Note: If you aren't a fan of Star Wars, you are excused from reading the following!
I wasn't one of those kids who immediately flocked to see the original Star Wars movie back in 1977. Maybe I was just that bit too young, or more likely, my parents showed little interest in taking me to see it when it first came out. It is a shame, although I didn't take too long to get hooked, because I remember going to the ABC cinema in Golders Green Road to see the first two movies in one showing (circa 1983), just so that I could understand what the third one was all about.
I do recall that double feature being a very long experience (enjoyable as it was) as well as the frisson of genuine surprise I experienced when Darth Vader made that famous admission at the end of The Empire Strikes Back - I know that you are probably aware of what he told Luke, but something within me, as a movie buff precludes me from giving away one of the all time greatest movie twists. The later admission in the third movie seemed less of a shock.
I also remember that Sunday when Star Wars was shown on TV for the very first time. I was in Golders Hill Park with my parents that afternoon, counting the hours till it's evening transmission. Either I was a very sad case, or television was so much more exciting in those pre-VCR days. I'd like to think the latter - because when it came on, I was genuinely excited, but I can't remember whether I'd set it yet or not.
Anyway, I think I redeemed myself somewhat by watching the The Return Of The Jedi when it came out (as a single feature, thank G-d) in the cinema and I did know all three stories by this time, since I'd also bought them as comic strips. Ah, those were the days! In fact, I clearly remember buying the third comic book immediately after I'd seen the final movie (i.e. that same afternoon).
Although I hadn't seen the movies in the late seventies,I did collect the figurines, as well as the X-wing fighter, the desert cruiser (which my late great-aunt gave me as a birthday present) and my treasured cardboard Death Star, which I received for being a good boy - not something that happened often(!) and which gave me no end of entertainment. Being an only child, I used to spend hours playing with my Death Star. I then stupidly gave all of my Star Wars merchandise to my cousin when I felt I'd outgrown it. Who thought then that it would be worth quite a bit?
The Return Of The Jedi came and went and the wonderful Star Wars trilogy ended. That was that - at least for me.
Ten years ago, after we were married, we went to the cinema to see all three Star Wars movies in their re-released (and superior) form. We even booked, because they were that popular. I then came to the conclusion that the Empire Strikes Back was the best of the three - an opinion that I have yet to change.
We soon found out that George Lucas's clever ploy in re-releasing the movies was simply to whet our appetite for three more prequels. This time, I didn't miss out and saw the movies as soon as they came out. Of course, my expectations that they would match their sequels was unrealistic and maybe aside from the Revenge Of The Sith, which one can relate to, as it brings the story closer to the start of the first Star Wars film - and you see Vader, Luke and Leia for the first time, I don't believe that the originals need to worry about competition in the quality states.
I'm going to make a confession here.
I didn't quite understand the story lines of at least the first two films. Yes, I got the general idea, but didn't put together in my mind the continuing theme of the emperor's crucial role behind the scenes, in pulling the strings and causing general mayhem in order to consolidate his position.
Whereas I had understood the original stories from the very start, these episodes (at least in the cinema) were far more sophisticated in tone and maybe as a result, infinitely more confusing.
I found there to be much too much information provided at the start (where the text appears horizontally) for me to grasp the initial storyline and this, coupled with some truly stunning special effects dazzled me (especially in the cinema) at the expense of providing some pretty dense and confusing plot lines.
So why am I telling you all of this?
Last week, I went to HMV in the Trocadero, Piccadilly Circus with the aim of spending the generous vouchers I had received for my birthday. I walked around the store for an hour-and-a-half picking up and then putting down countless DVDs, trying to get what I wanted, without over-spending too much (I'd worked out that this would happen, irrespective of how much I'd received).
Eventually, I settled on the extended Lord Of The Rings box set (which I'll watch when I have 12 hours to spare) and of course the entire Star Wars sixtology (I think that word exists and it sounds more prosaic than "sextuplet") set. Over the last week, I have been working my way through the series and with the beauty of DVD (i.e. you can pause the writing at the start to take it in and rewind whenever you want to watch a key scene again), finally enjoying and understanding the first three movies.
That said, I still believe the original trilogy to be superior, not least because the characters of Luke, Han, Leia, Chebacca and the droids are so much more interesting than Anakin, Obi-Wan and Padme. I find that I can relate to them in a deeper sense. In other words, I find that I care about them more as people (and as a result, what happens to them) than about their predecessors - and that's why I believe the original movies score higher with everyone than their prequels.
I would also add that the original story lines are clearer and ultimately, we all relate to the idea of the good guys fighting the bad guys, which is more apparent in the first trilogy. I'm still not sure whether these are two separate stories or just one long timeline (as a friend put it) detailing the rise (episodes 1-3) and fall (4-6) of Darth Vader. Without doubt thoug, George Lucas has creating a stunning feat in his six offerings. I can't say the same though about his interesting directing!
No matter. I've still got one film to go and then I think I'll give Star Wars a rest.
Then again, I have a feeling that this won't be the first time that I visit the galaxy that is so far, far away...