Movies That Changed Us: The Star Wars Saga

[Movies That Changed Us is a feature we are running for the first two weeks of Flixist’s life. We’re using it as a way to let you get to know the staff of awesome writers here. But you should use it as a way to let us get to know you. Blog your own Movies That Changed Me and let us know all about your most important film experience.]

When the Flixist staff was tasked to write about a movie that changed us, I immediately ran the gamut of my favorite films. After all, there have been plenty of movies that have affected me in one way or another. I became conflicted. Do I pontificate on one of the beloved films of my youth, such asGhostbusters or The Princess Bride? Or perhaps some of Kevin Smith’s work, like Clerks or Chasing Amy, both of which seemed to take on greater meaning from year to year as I transformed from a foul-mouthed teenager into a (still foul-mouthed) working adult? Maybe one of the myriad of mid-to-late 90s films that helped me expand my taste in movies, namely American BeautyFargoPulp Fiction and Good Will Hunting?

As my checklist grew, one title kept creeping back into the discussion. I ignored it. My ego was trying to take control of the article. “It’s too cliché!” it would shout. “You don’t want to be that guy, do you?” But it was too late. My ego was powerless to stop it.

Because the Star Wars saga has changed me more than you could possibly imagine.

My first exposure to Star Wars wasn’t actually the movies at all, but instead in the form of a few old dusty toys found in the attic of my grandmother’s house. I spent a lot of time rummaging through that attic, which always seemed to maintain a three-digit temperature, even during the dead of winter. Each time I’d find something new, gleefully climbing back down the rickety stairs with an armful of lost treasures and a brow covered in sweat. Most of these relics from the late 70s and early 80s had belonged to my uncle, who tried in vain to explain to me the intricacies of the universe George Lucas had built. But I didn’t care about lightsabers, landspeeders, X-Wings and the like. They were the same size of the G.I. Joes I’d found, and that’s all that mattered to me. He attempted to show me the movies, but I was stubborn and refused to watch them. I was a Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles kid, goddammit. Get that space shit out of my face uncle, Captain Planet is on.

Screen wipe to the summer of ’92…

At the tender age of eight, my dear mother decided to send me to a summer camp. I was not pleased with this. Kicking and screaming ensued, to no avail. I was placed on a school bus and transported to somewhere in humid-ass rural Virginia to learn how to canoe and get bitten by mosquitoes. My first night there, it rained. Our camp counselors seemed at a loss, clearly shocked that it would rain in the south during summer. It was finally decided that they should dig through a box of old VHS tapes and find something for us kids to watch until it was time for time to turn in. It wasn’t long until the head counselor had made his choice. What emerged wasn’t so much as a cassette as it was a shimmering beacon of white-hot light. 

It was Star Wars.

Now of course, that’s how I remember it now, as an adult. Back then however, the sight of that dingy old slipcase caused me to groan. There was no escaping it this time. I couldn’t complain or change the channel. I was going to have to sit in this damp cabin full of strangers and watch this movie whether I wanted to or not. And then I saw that Star Destroyer slowly envelop the screen as it pursued — and eventually captured — Leia and her rebel cohorts, and I wondered why the hell I hadn’t seen this movie sooner.

I was hooked on Star Wars now, and there was no turning back. Not long after my epiphany at summer camp, Lucasfilm released a remastered edition of the original trilogy on VHS, and much like Alex, that box set found its way under my Christmas tree. Toys, games, comics, breakfast cereals and bed sheets — if the Star Wars logo was found on it, I had to have it. I became one of the millions upon millions of fans that fed George Lucas’ swollen bank account. I was elated when I learned that the original trilogy would be making its way back to theaters, and I damn near hyperventilated when the lights dropped for my first viewing of The Phantom Menace.

Ah, The Phantom Menace. A New Hope and the rest of the original trilogy may have sparked the changes in my life, but the prequel trilogy is what certainly completed it. It was 1999, and in my world, The Phantom Menace was the event of the year. I was a full-fledged fanboy now, and I was hungry for more Star Wars. I’d only been waiting for this movie for seven years, but I still felt a kinship with those who’d been waiting since Obi-Wan first made mention of The Clone Wars way back in 1977. Age didn’t matter, because we would experience this brand new Star Wars trilogy together.

The Phantom Menace is where I learned to be critical of films.

While I still maintain that The Phantom Menace wasn’t nearly as bad as people say it is, it was still a disappointment, even for a young and wide-eyed Star Wars fan like myself. This wasn’t at all like I had envisioned things to be in the days before The Empire. I struggled with it. I watched a couple more times in theaters, in many ways attempting to force myself to like every last aspect of it. “Jar-Jar isn’t that annoying,” I tried to tell myself. “Midichlorians? I guess that makes sense.” Before The Phantom Menace, movies fell into two categories for me: love it or hate it. It took a Star Wars film to teach me how to look closer at films, to analyze parts of the whole.

In the end, my love of the Star Wars prevailed. I found ways to like all of the entries of the prequel trilogy, blemishes and all. The emotions that key moments of the saga elicit from me are still some of the strongest that I have ever experienced while watching a film. My heart races as the X-Wings navigate the Death Star trench and sinks when Leia confesses her love for Han Solo right before he’s encased in carbonite. And no matter how many times I watch Revenge of the Sith, I can’t help but hold out hope that maybe this time Anakin Skywalker won’t allow himself to be seduced by the Dark Side. Every time I watch a Star Wars film, the jaded part of me takes a 120-minute vacation and the kid in me takes over.

So yeah, I’m totally that guy.

Thanks, Mom.