Itâ€™s the first film I remember seeingâ€¦ vague recollections of peering between adult heads at a world-sized movie screen as X-Wings locked their S-foils in attack position. At the tender age of five, the wax cylinders in my brain were still soft, and these images carved deep impressions. Exposed to the concepts of war, death, desire, love, heroism, and victory of a raspy, breath-sucking evil, the next seven years of my life would be dominated by these images, with a message as powerful to a young, impressionable mind as the Bible itself. My parents would read Scripture to me at bedtime, and I would listen to the Star Wars story on my record player in the morning.
My older brother and I spent most days creating new and exciting adventures for Luke Skywalker and Han Solo (there were, after all, three agonizing years between each movie installment) and non-Star Wars toys we received became casting extras. GI Joeâ€™s were drafted into the Rebel Alliance, and Fisher Price racecar drivers became sleazy bounty hunters that consorted with Boba Fett and IG-88. We knew every intimate detail of the Star Wars Universe; expanded universe novels were some of the first books I read. Lucas had successfully reinvented multimedia movie merchandising, creating the template for every event movie to follow.
My brother and I surfed the furious Star Wars tidal wave, living exclusively within its tube. The rows of corn and beans in our garden were the narrow corridors of the Death Star detention center. The wide, growth stunted pine tree in our backyard served as the Millennium Falcon; straddling wide, twisted limbs, we bombed scores of TIE Fighters with our pine cone blasters. Looking back, I spent more time in a galaxy far, far away than I did in the real world. It did, however, stoke the fires of imagination that would fuel me for years to come and fixed in me a personality trait patterned after a certain Corellian pirate.
Seduced by the Scoundrel
My father brought home a worn, library-discarded copy of Han Soloâ€™s Revenge. It chronicled an adventure of the stylish, self-serving rogue before his appearance in the first movie. His â€œdevil-may-careâ€ attitude and brusque personality tickled my fancy. My older brother admired the honest, upright, dedicated Luke Skywalkerâ€¦ but where was the fun in that? Han played by his own rules, took no crap from anyone, and even informed the uptight Princess that she liked him â€œbecause Iâ€™m a scoundrelâ€. Han had his personal, self-defined code of honor, but could be smarmy, double-dealing, and sneaky (despite the revisionist history of the Special Edition, Greedo did NOT shoot first!) The irreverent pirate, rebel without a cause, man with a plan, dude with a â€˜tudeâ€¦ Han Solo respected only his Wookie comrade, and those select few he allowed close enough to be his friend. Not only that, but who got the girl? Luke? I donâ€™t think so.
And thus, I found my role model (every kid in the day favored one of our intrepid star-hoppers). My brother could have Luke and his faithful, nausea-inducing devotionâ€”I knew who I wanted to emulate in life. Heck, even when death seems imminent for our dashing hero, and Leia reveals her true, unfettered feelings (â€œI love you!â€), Han responds casually with â€œI know.â€ Ah, smarmy to the lastâ€¦.
Then, when Return of the Jedi came out, Iâ€”now elevenâ€”didnâ€™t know which factor annoyed me more: those silly midget teddy bears stealing the spotlight, or the fact that Solo had sold out… (to be continued)