era of my life. The original trilogy came to me when I was 7 and had the perfect amount of wonder and imagination to appreciate this life-changing story. The prequels were released during the most formative time of my life – between the ages of 9 and 15. (Also released during this same time frame were all three Lord of the Rings movies and the first three Harry Potter movies. It was a great time to be alive). The sequel trilogy (plus Rogue One and Solo) followed me through the second half of my 20s, just as I was leaving school and entering adult world, reminding me that you don’t have to completely grow up.   

So what is it about these stories that keeps bringing me back? Well, in short, everything. Star Wars, like so many other stories, is ultimately about the battle between good and evil. But there’s something about the way Star Wars portrays the Light and Dark that makes it so much more engaging than other variations. Our heroes are always the underdog – a young Jedi apprentice trying to find his place in the universe, a rag-tag group of Rebels facing against a dominating Empire, or an even smaller team of Resistance fighters against an even stronger First Order.

But the dichotomy of good and evil isn’t always enough on its own. We have to care about and cheer for the characters that fight for the forces of good. And Star Wars has great characters all around – Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO, Darth Vader, Obi-Wan, Anakin, Padme, Palpatine, Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, Kylo – that play important roles in creating the necessary balance in the universe.

It’s incredible that we’re introduced to this galaxy through R2-D2 and C-3PO’s point of view. Sure, we meet Leia and Vader in the opening scene, but these two weird little droids are the only main characters we meet for a solid 20 minutes of screen time. And between the character design, Anthony Daniels’ performance as 3PO and Ben Burt’s sound design for R2, we can’t help but fall in love with them.

When I was younger, I loved the lightsaber duels, the battles and the humor of Star Wars. Getting older, I now can see the deeper meanings and morals of the saga. As flawed as they are, I love the prequels for their tragic tale of a boy who wanted to be a pilot and the forces of light and dark that corrupted and manipulated him to become a villain. I love the original trilogy for the showstopping heroics, the draw of being a part of something greater than yourself, and the belief that everyone has good in them. And I love the sequel trilogy (pre-Episode IX) for showing us that everyone can be a hero – no matter your background – and for reminding us that we all have the ability to grow, change and learn from our failures.

I love that Episode IV is called A New Hope. Because ultimately, that’s what Star Wars has always been about. Hope. Hope that the light will win, even against insurmountable odds. Hope that you can find balance and light within yourself. Hope that you can find your place in this vast universe. Hope that you can learn from your past and become a better person tomorrow. Hope that there is good in everyone.

So that’s why I love Star Wars. It’s always been weird, fun, surprising and wise. We can all be a Force for good and stop living in fear of the unknown and the darkness. As Yoda said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Star Wars reminds us not to let our fears drive us, but that even if we lose or fail, there is always hope.

December Movie Preview

December is one of the biggest months for movies outside of the summer blockbuster season. Awards hopefuls continue to get wide releases and Disney releases its final two blockbusters. There’s plenty to see for everyone, so here’s what I’m most excited about this month.

Jumanji: The Next Level (Dec. 13)

Rating: PG-13
Starring: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas

Four friends and two unlucky grandfathers get sucked back into the Jumanji video game where they must complete a new quest to escape once again.

Why I’m excited: The 2017 sequel to the original Jumanji was a surprise hit and turned out to be a pretty entertaining movie. The main cast was a lot of fun as the avatars for four teenagers. Hopefully they can strike twice with this new sequel.

See this if you liked: Jumanji, Zathura, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Bombshell (Dec. 13)

Rating: PG-13
Starring: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie

Three women who work at Fox News set out to expose the network’s CEO for sexual harassment allegations.

Why I’m excited: In what I’m sure will not be a controversial movie at all, Bombshell will certainly be interesting. I won’t be shocked if this is the beginning of a series of #MeToo movies that are made over the next few years. But with a leading cast of Theron, Kidman and Robbie, this looks ready to come out swinging. And Charlize Theron’s transformation into Megyn Kelly is frighteningly accurate.

See this if you liked: All the President’s Men, The Post, Spotlight

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Dec. 20)

Rating: PG-13
Starring: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels

The Resistance and the First Order, as well as the Jedi and the Sith, face off in climactic battles.

Why I’m excited: I’ve loved Star Wars since I was seven years old. The Rise of Skywalker has the not-at-all daunting task of wrapping up a 42-year-long story. The sequel trilogy has been one of the hottest topics in Hollywood over the past five years, so it will be fascinating to see how J.J. Abrams decides to bring the saga to a close.  

See this if you liked: Any Star Wars movie

Cats (Dec. 20)

Rating: PG
Starring: Jennifer Hudson, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, James Corden, Jason Derulo, Rebel Wilson

On one special night, the Jellicle cats must decide who will ascend to the Heaviside Layer.

