Watching Star Wars with Elora, Part Two

Back when Elora was very, very young and before her long term memory really kicked in, Attack of the Clones was her favorite of all the Star Wars films. It was released the year of her birth, 2002, so maybe that had something to do with it. The original Star Wars was released the year of my birth, 1977, and that one was always my favorite. Elora responded to ‘Clones’ this time right away and gasped at the big explosion that kills one of Padme’s doubles.

A lot of the early politics were lost on her, but her suspicions about Chancellor Palpatine were raised. She didn’t like the cut of his jib. I pointed out that he was Anakin’s friend and seemed nice, but she wasn’t buying it. There was something fishy about that guy. When Obi-Wan when off into his own little detective story, she was fascinated–though I had to put the pieces together for her.

The romance she had no patience for–so she said. Elora still hides her eyes when people kiss on screen, but she loves movies with romance. She just won’t admit to actually liking the romance aspect of the movies. Of course, saying there’s any real romance in ‘Clones’ is a bit of stretch. While I found myself really admiring the imagination and much of the action, the love story plays worse and worse each time you see it. That’s just not how human beings fall in love. That’s not even how aliens fall in love.

The end battle scenes were Elora’s favorite part. Because that’s what kind of a girl she is.

Revenge of the Sith made Elora nervous. She knew this was the PG-13 one and she knew this was the one where Anakin burns up and turns into Darth Vader. She did not want to see those parts. I assured her I’d mute the sound and tell her when to close her eyes.

The opening battle remains stunning, if confusing to look at. Elora wasn’t terribly impressed with it. It was only once Anakin and Obi-Wan jumped out of their starfighters and took on Grievous’s ship that she was in. She thought R2’s antics were hilarious. And the crash landing on Coruscant? Made her eyes pop out.

Her suspicions about Palpatine continued to be raised, though she couldn’t quite figure out what his play was. She finally decided he was completely evil about five minutes before his big reveal and then was wowed by the revelation he had been Darth Sidious the entire time. It’s funny because that wasn’t a reveal that even seemed like much a reveal to me. It was always so obvious. But to her? It was extremely satisfying.

She didn’t quite understand Anakin’s turn to the dark side or why he would go so far so fast. It is abrupt and I did my best to explain, but I don’t think she was ever completely satisfied. I know I’m not, so that’s not surprising. When the big moment at the end of the big fight came, sure enough she hid her eyes.

The other big reveal for her was that Luke and Leia were twins. When Padme had TWO babies, it blew her mind. It was a lot of fun seeing her jaw drop like that, and, I think, much more satisfying than if I’d let her watch ‘Jedi’ first and find out the same time Luke does. That’s one twist that’s much improved watching the films in the order we did.

Finally, we reached the end and joined back up with the original trilogy with Episode VI, Return of the Jedi. I’ll admit that the one drawback to watching them all in the order we did is that by the time you get to ‘Jedi’ you’ve kind of lost the plot of the original trilogy. Three movies is a loooooong flashback. However, we got caught back up rather quickly and I’ve got to say that ‘Jedi’ resonated in a whole new way with me. When you have all the history from the prequels swimming in your head and realize that, essentially, Luke and Leia are all that’s left of what everyone was fighting for, it really gives the events of ‘Jedi’ a whole new weight. Plus, there’s a lot of symmetry between ‘Sith’ and ‘Jedi’ and that plays really, really well when you watch them back-to-back. It was the most satisfying viewing of ‘Jedi’ I’d had in quite a while.

Jabba was gross, of course. But Elora loved all the interplay with C-3PO and R2-D2. It was like having old friends back. (Side note: I’m surprised the nudity in the scene where Jabba’s slave dances for him wasn’t edited out. On Blu-ray, you can see it much, much more clearly.)

Far and away the thing Elora loved most about ‘Jedi’ was the Ewoks. She thought they were HILARIOUS and cute and wonderful. She laughed and laughed at the idea that teddy bears could defeat stormtroopers. She stopped laughing once the Ewoks started dying. By then, she was attached and wasn’t expecting that. Honestly, I get it. I’ve never hated the Ewoks and always thought they were really cool. That the Empire is defeated by a bunch of small teddy bears isn’t stupid, it’s fitting. Quintessentially American, even. I dug it when I was six, and I still dig it now.

To Elora’s credit, even she noticed how odd it was for Anakin’s ghost to look like Hayden Christensen when Obi-Wan and Yoda had to be old men.

