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Star Wars Universe and Little Me

While I enjoyed the Star Wars original trilogy very much, it was Episode I that drove me to the fan side of the Franchise.

Photo: Chatta Duangsuwan

I was about seven years old when my father bought the “Star Wars” original trilogy box set. In the following months I’m sure he secretly regretted that purchase; because like a child who has discovered an enjoyable film or cartoon, I rewatched the three episodes over and over again, seemingly never bored. Of the trio, “Return of the Jedi” received the most reviews. Why? I ask my father, for the record. “You liked the little furry things,” says he, referring to the Ewoks.

“A New Hope” came in second place. It was a fun movie, full of snappy exchanges. The line yours truly giggled at most was: “Will somebody get this big walking carpet out of my way?” says her worshipfulness, Princess Leia, to the towering Wookiee in her path; but more to spite Han Solo than offend Chewbacca. Still, poor Chewie. Nobody gets him.

“The Empire Strikes Back” received the least rewatches of the three films; though not because I didn’t like it, rather I liked it less than the first and third installments. On the other hand, Yoda did make a very memorable introduction in this movie. I chuckle every time I think about that scene where Yoda repeatedly hits R2-D2 with his gimer stick, screaming “Mine! Mine! Mine!” as the two scuffle for a small lamp.

Many months after the receiving the box set, it came to my attention that a new episode had been released the year before; containing vital information pertaining to the open investigation of: who is Darth Vader, and why is he dressed like Batman?

“The Phantom Menace” was a visual spectacle full of pizzazz; everything a boy with delusions of grandeur such as myself could appreciate. I fell for Queen Amidala of the Naboo instantly; the red costume, her gravity, the palace! Obi-Wan Kenobi had a cool accent. Podracing looked like a thrill. Coruscant was a jaw-dropping planet. The alternating sequences of events between Queen Amidala infiltrating the palace, and Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi taking on Darth Maul (all the while “Duel of the Fates” playing chorally in the background), was the height of cinematic awesomeness in my view.

So while I enjoyed the original trilogy very much, it was Episode I that drove me to the fan side of the Franchise. Indeed, from then on, all I wanted for Christmas was “Star Wars” Lego sets; and on birthdays, “Star Wars” cross-section books by DK. One year, friends of my father from the generous land of Switzerland, gave me medium-sized models of an X-wing starfighter and a Snowspeeder. It was a good year.

Episode II confirmed my preferences. The battle on Geonosis gave us another big showdown; full of lightsaber swinging and decapitated droids; plus we finally got to see the light side used in full force through Yoda during his acrobatic fight with Count Dooku (Saruman!). On the other hand, I must admit that I’m still not entirely used to serious Grand Master Yoda in the prequels, given that on Dagobah he was so eccentric and funny.

The score for Episode III was implemented very successfully, it should be noted; well placed throughout the film, and a substitute for dialogue in many scenes. “The Birth of the Twins and Padmé’s Destiny” is my favorite; beginning with playful chiming as the babies are delivered, then turning eerily mournful as the scene fades to Padmé Amidala’s funeral.

A few years after “Revenge of the Sith” my passion for “Star Wars” simmered down a bit, I must confess, as Star Trek came into my life and seduced me with its lofty ideals; Star Trek Voyager in particular.

However, my interest returned after watching the feature film for “The Clone Wars” TV series. The animated show takes place during the three years between Episodes II and III; revealing how the Clone Wars unfolded. It is very well produced, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching every season. Actually, for a show airing on Cartoon Network, the storylines could get surprisingly dark, and some of the vicious characters in the show make Darth Vader look kind of ‘meh’. One example is Asajj Ventress; my favorite character in the “Star Wars” universe.

Referred to mostly by her last name, Ventress is a complicated character with a dark past. Driven by her hatred for the Jedi, she becomes Count Dooku’s Sith apprentice and assassin. What makes Ventress different from the other lightsaber users in the franchise, is her ability to wield two at the same time; a skill that comes in handy as she is frequently pitted against Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, one against two. Indeed, she is a very skilled combatant and powerful in the dark side of the Force; enough to seriously concern Darth Sidious at one point. Ventress is not a dame to kill for. She is a killing dame.

After getting into the TV series, I decided to explore the expanded universe. Many books have been written since the original trilogy came out, some set during the film era, filling in story gaps that were suggested but not explored in the films or TV series; while the legends take us on quite a different journey, going as far back to the early days of the Je’daii Order, to Darth Bane conceptualizing the “Rule of Two,” to Darth Plagueis manipulating a progressive young man from Naboo, Sheev Palpatine.

To be honest, I haven’t actually read any of the “Star Wars” novels; though only because I enjoy listening to them too much. The audiobooks are brilliantly produced. The narrators are masters of voices; Padmé Amidala in one scene, Master Yoda in another. Familiar music and sound effects from the franchise accompany the narration; from the sound of clashing lightsabers during duels, to the clinking of glasses and laughing of patrons in a cantina. Such attention to detail brings the story to life and enriches the experience. It’s like listening to a movie.

So saying, this brings me to the topic of “The Force Awakens” (without George Lucas). It was entertaining and visually stimulating, to be sure; the gender ratio improved, though still far from balanced; and it continued a story that I have been following for a greater part of my life. All that being said, however, I did not ‘connect’ with this episode in the same way that I did with the other aforementioned material from the franchise. There are a few possible reasons for this. Perhaps my expectations were too high; maybe I don’t really understand what “Star Wars” is actually all about; or it might have something to do with the fact that I prefer the prequels over the originals – which, according to the internet, is against (Re)public opinion, and so I suppose that makes me a Separatist.

If my sacrilegious sentiments are raising your emotions at this point, please indulge me by citing the Jedi mantra: “There is no emotion, there is peace.” If this fails, then I encourage you to tap into your hatred and embrace the dark side of the Force. Together we will rule the Galaxy! Mwahahaha!

Anyway, I remain content with the “Star Wars” franchise at large; there are still many audiobooks, another animated TV series “Rebels,” and gameplays on Youtube that are on my to do list. Besides, it’s quite possible that “The Last Jedi” (Episode VIII) will inspire me with a new hope; or maybe in a few years time when I rewatch these later films, appreciate them I will. After all, it took me a few years before I was finally ok with Jar Jar Binks.

By Boripat Lebel

Boripat Lebel is a research coordinator at the Unit for Social and Environmental Research at Chiang Mai University. He authored the eBook “A Vomit of Diamonds.” Boripat can also be found on LinkedIn .