Returning to the world of Jedi

Generations of Jedi Unite: It’s Time for Episode 8

Star Wars fans are a passionate bunch.

They own – and live in – the tees.

They collect – without opening – the memorabilia.

They recite large chunks from all the movies (apart from, perhaps The Phantom Menace) and devour sites like Wookieepedia during the quiet periods, when there’s no feature movie or cartoon spin-off (not that there’s been many quiet periods since the turn of the century; the torture the 1980s kids who merely had to make do with viewing the original three flicks at least 100 times each went through).

When the trailer for The Last Jedi was released in October there was pandemonium similar to the release of an actual movie. The footage was electrifying: high-octane, teasing, sub-plot hinting – a chance, perhaps, at redeeming the clumsy, plot-hole-riddled The Force Awakens.

Could they possibly do a better job of balancing the past and present this time around?

Then there’s the “Episode 8 Countdown” sites. A few months ago there were only a couple but now there are many, all counting the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds until that warmly familiar Lucasfilm Limited logo again flashes across the screen, giving way to those words, ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’, which in turn gives way to John Williams’ booming, goosebump-sprouting opening theme.

The 10-year-olds in millions of adults are stirring with excitement at this thought alone. With a release date of December 15 for The Last Jedi, Christmas has come 10 days’ early for Star Wars fanatics.

While I’ll certainly watch it (hopefully before Christmas but probably early in the new year), the so-so returns since reviving the saga in 1999 with The Phantom Menace ensure I’m more of an interested onlooker these days.

Of course, this wasn’t the case as a kid.

I was only six, but I vividly recall going to the cinema with dad to watch Return of the Jedi for the first time back in 1983. Thirty-four years ago now. Return of the Jedi falls short of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back in overall quality by virtue of losing its way a little in the Ewok-dominated second half, but the Tatooine sequence is probably the best introduction of all the movies.

Jabba’s palace, and, more to the point, Jabba himself: those mottled, reptilian eyes; that slug tongue; that listless devouring of the Klatooine paddy frog.

Those fleeting, yet unforgettable characters: the putrid little Salacious Crumb; the awesome Rancor.

Princess Leia –  every teenage boy’s dream – wearing next to nothing, enslaved by Jabba’s side.

And, of course, the brave rescue mission of the carbonite-encased Han by Luke, the redeemed Lando and company.

My eyes must have been popping out of my head – much like Jabba’s were when Leia eventually strangles him.

With the characters from our childhoods still in play, there’s almost an obligation to find out what happens…

This is why each new Star Wars movie is a major event. With the characters from our childhoods still in play, there’s almost an obligation to find out what happens: why my boyhood hero, Mark Hamill’s Luke, disappeared like he did; the fallout from Han’s death; Leia’s final screen moments. The new characters are engaging enough – although Kylo Ren is like a toy version of Darth Vader; as one witty fanatic quipped on a Star Wars forum, “the biggest sith wimp ever seen in a galaxy far, far away” – but as far as Episode 8 goes, it’s wanting to know what happens with the oldies that brings the ’80s kids back.

Is Chewy still roaring?

Do Leia and Luke reunite?

No, the movies since Return of the Jedi haven’t been great, but because we know how good they can be (The Empire Strikes Back) we’re waiting with bated breath for another belter. The Last Jedi at least hints at something approaching awesome.

To all the fathers taking their sons to the cinema for what will no doubt be yet another visual feast, enjoy. And take the time to watch your kid’s reaction. You might even see yourself as a child.

May the Force be with you.


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