Watching Star Wars with Elora, Part One

Some weeks back, I wrote about how excited I was for the Star Wars Blu-rays. Even with all the new changes, I didn’t care. I was anxious to watch them with my kids and see new details like how Mark Hamill’s face went so wrong between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back (calm down, I know he was in a car accident). Let me just say, straight off, the movies look STUNNING. Particularly the original Star Wars and Revenge of the Sith. Just about flawless transfers. And the sound? Across the board amazing.

My daughter Elora is 9-years-old and her sister Cami is 6. Now, as many of you know, Cami has special needs. She responds best to movies that move quickly and have lots of violence and slapstick. She laughs at people getting hurt. Funniest thing in the world to her. I expected her to be less patient with the older movies and dig the prequels and I wasn’t wrong. But Elora? Elora could have gone either way.

Now, Elora HAD seen them all before. When she was much, much younger. She remembered two things going in: Darth Vader is Luke’s father and one of the movies has a big battle with a bunch of clones. That’s it. Otherwise, this was a new experience for her. For that reason, I chose to watch them in the following order: IV, V, I, II, III, VI. Kind of weird, I know, but making the prequels an extended flashback leading into Return of the Jedi makes a lot of thematic sense AND preserves all of the twists and reveals. Try it. You’ll see.

Elora was engaged from the get-go with A New Hope and decided immediately that C-3PO was her favorite character. She thought his constant complaining was hysterical. Elora is equal parts geek girl and fairy princess, so the fact that Princess Leia was there right in the beginning gave her something she could identify with quickly. Leia is a strongly written character and all the sniping she does with Luke and Han subverted Elora’s image of princesses a little. This is a good thing. She dug the space battles, loved Chewie and really got stuck on what the mouse droids were for. I still have no idea.

The Empire Strikes Back was interesting. It’s the most adult of the Star Wars films and there was less here for her to grab onto. She loved Yoda, especially his introduction. The Millennium Falcon hiding out in the stomach of an alien space creature really played for her. It’s still a great reveal and made her say “Gross.” As I said, she remembered who Darth Vader was, so the climax was a bit lost on her.

I had to do a bit of explaining before I popped in The Phantom Menace, but Elora got the idea quick enough. At first, she thought Obi-Wan was Anakin and I had to tell her the connection between him and the old guy we saw in the other movies. I could tell Phantom Menace was, right away, registering for her in a much different way than the other movies. She’s a child of the 21st Century and the fast pace of the film was something she really responded to. The sheer amount of imagination in every frame of that movie just grabbed her and, I have to say, me. 12 years later, it’s much easier to appreciate TPM for what it is, rather than what it isn’t.

When Jar Jar hit the screen, Elora was immediately taken with him–which is what I was afraid of. She loved how he would say “How wude!” and quoted that line a few times in the days following. She just thought he was the funniest thing, as did Cami. Speaking of Cami, she laughed as hard as I’ve ever seen her every time Boss Nass got frustrated and shook his head and jowls. No idea why.

I may have cringed at Natalie Portman’s awful, awful performance in TPM, but Elora was very wrapped in her story and was blown away by the reveal that Padme and the Queen were one and the same–though I did have to talk her through it a little. The pod race rocked her world, and, honestly, mine as well. It remains one of the most amazing spectacles Lucas has ever put on film. Darth Maul she found genuinely scary and when Qui Gon bit it, Elora kind of freaked out and said simply, quietly, “Whoa.” I mean, watch that movie again. Qui Gon is the main character. A kid isn’t used to seeing the main character killed off.

That takes us halfway. Episodes II, III and VI later this week!

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