A Galaxy Far, Far Away
When I was at school, I was never the popular kid. One of the many ways this showed up may surprise many.
“Are you Star Wars or Star Trek?”
In many schools, that was probably a loaded question. Neither answer was the right one and having a preference would get you beaten up regardless.
That’s not my recollection though. Maybe it was just me, but I always got the impression that Star Wars was the cool answer that you could get away with, while Star Trek was the one to get you verbally abused on a good day and physically abused on a bad day.
Unfortunately for me, I tended to answer Star Trek.
But the truth was I never understood the question. Why must you be one or the other? Why not both? My answer was always based on which of the two I preferred, but I was still a massive fan of Star Wars. I just preferred Captain Kirk to Han Solo.
Maybe it was the timing. I went to school in the mid to late 80s. All three Star Wars movies were done and dusted long before I started school, while Star Trek was releasing movies four and five with a new TV series for “The Next Generation” being shown as well.
No surprise then that I was once beaten up for having a Star Trek TNG school bag.
For all my Trekkie preference though, I still grew up with Star Wars taking a proud place among my VHS collection.
Well, A New Hope and Return of the Jedi did anyway. For some reason which I’ve never been sure of, we didn’t get Empire Strikes Back on the initial VHS release. That came later when a digitally remastered version was released – and that’s still before the Special Editions made an appearance. This was still the original untouched story, but just cleaned up a little bit from physical film.
In the meantime, I had to hope that when one of the movies was shown on broadcast TV during a holiday season then they chose Empire so I could get to see it.
Nevertheless, I feel like I grew up with all three movies as part of my childhood. A childhood where Han shot first and the Ewoks celebrated defeating the Empire by singing Yub Nub.
But then, towards the end of my time in school, the special editions were released.
Unfortunately for me, those releases came in a time when Falkirk had a cinema of three screens and I was rarely taken there. I also had a real problem asserting myself as a school kid, so what I wanted to do was usually buried deep in my psyche and was rarely voiced. I didn’t grow out of that until my final year of school, and even then it wasn’t until I went to university that it really stopped being a problem.
Because of that, of the three releases I only managed to get to the final one – Return of the Jedi – and even that came when I went with a friend from school and not my parents. We really weren’t cinema goers. Looking at the dates, there’s a good chance this was the first sign of my assertion finally breaking through. The next would be the release of Oasis’ Be Here Now a few months later.
However, this total lack of experience and street smarts led to one incredibly stupid night.
First of all, let me just point out that I didn’t live in Falkirk, I lived in a village closer to Cumbernauld than Falkirk where public transport barely went and certainly didn’t bother lasting long enough to pick up the late showing cinema goers.
Yeah, we missed the last bus.
So, in the days before mobile phones being popular, and without enough money for a taxi, we were left with a choice. Use a public phone box to organise a lift home or walk.
Which became no choice when it turned out the public phone box didn’t actually work.
The problem with walking is that directly between Falkirk and the village I lived in was not only UFO obsessed Bonnybridge and everything that entails (ie people who are mental enough to think aliens would travel light years to visit Bonnybridge) but also Camelon.
For those who don’t know Camelon, it’s basically the arsehole of Falkirk. And if that offends anyone reading this in Camelon, read on and see why that’s my impression of it!
We actually did quite well. We were almost through Camelon and heading for the empty fields between it and Bonnybridge before we picked up a tail. One resident nutter who pretended to be our drunk friend when really he objected to us daring to walk through his area.
I only realised this when his bottle of buckfast bounced off my head.
I was lucky it bounced to be honest. Had it smashed I would probably have a very different story now. But instead I kept walking as if nothing had happened. I figured that would confuse him, and since we were nearly out of Camelon it seemed a good plan.
Sadly my friend wasn’t on the same wavelength and stopped to confront him. That very quickly lead to him having a couple of teeth knocked out. I didn’t even realise he had stopped until it was too late, at which point the resident nutter has fled.
Weirdly, it’s at this point that my dad turned up. His Spidey sense must have tingled or something as to this day I’ve no idea how he found us or even knew to come. We searched for the nutter but he had disappeared into the depths of Camelon never to be seen again. My friend went to a dentist the next day. We never walked home from the cinema again.
To be honest, I’m not even sure I went to the old Falkirk cinema again either. In later years they built a bigger and better multiplex, and the old cinema is now a trendy sports bar. If there is such a thing.
A couple of years later, new Star Wars was released. I was now at Uni and with new friends and access to cars that we could drive ourselves it made life a lot easier. I was still staying at home through Uni though. Nevertheless, Falkirk was ditched in favour of the bigger cinema in Coatbridge and we all looked forward to the Phantom Menace.
Maybe I’m more forgiving than the internet, but I have no memory of coming out of it and being disappointed. I loved the pod race, I didn’t mind that a wee boy had stopped the occupation because the wee boy was special and I remember an inexperienced farm boy destroying the Death Star.
