A Long Time ago in a galaxy far, far away….
Well Omagh and it was only 25 years ago, but I’m sure you get the reference anyway: I vividly remember playing with my Millennium Falcon in my bed-room (that’s not a euphemism you filthy bugger, I was nine-years old!) as I spent yet another Saturday playing Star Wars.
Once again a rather a bruised and battered Luke Skywalker, who’d long lost any facial features through repeated wear and tear was facing off against the dreaded Darth Vader; although I’m pretty sure my skeletor figure had to stand in for the Dark Lord as I don’t remember ever actually owning a Darth Vader figurine.
You see I remember playing with those toys as if it was yesterday (Sadly it’s not), I knew the entire story of Star Wars, I knew all the Empire and the Jedi,I knew that Anakin Skywalker was Luke’s father, he’d fallen to the Dark Side and become Darth Vader and Luke was determined to save him.
I knew all about Han, Chewie and Leia etc…
But there’s one important thing to bear in mind: I’m pretty certain when I was nine I’d never seen any of the movies.
Maybe I’m misremembering it, or over-romancing my love for all things Star Wars; but that’s how I remember it anyway! First came the toys, then came the movies. I remember the packaging for each figure came with a vivid back-story for their character, so anyone who had those toys would’ve known practically everything about their character’s role within the Star Wars saga.
Now that I’m older I’ve watched the movies umpteen times and found myself deeply smitten with Lucas’s Sci-Fi western, but that affection doesn’t solely come from the films; but more so my nostalgia for playing with those toys when I was younger.
Pure Cinema at its Finest!
Don’t get me wrong Lucas’s 1977 feature is the definition of pure cinema: that iconic opening crawl, John Williams’ score, the star ship designs and rich characters which populate its fantastic ‘used universe’.
In my eyes nothing has ever come close to replicating the pure escapism that Star Wars offered for the mere price of a cinema ticket: It took us to a galaxy far, far away and left a lasting legacy impact upon many cinemagoers and filmmakers ever since. At a push I’d say James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy is probably the closest any film has ever come to replicating the space opera aesthetic of Lucas’s original.
But for all its qualities Lucas clearly saw the potential cash cow that Star Wars offered, he wasn’t the first and he surely won’t be the last; Planet of the Ages churned out a bucket load of mechanise long before anyone ever got their hands on an AT-AT (a much prized possession of mine). You see even the most cutting age special effects can’t compete with a child’s imagination.
Milking the Cash Cow
Long before the ‘House of Mouse’ had got their hands on the franchise I’d continued the franchise well beyond Episode VI on my own. Within the confines of my bed-room Luke and co had gotten up to all kinds of adventures long after the Return of the Jedi finished on the planet of Endor. More than likely they’d teamed up with the Ghostbusters or Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and I’d probably crossed the Star Wars/Star Trek divide long before J.J. Abrams ever did.
What can I say I was an only child with an overactive imagination who had a love for all things Star Wars: Andy from Toy Story had Buzz and Woody; I had Han and Chewie. I’m sure I’m not the only one, I know I’m odd, but I don’t think I’m that odd!
That’s why I think the franchise has seeped so well into popular culture, a generation grew up with all sorts of Star Wars merchandise: there were cartoons, books, video-games, comics, duvet covers and don’t get me started on the stationary!
We were bloody marinated in Star Wars, so no wonder there’s so many people with such fondness for the franchise.7
Star Wars for a New Generation
It’s happening again, there’s a new generation of girls and boys who’ll grow up with Finn, Rey and Kylo Ren, who’ll want all the same merch as we did when we were younger.
Grumpy ole sods like me will complain that it’s not the same, Disney only wanted Star Wars for the lucrative merchandise and claim these new films are creatively and morally bankrupt: but it’s no different from what Lucas did and if we were all a little younger we’d probably lap it all up.
Maybe that’s why many fans my age reacted much more positively to Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One; it took us back to the original trilogy’s timeline and told a story that directly bled into the events of A New Hope.
The Force Awakens might have rehashed the formula of Episode IV, but it laid the foundations for a new trilogy of films, but controversially bumped off one of the franchise’s most iconic characters.
Hand Railings! When will they learn?
It was at that exact moment, when ole Han came a cropper at the hands of his wayward emo son and the First Order’s poor safety standards, that so many older Star Wars fans realised this new franchise wasn’t for them. It was geared at a younger generation, it just so happened that some of the characters from the original trilogy were still hanging around for the ride.
No matter what happens with Episode VIII and Episode IX and any future standalone Star Wars movies there’ll always be a love for the franchise. May the 4th is now a thing and don’t forget about the Revenge of the 5th , Stars Wars might be back, but the honest truth is that for the past forty years it’s never really left the public realm.
She was our Princess!
Take the outpouring of grief when Carrie Fischer sadly passed away in. Her death touched many, for me personally maybe more so than the deaths of both David Bowie and Prince last year.
For some it was because she was ‘their princess’ but for me it was probably down to Fischer herself rather than the character she played onscreen. Fischer was a remarkably funny woman who sadly suffered from manic depression and drug addiction, but she wasn’t shackled by those personal demons: more so she embraced them and wore them as a badge of honour.
But I’ve digressed away from the original idea of this article; I wanted to talk about my love for Star Wars and how the toys played such a big part in fuelled my love for the franchise.
Lets Get Back to the Toys!
As I said earlier maybe I’m over-romancing it or putting far too much emphasis on the toys, because don’t get me wrong the films are great (well maybe not the prequels).
It’s just a nice reminder of the joy toys can bring, when all too often they’re seen as nothing more than shameless merchandise: they are, I know that, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help fuel our creativity and imagination!
Maybe to some it might seem terribly cynical to have such a fondness for those things, but as an only-child growing up in a rural part of Northern Ireland, before the days of high-speed internet and online gaming those lazy Saturdays in my bed-room playing with those toys will always hold a special place in my heart!
It’s impossible not to look back upon them with rose-tinted glasses…..