29 November 2012

Star Wars Episode VII: A New Fan

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away . . . 

Okay, so not that long ago (I’m not that old—yet) and not so far, far away (my current house is approximately 15 minutes away from my childhood one), but life happens and it does create distance and space between the person you were and the person you are. Once I was a truly avid (obsessive) fan of Star Wars and a devoted collector of the assorted toys and trinkets that were generated by the original trilogy. And now I’m an adult. Kind of.

Sure, I still enjoy Star Wars. I don’t watch the movies regularly or anything, but they were such an integral part of my youth that I’ll never totally let them go. And I’m sort of a Brian Posehn-type Star Wars nerd, with an almost unhinged reverence for the original trilogy, in its original form. A bit of a skeptic when it comes to the second trilogy (for every awesome lightsaber fight or inspired Ewan McGregor line reading, there is an equal number of Jar Jar Binks-esque debacles), a flat-out denier of the revamped re-releases (don’t get me started on that whole Greedo shooting first thing).

So Star Wars meant a lot to me, once. And I did devote a lot of time to collecting the toys. Which, to this day, I never got rid of. Obviously, I haven’t played with them in years, but they’re still there, boxed up, in my parents’ basement. Not that I ever really played with them then. I was a weird kid, who would set up elaborate tableaus and not actually “play” with any of them. Just re-created scenes from the flicks.

I guess I never gave up them for several reasons. Again, the time and energy that went into it. The cataloguing of all that stuff. The way I would later in life with books and films and LPs. It seemed odd to just let it all go in a garage sale when I’d literally spent years of my life as a child and adolescent committed to the enterprise. (No wonder it took so long to get any action or attention from girls. Anyway.) And when I started to frequent comic book shops as a teenager and see old, still-packaged Star Wars toys up on the shelves, I figured I could hang on to them for several more years and maybe they’d just increase in value and when (or if) I really needed it, I could sell them all and finance some kind of film or art project or something.

And maybe, possibly, in the back of my head, I thought I may someday have a kid I could share them with. In hindsight, it's a pretty weird thought and I’m not sure it was the primary motivator in holding on to the stuff, but nevertheless, this is what seems to have happened.

There are actually several major things that have happened recently in the Star Wars universe. There was the announcement of Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm and the plan to start making a new Star Wars trilogy, beginning with the mythic, long-debated, increasingly unlikely (until now) Episode 7 in 2015. And then there’s Star Wars Angry Birds. Yeah, that happened.

And perhaps most significantly, at least in my world, the Doozer is now very interested in Star Wars. It’s hard to say how it started, how any of these things start. He was aware of it for a while, had a few of my old action figures he played with from time to time. He got a Lego catalog in the mail which he was super-excited about. There’s a lot of (very expensive) Star Wars-themed sets and characters in it. And so he started asking a lot of questions about those and we’d talk about it, delving into the details of the movies, the stories, the characters.

The barrage of questions just kept coming, like determined Rebel fighters attacking the Death Star. His interest and excitement seemed to know now bounds. Standing in the kitchen one night, cleaning up after dinner, contending with a litany of such questions, my wife said to me, “I’m never going to have this.” We have two sons now, and the likelihood that their interests will so closely overlap with those she had as a kid are sort of slim. It became clear that what was happening was something pretty special. And maybe I should embrace it.

The questions continued: Is that a good guy? Is he a bad guy? Did you own that toy? Does that guy go to the snow planet? Why does the Rancor live in Jabba the Hutt’s basement? And as the questions intersected the galaxy, covering the gamut of events and characters that comprise the original trilogy, the Doozer asked a question about the chronology or timeline, which prompted me to inform him of how the story was laid out.

Without really thinking, I said, “Well, there’s three movies, actually.”

“That your daddy acknowledges,” the wife quickly interjected with a hint of sarcasm. True. Maybe.

And speaking of movies, in 2015, he’ll be 7 years old. Which is kind of the perfect age for a new Star Wars movie, I think. Just as long as they don’t hire Nicholas Winding Refn to do a highly stylized, ultra-violent, Boba Fett-centric flick about intergalactic bounty hunting.

But honestly, how much would you pay to watch that thing?

So, anyway, there I am, in the basement of my parents’ house, searching for these old toys because my 4-year-old son won’t stop asking about them. Discovering all the stuff I’ve stored there over time. Sifting through an entire existence, wondering, what is that? Why is this thing still around? Why did I ever even own that? This weird excavation of earlier forms of yourself. Action figures and lad mags and old journals. Mementoes, souvenirs, textbooks, trinkets, posters.

It makes you think. About who we are and who we were. What connects you to that time. Am I still that person in some way? And then I start thinking about the Doozer. He’s going to have some of the same experiences. The same trials and hardships, even. As he starts to grow and our worlds start to overlap a little bit more, what kind of person will he become? What else might we get to have in common? Will we ever have anything else in common again?

Looking at these toys now, I realize they exert a strong pull on my memory. They represent something lost, in a way: The time before mortgages and health insurance and student loans and diapers and preschool payments and auto loans. The days of an allowance, of saving up money from chores and birthdays with the single-minded purpose of expanding this collection, this assortment of spaceships and Jedis and stormtroopers and monsters, which enabled a little kid with a big imagination to have grand adventures on the living room floor.

Because even though it’s all make-believe, there is a force. A pretty powerful one. The force of nostalgia, of wonder, of discovery. Of creativity and imagination. I know that, in a way, Star Wars inspired me to write. To make up my own stories. So for every misstep George Lucas has made, at least he did that. He put that positive energy out into the world. That influence can still be seen and felt in things like the work of J.J. Abrams and Junot Díaz, the hilarious, winking references of Paul, as well as some delicious bits of Eddie Izzard comedy.

It’s about escape and adventure. When you’re a kid, it’s all you want. Of course you’re never going to blow up the Death Star or race a speeder bike, pilot the Millennium Falcon or face off against Boba Fett. But if you’re lucky, you don’t lose that sense, that feeling. For wonder. And adventure. Because it turns out, life is a pretty big adventure. Sure, there aren’t any lightsabers, space smugglers, Wookies, or Jedis, but it turns out, you don’t really need them. Because as it turns out, your kid is kind of an awesome little wizard or space pirate all on his own.

So, yeah, I’m going to go play Star Wars with my kid now. And likely spend all night answering an onslaught of questions about good guys and bad guys, snow planets and monsters, droids and bounty hunters. And I’m going to love every single moment of it. As long as it lasts.

May the Force be with you . . .

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