A Star Wars Geek with
Thoughts on the Release of Episode III

by Lori Ann Curley

My journey to Star Wars fandom did not begin until 1980 and the release of The Empire Strikes Back. When Star Wars (later subtitled A New Hope) was released in 1977, I was only seven years old, and Star Wars was everywhere: on commercials, on food boxes, in the toy stores, etc. Star Wars was very popular, and I wasn't; thus, I had absolutely no desire to see this movie that everyone was talking about and had seen at least a hundred times. Remember, this is the mentality of a seven year-old. I make no apologies for childish behavior exhibited when one was a child.

Of course the economic hard times of the late 1970s (remember gas lines?) hit my working-class family hard, so going to movies was a rare treat indeed. When my sister and her boyfriend came home one evening and announced they were taking me and my brothers to see a movie, I was ecstatic - that is until they answered the question, "Which movie?"

"The Empire Strikes Back." My heart sunk, but I recall my thoughts exactly: It's a movie; you don't get to see movies that often. Go!

The Orpheum Theatre in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, is the closest thing this small metropolis will ever have to a theatre palace. I love the guilt gold interior, the crystal chandeliers, and the deep red velvet curtains that cover the screen when it's not in use. How many theatres this day and age have curtains? Anywhere? My brothers opted for seats in the balcony while my sister insisted I sit next to her.

When the introduction scrolled across the screen, I knew what millions of people discovered three years earlier: I was in for something altogether different. I became a Star Wars geek the moment I saw Mark Hamill's tush. Hey, I admit that I like a good looking derrier. Hamill immediately replaced Shaun Cassidy as my biggest school girl crush.

Of course I had to see Star Wars to catch up on what I missed. I don't recall if I saved my money, or if my mother gave me money just to stop the whining of a persistant ten year-old. Soon I collected as much Star Wars stuff as I could afford. I'm still angry with my parents for throwing out a bunch of my Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back bubble gum cards when they attempted to clean my room while I was away at Girl Scout camp in the summer of 1981. My saved memorabilia includes an issue of Dynamite magazine with Mark Hamill on the Dagobah set on the cover. The magazine originally included a poster that said the third movie would be named Revenge of the Jedi, but I think it went the same way those bubble gum cards did. Too bad, I could make a fortune with it on eBay.

By the spring of 1983, I knew more about Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back than the nerdiest boys in my class. I owned and read the novelizations so many times that the covers came off the paperbacks. I also felt that I had undeniable proof that Darth Vader was NOT Luke Skywalker's father (because during the conversation between Vader and the Emperor in Empire, the Emperor refers to "the son of Skywalker" rather than saying "your son."). A friend of mine had the storybook version of Jedi and loaned it to me before I saw the movie. I read as far as the scene on Dagobah, then I was too heartbroken to continue.

(Incidently, Lucas did not originally intend Leia to be Luke's twin sister. I have bubble gum cards from the Empire Strikes Back that give different ages for these two characters. Oops.)

I read every piece of media I could about Star Wars when Return of the Jedi was released. I still have the issue of People magazine with Jabba the Hutt and slave-girl Leia on the cover, in which I learned that Mark Hamill has been married for several years to his high school sweetheart. Another heartbreak. My crush on him ended right then and there, as I always have had a policy of never messing with another woman's man. (Like I ever had a chance.)

In the late 90s, I saw the Special Editions in the theatre and adored the improvements Lucas made with only two exceptions: I missed "Lapti Nek", the song Oola originally danced to in Jabba's palace, and the final "Ewok Celebration" number during the victory party - both in Jedi. Otherwise I was ecstatic to see Jabba's appearance in docking bay 94 of that "wretched hive of scum and villainy" Mos Eisley spaceport, among the other wonderful editions.

When Phantom Menace was released, I waited in line for six hours with my friends, again at the Orpheum Theatre. I wrote in my journal, "Okay, so I look like a geek. I'm sitting in front of Jack's Shoes on State Street about half a block from the Orpheum Theatre. It's a little after 6:00 pm. At midnight, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace will be shown. I don't plan on sitting here the entire six hours; friends and I will be taking shifts." While waiting in line, I kicked butt against some fellow Star Wars fans who brought their copy of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. My husband gave me a copy of the game several years before as a birthday present. I admit I'm a geek, but I wasn't as bad as the nerd who showed up wearing a Federation uniform. At least I never cross-contaminate the Sci Fi universes like that.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed in Phantom Menace. Although I can probably still recite the opening scrolls for episodes 4-6, when the opener scrolled during Phantom Menace, and a "Trade Federation" was disputing "trade routes," I had to ask myself "What's this?"

