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I’m a huge Star Wars fan. From standing in line for hours to watch Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1999 to my own Star Wars memorabilia room, I’ve proclaimed my love for the universe created by George Lucas over and over again. After the release of Episode III, I even had a marathon film run showing all six movies back to back over the course of a single day. I couldn’t be more dedicated.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980) is by far my favourite film in the franchise. I was very young when it came out but it struck a chord with my imagination that is unlike anything I had ever experienced before or since. When most people of similar age (and experience) to mine saw the prequel films (Episodes I, II, and III) the general consensus was that they were not as good. Yet those who were of similar age when Episode I came out to the age I was when the original came out seem to feel differently. They love the prequel films and its interesting characters.
When I really started to think about things, I realized that technology has played a huge role in all of this. When the first three films came out there were three-year gaps between them. The movies stayed in the theatres for a year (or more) which is unheard of today. You couldn’t even get the full Star Wars movie at home until 1982 (a full five years after its theatrical release) and watching it on a television broadcast didn’t come until after that. So what did we do in between?
For me, I built my own spaceships. I took the cardboard from cases of pop and turned them into my own version of the Millennium Falcon and used egg cartons to make seats for my action figures. I bought the picture movie books and relived many of these moments in my backyard. I even played lightsabers with plastic oars from my little inflatable boat. It was amazing.
When the prequel movies came out starting in 1999, the Internet was here and we were living in a different world. Movies come out in home releases after mere months instead of years. There is no shortage of ways to jump back into the universe on your screen (rather than your mind) and I honestly think that takes away from the experience overall. I remember the trailer for Episode I hitting the Internet and I couldn’t wait to download it. I did have to wait, however, as Internet speeds were relatively slow. A simple two- or three-minute trailer could take hours to download. Internet streaming wasn’t even a term.
Now we are in a world where there are three new movies on the way. The first one is out now, and I didn’t wait in line to see it. I am okay with waiting a few days to experience it. However, it is very difficult not to read or hear reviews in this social-media-laden world we live in. There was nothing like Facebook or Twitter when the first movies came out, and not even when the second set of films made an appearance. It changes the experience in ways I don’t even think we fully understand.
I’d love to be able to go back in time and isolate the experience of watching Episodes I, II, and III without any Internet influence and without the ability to see the movies as easily or as often beyond their theatrical release. I would also love to be able to isolate myself from the barrage of information regarding Star Wars: The Force Awakens so that I don’t feel like I already know more about the film than I should. It’s a tough thing.
While I usually sing the praises of technology and the Internet, this is one case where I wish we didn’t have it. I want to be that nine-year-old boy again that went to see The Empire Strikes Back thirteen times in the theatre and believed I could conjure up the force and make things move with my mind. I know we can’t go back, but it doesn’t prevent me from sometimes wishing it was so.