Why I’m excited: Cats has repeatedly been called one of the weirdest musicals of all time, but it’s also one of the most successful. The character names are weird, the plot is weird, and nothing seems to make sense. The movie is already making waves for the absolutely insane effects of merging human beings with cats and it just all looks so bizarre that I’m here for it.  

See this if you liked: Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Chicago

Little Women (Dec. 25)

Rating: PG-13
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Timothee Chalamet, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep

Based on the book by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women explores the lives of the four March sisters in post-Civil War New England.

Why I’m excited: Director Greta Gerwig and stars Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet were all part of 2017’s incredible Lady Bird, so bringing this team back together and adding Emma Watson, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep is a dream.

See this if you liked: Lady Bird, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility

Here goes nothing?

I love stories. I’ve always loved watching movies, television, and reading. Stories allow you to experience the world – past, present, future, and fictional. Whether it’s an 11-year-old boy discovering he’s a wizard for the first time or watching Neil Armstrong take his first step on the moon, stories let us live through the eyes of others and empathize with someone different than us.

I don’t remember the first movie I ever saw. I’m sure it was a Disney movie – I was lucky enough to grow up during the height of the Disney Renaissance of the 1990s. To this day, Aladdin and The Lion King are two of my favorite movies of all time. Then, between the ages of 7 and 12, I found three life-changing series that cemented my love of movies forever.

The first was Star Wars. My dad was a kid when A New Hope was first released in 1977, so when the re-releases came out for the 20th anniversary in 1997, we sat down and watched the original trilogy. I was immediately hooked. I still have the original VHS box set that I’m sure doesn’t even play anymore. Then The Phantom Menace came out two years later and blew my nine-year-old mind. Sure, it hasn’t aged well since then, but for a kid it was everything. Luke, Han, Leia, R2, 3PO, Chewie, and Darth Vader have been with me for almost my entire life. I still remember not long after seeing the original trilogy for the first time having nightmares that Darth Vader was going to come into my bedroom (slow-motion style like Luke’s vision in Empire) and kill me. Thankfully, he didn’t. But Star Wars opened up my love of movies and of fantastic worlds in a galaxy far, far away.

The next series found me in book form first. If you were a kid growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s and you hadn’t read Harry Potter, you either thought you were “too cool” or your parents thought it would send you down the path of Satan. I. Was. Obsessed. with Harry Potter. I devoured the books as fast as I could and counted down the days and hours as I waited for each new book to be released. Then in 2000, Warner Bros. announced they were turning Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone into a movie. Boy, was I excited. I still remember going to the theater on opening night with my parents and being in awe. Quidditch was really happening right in front of me! Harry Potter was lightning in a bottle. Especially for kids my age, to grow up with these books and movies, and especially to grow up with Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint – I don’t know if anything like that will ever happen again.

The final series that solidified my love of movies was The Lord of the Rings. I had no relationship with the series before the first movie came out. In fact, Fellowship of the Ring was released just one month after Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and I was already all-in with Harry, so I didn’t even pay attention to Fellowship. Granted, I was 11, so you can’t blame me that much. But once it came out on video, I saw Fellowship at a friend’s birthday party. It was one of those parties where everyone was talking and playing over the movie, but I was able to pay enough attention to realize that this was something I could be into. I watched it again on my own later, and that was it. Lord of the Rings was neck-and-neck with Harry Potter for me during my middle school years. I read the books, saw Two Towers and Return of the King on opening night, and bought all three extended editions (the only way to watch them now). The best part about the extended editions was the hours upon hours of behind the scenes footage and documentaries they included. These opened my eyes to the world of actual filmmaking. I watched these features just as much as (if not more than) the actual movies. From the art design to the Weta armor, from the miniature sets to the music and sound, I wanted to know everything. From then on, movies took on a whole new meaning.

As a quick aside, these three series also developed my obsession with movie scores and soundtracks. I was a band kid, so I was around music a lot, but between John Williams and Howard Shore, movie soundtracks became one of my greatest obsessions. I listened to them throughout high school and college while I did homework or wrote papers. To this day, I still use them when I need to focus at work.

Eventually, I ventured out past the sci-fi and fantasy genre, although it’s still one of my favorite movie genres. Now, I’ll go see anything that piques my interest (although I have to be coerced into watching a horror movie). I’m still catching up on some of the classics and making sure I see as many Oscar contenders each year as I can. The Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off in 2008 and after The Avengers came out in 2012, I sold my soul to Kevin Feige. Are they perfect? Absolutely not, but I’ll defend even the worst of the lot (*cough* Incredible Hulk *cough* The Dark World *cough*).

So who knows what this will turn out being? I’ll probably talk about some of my all-time favorite movies, talk about what new movies I’m looking forward to the most and reviewing some of them, and share my thoughts on the movie industry – as well as I can all the way from Alabama. I may even throw in some TV when I want to.

Will anyone read this? Maybe? But I’m excited about movies and I’m excited to give this a shot.