No, that isn’t a typo. I’m aware of all the hype flying around about that other vintage sci fi series and its hot-shot new movie, but right now I couldn’t care less. Why? Because I just enjoyed one of the wonderful little moments that we fathers born in the early seventies can cherish: I just sat down and watched the original Star Wars (Episode IV) with my young son for the first time.
You have to understand the influence that Star Wars has had on my life. I was four years old, that summer of 1977, and Star Wars was the first movie I ever saw on the big screen. I realize that the entire world was stunned by this movie, but try and imagine the effect it had on a four-year-old boy. My mother says that neither I nor my brother blinked for two hours. And from the moment the rebel ceremony swept into the credits and the music reached its triumphant crescendo I was hooked. I played with all the action figures, I read the comics, I collected the trading cards, I stayed up late to watch any TV special even remotely related to Star Wars. It launched in me a lifelong fascination with space (the real stuff – astronomy, the shuttle program, the Voyager probes) and steered my reading (and writing) preferences heavily toward science fiction. But Star Wars affected me in much more subtle ways, too. My entire world-view was framed in the concept of rebels and empire, of voyage and adventure, of multi-cultural acceptance and laser cannons that recoil when they fire (it’s true – read Virtues of War).
And now, 36 years later, I had the chance to see this awakening in my own son. We sat down on the couch and got the DVD going. We watched the 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm credits flash by, then saw those immortal words:
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
And then it began, with a blast of trumpets and screen-filling words. I stole a glance down at the boy to see if he was as riveted as I’d been. He was. The opening words started to scroll and I suddenly remembered that the boy can’t read yet, so I took on the role of commentator, my voice booming out a narrative just as my mother’s proper, English-accented tones had narrated for me. And then the shift down, the planet, the rebel blockade runner… and the vast, never-ending star destroyer.
“That’s a big ship,” said a quiet voice beside me.
The drama unfolded, and I occasionally glanced down to see how the boy was doing. The movie has obviously held up well and it only once was in danger of losing him, when the drama took our heroes to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s house for yet more talk and history. But then the light sabre appeared, and my son was back on board for the duration. We saw the cantina, the destruction of Alderaan, the rescue of the princess, the garbage compactor, the TIE fighter attack, and the epic (digitally-remastered and greatly improved since 1977) final battle.
Once the medals were handed out, the rebels cheered and the credits rolled, I looked down at my son, eager for his reaction. He was still staring at the screen, and he made a comment that I’ve never, ever heard him say after watching something: “That was a really good movie.”
I was very proud. He wasn’t being silly, he wasn’t over-excited: he was in awe. Like father like son.
Not long after we were in the playroom, re-enacting the battle for the Death Star with his Transformer standing in for an X-wing and me holding a MiG-29 Fulcrum in place of a TIE fighter. I have to say it’s been a very long time since I’ve made the “piew, piew” of lasers or the “rrraaawwwww” of an attacking TIE fighter, and man it was fun! Naturally his Transformer X-wing beat my MiG-29 TIE fighter every time, and I was totally okay with that.
It was a small but profound father-son moment, as I handed off the torch of my first pop culture love. I know there are a lot of other things these days to compete for his attention, but I sincerely hope that my boy can carry on as Star Wars: The Next Generation.
Imperial March photo copyright ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Young Fans photo courtesy of TheBrickLife
Recent Bennett R. Coles Articles:
- A No-BS Tour of Modern Publishing Part 4 – The traditional industry: the bookstores (and distributors)
- A No-BS Tour of Modern Publishing Part III – The Traditional Industry: The Publishers
- A No-BS Tour of Modern Publishing Part II – Making sense of the lingo
- A No-BS Tour of Modern Publishing Part I – Author Motivations
- Star Wars: The Next Generation