A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there was a perfect movie. Full of action, adventure, brave heroes and heroines, evil villains and strange worlds. The story began, evolved, climaxed and then wrapped up with a perfect little bow. It was pure cinematic love.
And then there was "The Phantom Menace."
The other day I was at a rummage sale in Cortland. Clutching my prize find (a velvet painting of a lion) I spied the VHS box set of "Star Wars" Episodes IV-VI - pre-Special Edition. You know, before George Lucas added a bunch of unnecessary CGI cutesyness. And definitely before they added young Anakin Skywalker at the end of "Return of the Jedi" instead of the guy we saw under Darth Vader's mask before he, um, did stuff I will leave unsaid for those who have yet to experience "Star Wars."
Already owning all versions of the VHS box sets, I noticed it not wanting to buy it, but as another reminder of how the perfect awesome movie was tinkered and tweaked until it became something else entirely; of how what was once a source of wonder was now a source of debate and contention; of how nothing gold can stay.
Like so many '80s/'90s kids, I was in love with "Star Wars." The timeless story of good vs. evil, light vs. darkness was a message even the littlest moviegoer could understand. Watching Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia and the other Rebels as they fought to end the evil rule of Darth Vader and the Emperor lit the fires of rooting for good guys, the pure of heart.
Even the toys, the awesome, awesome toys, opened doors of creativity. Kids could invent their own heroic tales with their Hoth Luke action figure -?or just repeatedly trap him in the Jabba's Palace playset dungeon.
The little space-movie-that-could became a juggernaut, and though we were happy to live with our happy "Star Wars" memories, in 1999 the first of the prequels was released.
Imagine, if for a fleeting moment, your favorite sports team had a perfect record, did all the right plays, and every fan was content. It stood as a shining example of excellence in its field. And then they turned into the Browns.
I am reluctant to say I hate the prequels. I don't want to write them off. I have a little Yoda toy on my desk right now. I will put up with a dozen pod races for some Yoda. I need to give them another go.
There are parts I like very much. The scenes of lovable walking carpet Chewbacca's home planet, Kashyyyk. The big reveal of the under-construction Death Star. Samuel L. Jackson just existing.
But after the prequels came out, anything further altering or adding to the "Star Wars" universe granted trepidation. The original films were lightning in a bottle - a time and place that can't be recaptured, or equaled.
J.J. Abrams has been tasked with directing the new batch of "Star Wars" movies, the first to be released in 2015. He did a good job with the "Star Trek" reboots. Godspeed.
Today, May the Fourth, may the force (or clever puns) be with you. "Star Wars" represents the purity of light over darkness, the magic of storytelling, and childlike wonder. We need more of that in the world. And we definitely do not need any more Jar-Jar Binks. Burn it with fire.
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