You’ve probably heard something like this before: Star Wars was the first movie I saw in a theater and it blew my little mind. I saw each of the original three films multiple times in the theater and probably around a hundred times since then. Though it kicked off the blockbuster culture in Hollywood I’d argue that until Batman in 1989, there were no other movies on its level for my friends and I. The Indiana Jones movies were close but they didn’t create a whole other world for adventure to take place in.
Things are much different today. Star Wars is still really popular but it’s not the same experience for kids now as it was for us. Instead of three movies coming out three years apart, they have novels, a TV show, the prequel films, comics, etc. For us, the events before that first battle over Tatooine were a mystery. What was it like when there was still a Jedi order? How exactly did Darth Vader turn to the dark side? Who is Luke and Leia’s mother?
I spent several years after Return of the Jedi finding out if any of these questions had answers. There wasn’t much to go on. Even finding interviews with George Lucas was tough because back in the olden days we didn’t have this fancy interweb. Was I the only one who heard rumors of books existing that told the story of Episodes I-III? It turns out the idea that books existed before the movies came from the fact that the Star Wars novelization came out a year before the film. If I’d known that I would’ve been able to give up the search a lot earlier.
By the way, that novelization had a short summary of what happened before the original movie that gave the only answers I was ever able to find. In just over a page it laid out how the Republic had fallen as Palpatine took over as Emperor. It was the most exciting page I had ever read. The novelization of Return of the Jedi also revealed that Darth Vader’s injuries were a result of being knocked into a “molten pit” by Obi Wan Kenobi.
I’ve formed the opinion that Star Wars has lost much of its magic as Lucas and others have filled in every blank space. I used to get excited imagining a squad of Jedis going into battle together. We’ve now seen that a hundred times. No need to wonder how Yoda handled a lightsaber fight. He has one every other week. We now know what Anakin was like and who the twins’ mother was and it was, um, uninspiring. Plus the books and comics have charted out a history of the galaxy stretching thousands of years before the films and hundreds of years following. I haven’t read many of them because the one’s I did depressed me by turning my favorite space opera into a soap opera.
So am I being a grumpy old man thinking what was once magic is now routine? Is my whole point of view because I experienced the original films as a child? Let’s face it, you can’t love any movie as much as an adult as you could then. Or am I right in thinking that Lucas has dimmed Star Wars‘ luster by turning it into just another franchise?