Between Two Trilogies: My story of growing up after the Original Trilogy, but before the prequels.
I was born on November 9th, 1989 in upstate New York. Now when I say “upstate New York” I mean north of NYC, because yes…there is more to NY than just the city. I was born the oldest of 3 kids to two loving parents, and for the first 7 1/2 years of my life I lived the normal life of any kid growing up then. I was obsessed with Looney Tunes, any other cartoon I could see, and I was just getting into action figures thanks to Gargoyles. But one night in 1997 would forever change who I was, and all for the better.
Every year around the same time in Spring, Sesame Street Live would come to my area and do whatever show they were doing that year. My would take my younger siblings to see that since I was too old for it, and I’d go and see a movie with my dad. Usually the movie was whatever Disney movie happened to be out at the time, but I didn’t care because it was with my dad.
So Spring 1997 rolls around and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope Special Edition is in theatres. I’d never heard of it before I saw the commercials, my dad never mentioned it to me. And I’d only started hearing of it from friends who’d seen the re-release and were going crazy over it. So I asked my parents if I could see it, and they decided that I was old enough to see it and they thought it was something I would like.
The night my dad and I went to see the movie, I was more excited to be going with my dad then the movie. I asked my dad about it, and he told me it was about a boy who goes on an epic journey in space. At 7 1/2 years old that was all I needed to be excited. We go to the theatre, buy our tickets and get our seats. I look around, and there has to be 5 people total with my dad and I. The lights go down and the trailers go by, and the movie starts up. The classic John Williams fanfare starts up and I was like, “Woah! This is cool!” I read the opening crawl and I had an idea what was going on, but what 7 year old fully understands that? And then you get to the famous shot of the Tantive IV is running from the Imperial Star destroyer and my mouth dropped. This was AWESOME! I was raptly paying attention as R2-D2 and C-3PO are making their way across the ship, and wondering who the mysterious woman was that put something into R2. Darth Vader showed up, and I wasn’t scared until he was choking Captain Antilles. Because Disney doesn’t choke people.
The movie goes on, and we get to the scene where Luke, Ben and the droids make their way to the cantina and by this point I’m so invested in it that you couldn’t take my attention away if you tried. The movie then gets to the scene where Luke buys a drink, and the two tough guys start picking a fight with him. We all know the scene. Ben ends up cutting the arm off of the one guy, and in a theatre with 5 people plus my dad and me I yell at the top of my lungs, “COOL!!!” The theatre bursts out laughing, and at that point you had me SOLD on it. To this day, that movie is the only one I ever cheered out loud during. When Luke finally blows up the Death Star and it explodes, I gave a big “WOOOOHOOOO!!!” and thrust my fists into the air. From that moment on I was a HUGE fan. I talked about nothing but Star Wars, I did nothing buy play Star Wars (I was always Luke) and it was the best summer I’d had.
I didn’t see Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi until Christmas that year, when my dad got the Special Edition on VHS. That Christmas was great for me, because I got a working X-Wing toy complete with Luke action figure. I got a Millennium Falcon Sounds of the Force Electric Memory Game, PLUS a micro machines Death Star playset. The X-Wing didn’t work, which I was bummed about, but the Death Star was amazing! My mom hated putting all the stickers on it, but it was great! I did end up watching Empire and Jedi in the subsequent days, and many more times after that. I think Tracy Morgan was about right with the number of times I’ve seen Star Wars.
Over the years I would watch them all over and over again, and then at some point I developed a tradition with my brother. We were both home from sick one day and decided to watch The Empire Strikes Back because we’d just watched A New Hope the other day. We enjoyed the film, and were quoting all of the famous lines. The next time I was sick, I watched Empire again. My brother asked what I did and I told him. So then the next time he was sick, I asked him what he did and he had watched Empire. All of a sudden we had developed this tradition of, whoever was home sick you HAD to watch The Empire Strikes Back.
Growing up as a Star Wars fan in the 90s wasn’t that action packed for me. Sure I had the toys, and the movies. But that was about it. I didn’t read for fun until Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban came out in 1999, so I never read any of the Star Wars novels. We didn’t own a computer, so I couldn’t play any of those games. And I had a SEGA Genesis, which had zero Star Wars games (to my knowledge anyway). I was left to come up with my own stuff, and it was a blast!
I didn’t start to wonder about what happened before A New Hope until it was one of the times I was watching either that or Empire, I can’t remember which. I asked my dad what happened to Vader to make him look like that. My dad replied that he fell into lava during an accident. And then I asked what happened before A New Hope. And it wasn’t the mention of Clone Wars, or anything like that. It was the opening crawl that made it dawn on me. I had seen “EPISODE IV” scroll across I don’t know how many times, and I started to wonder what had happened before the movies. I asked my dad, and he didn’t know. So that got me wondering, about everything.
Well I didn’t have to wait long because not long after I started wondering about that, my dad read me an article in the paper about more Star Wars movies coming. I don’t think I could’ve been any more excited. I ran around the house cheering in pure joy. “MORE STAR WARS!!!” I thought.
With each prequel movie that was released, my love for Star Wars grew. I started reading the Jedi Apprentice books by Jude Watson, and any other Star Wars book my local library had that I could get my hands on. I would go to my library and play the computer game “Star Wars Yoda’s Challenge” game as much as I could, I even brought it home a few times because it was fun! After Attack of the Clones, I started reading EU and playing the various video games that came out.
So when people ask me, “Which do you like better? The original movies or the prequels?” I answer with, “Both.” Because I was raised at a point where the original trilogy could introduce me to the galaxy far, far away. But the prequels could flesh out my love for them more. It was the best time in my life looking back, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.