Looking back on it now, I probably had to account for the fact that I was a teenager and had a real thing for Natalie Portman. That may also explain why three years later I didn’t mind some truly awful cheesy love dialogue and instead I came out reminiscing about how great she looked in the backless dress or that white outfit that got torn.
Actually, I came out raving about the Yoda lightsaber fight, but Natalie Portman was definitely next on the list.
I’d love to claim that I’ve grown out of this by now, but to be honest I enjoy the Thor movies for practically the same reason. And if anything I’ve come to appreciate Carrie Fisher more over the years as well. Indeed there are some scenes in Return of the Jedi where she is stunningly beautiful.
No, not the gold bikini! I’m actually thinking more of scenes on Endor.
When Revenge of the Sith was released in 2005 it meant a whole lot more in my life. I was a month into a new relationship and this was the date that could make or break it. Its one thing going to see some romantic comedy that we’d probably both like, because yes I do like romantic comedies as well, but to take her along to Star Wars and therefore expose her to the full geek that I am is quite another. If she still likes me after this one then I’ve clearly cracked it and she’s a keeper.
Revenge of the Sith is my wife’s favourite of the six. Mission accomplished, though there’s clearly no accounting for taste on her part. And yes I mean that in more ways than one!
Revenge of the Sith is easily the best of the prequels but I, like so many others, would put Empire ahead of A New Hope as the best in the series. Sith is actually third on my list, with Jedi coming in fourth. Clones and Phantom Menace round out the list in that order, but even though I am far more critical of them than I was when they first came out I do still love to watch them.
You see, there are fantastic moments in them all. I still love the pod race, as pointless as it may be. The Yoda lightsaber battle is a scene I once saw stop a Glasgow pub in its tracks as everyone turned to watch it on screens that had been showing the whole movie on mute as music played instead. That was an very surreal experience, I’ve never seen anything stop a pub before or since.
Sith has an amazing opening space battle and ends with the lightsaber battle we all wanted to see from the minute we heard we were getting prequels. It’s far from perfect but my inner geeky child loves it as it ticks all the boxes.
The classic trilogy have their own iconic scenes of course. From blowing up the death star, to “I am your father” to, yes, the gold bikini. There are so many more though I could be here forever listing them. Personally, I loved the Yoda scenes as a kid and even today he’s my favourite character of all of Star Wars.
But there is one common thread that runs through them all. One thing I not only love consistently through all six movies, but something where I have always thought Star Wars beats Star Trek.
Star Trek has some great music, but Star Wars has some truly iconic themes that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Nothing could describe Star Wars better than to call it a space opera. From the opening overture, to the imperial March, to the various character themes, the original trilogy had plenty. Those were added to with the likes of Duel of the Fates, Across the Stars, and Battle of the Heroes.
I have all six movies soundtracks on my Google Music library. I’ve already preordered The Force Awakens soundtrack because I know John Williams will do a fantastic job as he always does. I actually have more faith in him than JJ Abrams truth be told.
Not that I don’t trust JJ, but he could go off on one in an attempt to put his own stamp on the universe. I’ve seen him do it with Star Trek already! But I don’t think he will.
It’s less that a week until I get to see the new movie. I’d love to see A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back on the big screen, but that can wait for another day. Right now it’s all about one thing.
There’s new Star Wars coming!
I’ve been excited about it since Disney bought the rights and we all knew what was coming next. Star Wars just excites the inner child in me, in a way that even the terrific Marvel Cinematic Universe movies can’t. It’s the space aspect that just ticks that final box. And yes, Guardians of the Galaxy came really close. But not quite close enough.
But this is also the main difference between Star Wars and Star Trek for me. Star Trek is geeky in an intellectual way. It makes me think about issues and ideas in a geeky way. Star Wars is more action and more fun. JJ Abrams probably gets that, and he even tried to make Star Trek more like that with his two movies. That’s why I think he’ll do a good job with Star Wars.
Well, that and the fact he hasn’t spoiled anything with his trailers. I’m still avoiding the TV spots though, just in case! The two days between The Force Awakens release and me seeing it for myself will no doubt be difficult though. I know too many people who are going to see it before me.
As you can see, I’ve a few stories from the past six movies. So what story will I get from the next movie? Hopefully something better than a bottle over the head, but it doesn’t need to go as far as confirming the woman I’m with is a keeper!
Actually, this time I already know the next story to an extent. My baby brother wasn’t born when Sith was released, but I’ll be taking him to see The Force Awakens. He’s probably as excited as I am, except it’s probably more acceptable for him since he’s seven years old.
In years to come I hope there are other next generation stories for me. My son is a bit young for Star Wars yet, but we know there’s far more to come in the Star Wars saga. So there’s plenty of time to get him ready for that!
For now though, ten years after the prequel trilogy was completed, we’re ready to go again. A new story and cast blended with some old favourites that have been there since before I was born. What a prospect that is.
Chewie, we’re home.