Since it's unveiling last week, I've watched the Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith trailer perhaps twenty-thousand times. Every time it begins, as Obi Wan (circa 1977) describes of Darth Vader's murder of Luke's father, goose bumps form all up and down my arms. When Palpatine's voice echoes out from the blackness -- "Lord Vader ... rise" -- the hair on the back of my neck stands up. And when Anakin grabs Obi Wan's throat with his mechanical hand and forces him to the ground, I nearly wet myself.
I can't help it. I'm programmed this way. Between 1977 (I was 4) and 1979, my father took me (and my brother and sometimes my ma and my baby sister) to see Star Wars perhaps a dozen times, between regular theaters and drive-ins. When Empire came out we saw that in the theater at least five or six times. When Jedi came out I was 10 years old, and all I really remember from that year is getting my "Revenge of the Jedi" (the original title) poster book from the Scholastic book fair. From the ages of 4 to 11 or 12, every moment of my childhood was steeped in Star Wars. One of my most striking memories from childhood is standing atop a snow bank in Drake, ND -- a first-grader all alone at recess in a full snow suit. An older kid yelled at me, "What are you doing?" and I said "Don't talk to me kid. I'm Boba Fett." He and another kid turned me upside down and stuck my head in the snow. 89.7% of all Christmas and birthday presents during those eight years were somehow Star Wars related. I covered reams of paper and scores of notebooks with Star Wars doodles and drawings. Before Jedi came out (while it was still being worked-on under the original title), my brother and I had a song we sang endlessly: "Revenge of the Jedi, Revenge of the Jedi, Revenge of the Jedi .... Kniiiiiiights!" Every spring when the snow melted, we'd discover a dozen or so Hoth-garbed action figures which had been lost during some epic battle. In second grade, when I dropped my X-Wing Pilot Luke figure in one of the huge trash cans behind the elementary school, I cried for a wholly inappropriate time -- perhaps two days. I burned with envy whenever I saw my cousin Josh's Snow Speeder, and gushed with pride when I unveiled to my friends the marvel of my Imperial Walker (AT-AT). When the original trilogy was re-released in theaters in the late 1990s, I saw each one by myself, just to relive that childhood feeling.
Since 1999, my life has fallen into a predictable Star Wars pattern. The new film is announced -- I go apeshit. The title is announced -- I think, "that's the lamest thing I've ever heard, but at least it is Star Wars." Casting is announced -- I think, "Hmm. Sam Jackson doesn't seem very Jedi-ish, but I'll go with it." The teaser poster drops -- it (for Episodes I and II) is gorgeous, and I go apeshit again (the Episode III teaser poster is possibly the most offensive, poorly designed poster ever -- don't get me started on that pile of shit). The teaser trailer is released -- I get tears in my eyes. Subsequent trailers dribble out -- I watch each ten thousand times. Opening night comes -- I wait in line for six hours to see the midnight show. I sit on the edge of my seat, my skin prickly with anticipation. I ride a giddy wave of adrenaline through the film. I rush home and write a glowing review (I, II).
Then I wake up the next morning, my head thick with a Star Wars hangover, and I think, "What have a done?" I realize just how much, despite the great lightsaber battle, the flick, well, sucked. I realize that the dialogue was like a chimpanzee playwriting exercise, and that Lucas clearly loves his digital landscapes way more than his actual characters. I realize that, over the last five years since The Phantom Menace was released, George Lucas has repeatedly kicked my childhood in the nuts. Midi-chlorians? Podraces? Jedi Master Sam Jackson? Count Dooku? Anakin builds C-3PO? Anakin and Amidala fight the Shotz Brewery? Motherfucking JAR JAR?! Sure, there are dizzying high points -- Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon battle Darth Maul, scores of Jedis spilling out into the arena, Yoda fights Darth Tyranus, Obi-Wan fights Jango Fett -- but much of the combined 4 and a half hours or so of Episodes I and II are just plain unwatchable. This is not the world around which my childhood was based. These are not the movies I and and countless others hoped them to be, despite what my ill-thought, Force-drunk reviews might say. Watching the original trilogy on DVD this past month, even with the "Lucas-is-going-senile" CGI "improvements," just makes these recent films seem all that much weaker. I have no hope that Revenge of the Sith will be any better.
And yet. And yet. When I hear the music (hell, even when I just hear the 20th Century Fox theme), my heart beats faster. At the first sight of a lightsaber, my eyes tear. It's a Pavlovian response, no doubt -- my body and brain are, through intense, repeated conditioning in my formative years, recreating the sense of wonder and absolute delight I felt as a child when I heard Lord Vader's March, or the sizzle of two crossed lightsabers. It's irrational. It's ridiculous. And, in the end, I am bound to be horribly disappointed.
But I don't care. Yoda is going to battle Palpatine! Obi-Wan is going to take Anakin to school! Vader is going to exterminate the Jedi! Mace Windu is going to bite it! Amidala is going to be naked! Okay, probably not, but still ... Wookies! You can bet I'll be waiting in that line midnight, May 19 2005. You can bet I'll be poised on the edge of my seat as Vader opens a can of whoop-ass on the Jedi.
I can't help it. I've got Star Wars in my blood. Not fucking midi-chlorians, mind you -- just pure, 100% Star Wars: the good stuff.