Elora went nuts for Star Wars. It took us about a week and a half to get through them all and not a day went by that she didn’t bed me to watch “just 10 minutes” if that was all we had time for. She’s hooked, but she’s spoiled. She can’t even comprehend the amount of time I had to wait between movies.

Now, she’s moved onto The Clone Wars. She’s already watched the 2D short series that came out years ago and is working on the current, CG series right now. They’re pretty fun, so I try to watch them with her as much as I can.

When was the last time you watched all the Star Wars movies? What order will you show them in to your kids? Will you show them the prequels and risk them loving Jar Jar? Love to know what you think!


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!

It’s a War–In the Stars!!

Yesterday, for the very first time in my life, I stared at the title “Star Wars” long enough to break it away from all childhood and cognitive associations to see it for what it really is:

Utterly ridiculous.

I broke it down for you in the title of this post. It’s a war–in the stars! Imagine seeing that title for the very first time in 1977, before you knew anything else about the movie. You’d laugh. You’d just have to laugh. It’s Snakes on a Plane obvious. It’s a title and a plot summary all in one. Try applying that title logic to other films and see how far you get before cracking up.

The Godfather? Mob Wars. Citizen Kane? Man Rich and Sad. Lawrence of Arabia? White Man Saves Dark Men. Armageddon?Michael Bay Makes You Cry and Hate Yourself for Being a Sap.

I take it back. Star Wars is not a stupid title at all. It’s just good ol’ truth in advertising.

With the release of the entire Star Wars saga (And it really does get to be called a “saga”–which is defined as a “cross-generational story” Sorry, Twilight. You don’t count. Stop trying.) on Blu-ray next week, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my relationship with Star Wars has changed over the years and why in the world I put $100 down on a movie series I’ve already purchased at least three times.

My earliest Star Wars memory? Begging my father to leave the theater becauseEmpire Strikes Back was too scary. I was 3-years old. That’s my first memory–a negative one. I was born the year A New Hope came out, so I didn’t see it in the theater, only on VHS. My favorite Star Wars movie has always been Return of the Jedi, which, I know, is blasphemy. I mean, Ewoks. But I saw Jedi five times in the theater in 1983. And my dad took me each and every time, the last after I’d been stung by a bee on my thumb. I’m allergic to bees. We sat, in order from left to right–my dad, me, and my giant thumb on a pillow in the seat next to me. For those two and a half hours, it didn’t hurt.

Flash forward to 1997 and the Special Editions come out. I’m on a mission, so I can’t see ’em. So, no, I’ve never, ever seen A New Hope on the big screen. I get home a year later and I see the weird new stuff, but it’s still Star Wars.

You all know what happened after that with the prequels and the disappointment that was. It seemed the older I got, the younger Star Wars got. I guess that makes sense when you’re talking about a space adventure aimed at kids, but the prequels aged me faster than necessary. By which I mean, Jar Jar.

So, I kind of fell out of love with Star Wars. A lot of us did. There’s still a lot to like there and I will always think the aesthetic of it is BRILLIANT (I even own a custom made storm trooper suit–good luck telling me apart from the real deal when I wear it), but the bloom is off the onion at this point.

And still I pre-ordered the Blu-rays to the tune of $100. (Mind you, it was $100 entirely financed by the sale of a bunch of my old DVDs–I’m neither rich nor loco.) And, I think, the simplest explanation as to why is this: my kids.

I have three little girls and a couple of them have seen all six movies many times, but it’s been a while. They don’t remember them all that well. And they LOVE Blu-ray as much as I do. (Seriously–Cami, who is six but developmentally delayed, can say all of six words and one of them is “Blu-ray.”) They see with very different eyes than I do and through their eyes I can watch the movies again, fresh.

I’ve heard about the changes. The Yoda puppet in The Phantom Menace is gone and replaced with the CGI Yoda (good). A lot of the lightsabers have been color corrected (good), but not all of them (whatever). The Ewoks have pupils and can blink now (fine). Darth Vader says “No. Noooooo!!” before tossing The Emperor (very bad).

I can live with all of that. More importantly, my kids aren’t going to care and won’t know it’s any different. They’ll watch the movies in wonder and awe and the new stuff will just fly right by. I wonder if they’ll enjoy the movies. I think they will. I hope they will.

And if they don’t?

Well, then, of course it’s all George Lucas’ fault for adding “Jedi Rocks” and taking away “Yub Nub.” Seriously, never let George Lucas DJ your party. His taste is just the worst.