In the last Full Force, we discussed fandom and what it means to be a fan. It’s an interesting topic and one that’s been on my mind recently with two major Star Wars announcements arriving through the pipeline: that future Star Wars movies will (mostly) disregard the current expanded universe, and the reveal of Episode VII’s cast that includes the return of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford.
For the bulk of my years up through the turn of the millennium, I was a Star Wars fan. The first movie I ever saw in a movie theatre was Return of the Jedi, and it instantly hooked me. For years, Star Wars-related gifts were staples at birthdays and Christmases. When the movies appeared on TV, I had to watch them, without question. In time I had practically memorized original trilogy, from scenery to words. I had a large cache of novels, from written adaptations of the movies to any Star Wars book that had been written up to that point. I had Star Wars posters and art books and games. I held my own in discussions with friends about Han, Luke, and Leia. Just like 8-year-olds and dinosaurs, I could rattle off the names of droids, ships, and bounty hunters with ease.
When the re-mastered (and doctored) original trilogy was released in theatres in 1997, I was utterly excited! My friends and I made plans to see each of the three movies on their opening weekends, and we didn’t miss a beat. I had such a blast seeing the Millennium Falcon whiz by on the big screen, but…well, the newer bits, the things Lucas had added – Jabba and Greedo in Star Wars, the Wampa in The Empire Strikes Back, Jabba’s new band in Return of the Jedi – just didn’t sit right with me. I didn’t hate the changes outright, but they didn’t add anything to the movies for me. Looking back on it now, that was probably the beginning of the end.
I’ll admit I got caught up in the initial indignation from fans. How could Lucas butcher his classics?? These are the movies I wanted to make, he claimed in interviews, the originals were unfinished! Um…what?? Nobody looked back on the Wizard of Oz twenty years later thinking hmm, if only we could have done that tornado scene with better special effects… Blasphemy! I wasn’t as upset as some as I still bought the “new” trilogy on tape (and eventually DVD), but I did begin a slow and semi-unconscious detaching process. There once was a time when I sought to watch the original trilogy at least once a month; I stopped doing that. There once was a time when I’d be in the first in line for new Star Wars novels; I stopped paying attention. There was once a time when I would have welcomed a Han Solo action figure or Princess Leia cup; I stopped asking for them. Over the course of a couple years, I just…stopped…being a fan.
I don’t want to get mired in the debacle of Episodes I, II, and III, but suffice to say they didn’t help any. My curiosity was definitely aroused when the prequels were announced. We braved the sometimes moody crowds in order to see all three of them, but they did not revive my fandom. As life progressed, as school and new jobs and new places happened, I stowed away my Star Wars love. I stopped associating a part of myself with that universe. I gave away most of my books and posters and Star Wars paraphernalia.
Now, I didn’t wholly separate myself from Luke, Leia, and Han. They popped up in my thoughts from time to time, especially when very early rumors began to surface about possible sequels to the original trilogy. I watched a few episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and liked them enough. Going back to the movies was tougher for some reason (to this day, it’s been close to a decade since I’ve watched the original trilogy in full). The mere thought of watch them made me deeply sad; I just couldn’t man up and face watching something that I had once loved so intensely.
But my comatose fandom wasn’t six feet under…yet. A little something called LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game helped resuscitate it to a surprisingly lively state. I watched it being played on the original hefty Xbox and kind of fell back in…like (love was still a ways off). It was…cute…and funny. The developers obviously knew the source material well enough to both pay tribute and keep things very cheeky. When I picked up LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga for my DS some years later, I found myself right back in 1983 with Return of the Jedi, watching the Ewoks and speeder bikes with intensity and absolute adoration. The Star Wars love, it returned, if diminished from what was, but awoken nonetheless.
Today, I’m close to being a Star Wars fan again. I may not have much to show for it — I don’t remember ship schematics as well as I used to, I’m pretty rusty on character names, and I’m not going to be able to talk about Princess Amadala (I typed that without gagging, thank you very much) – but I’m excited for what was and what’s to come. Episode VII might be awesome, and it might not. But at least it’s happening. And honestly, based on J. J. Abrams’s previous outings, I’m sure it will excite at least some fans, both latent and obvious.