Don't get me started on Jar-Jar.

So when Attack of the Clones was released, I decided to wait a few days rather than fight the crowds. I'm mildly agoraphobic anyway. I didn't think Lucas could do worse than Phantom Menace, but he did. To quote Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries series of books, among others, as well as an experienced screenwriter herself, "George, I love you, but you canít write dialogue. Iím just saying."

Don't get me started on Hayden Christian (or Christian Hayden, I can never remember). All I have to say is that my cats can act better than he can.

In my honest opinion, Lucas tried too hard to move away from the original series in episode 1, and then tried too hard to swing back toward them in episode 2. Where Phantom was almost devoid of references to the original trilogy, Clones made as many references as possible to the original series.

Again, I will not fight the crowds because of the agoraphobia, not to mention that I just moved (selling one house, and buying a bigger one), and I just finished writing another index for Malhavoc Press. Quite frankly, I'm tired. Yet as I type this at around 1 AM on Thursday, May 19, 2005, I know that hundreds of people at this very moment are at the Orpheum Theatre watching Revenge of the Sith. I hope they enjoy it. I probably will in a week or two. For now, I'm going to bed.

Follow-Up [Here there be SPOILERS!]

I just saw Revenge of the Sith, and I am in shock. I am so stunned by how unbelievably bad this film was.

Meg Cabot is right: Lucas cannot write dialogue. As Padme said, "You're breaking my heart," I was thinking "You're hurting my head."

I know that Lucas had to wrap things up so they fit in with the original trilogy, but quite frankly my skills wrapping gifts are better, just ask my nieces and nephews who can guess what they're receiving just by looking through the rips I tried to tape shut.

While Sith did have the feel of the Special Editions of the original films - enough of the same "look" of the ships and the soldiers, and the music (scored by John Williams, of course) - special visual and sound effects cannot make up for a weak script. Lucas should have had someone else right the script. Even Bobcat Goldthwait's Shakes the Clown was better written than all three movies in this latest travesty, I mean trilogy.

My husband said it best when he said this is why you need someone different writing the script and someone else directing the movie. You need a person who will disagree with you and say, "This is crap. The dialogue is canned, and the pacing is pedantic." In fact, my husband wrote a scathing review on his blog that deals with far more specific details.

The character of Padme has gone from being a strong self-assured leader to a whimpering damsel in distress. While Hayden Christiansen (I think I have the name right) gives good evil looks, he still can't deliver a line with any kind of believability. When he hears he's going to be a father, Christiansen doesn't seem to know whether his character should be happy, surprised, angry, confused or what, so he winds up delivering his lines with the same stupid expression on his face that Kathy Ireland overused in Alien From L.A., which I saw when it was featured on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Billy Dee Williams' Lando Calrissian was less cardboard than Christiansen's Skywalker.

Lucas once said, "If you can tune into the fantasy life of an 11-year-old girl, you can make a fortune in this business." Well I recall the 11-year-old girl I was when I fantasized about Mark Hamill and his tush. Lucas abandoned the fantasy with the terrible writing of the death scenes of Count Dooku and Mace Windu.

Where one could shed a tear over the death of an anonymous Ewok during the Battle of Endor (Jedi), one could only scratch one's head as Padme died just after her twins were born and named. Wasn't Leia supposed to remember her mother? Sending Luke to live on Tatooine, the same planet Anakin grew up on, was a terrible idea. Wouldn't looking up his step-brother be one of the first things Skywalker/Vader would do? And what was that reference to Qui-Gon all about? Please tell me this agony is over, not that more is coming.

Lucas has said that he will not make the third and final trilogy in this saga, and I agree he shouldn't unless he wishes to apologize to his fans. The only apology I would accept is if Lucas would write the final trilogy stories, then leave screenwriting and directing to someone else: Kasdan, Kershner, or even Goldthwait.

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