Favorite scenes, beloved characters and personal stories from a galaxy far, far away.
From the December 2015 Issue
Han Solo and the Art of Cool
“Han Solo or Luke Skywalker” was the “Beatles or Rolling Stones” of my childhood. The kids that were “little angels” were always Luke Skywalker kids. Incorruptible. But I was always more interested in Han Solo. Luke got lucky and happened to be born with an unusual strength in the Force, but Han had to make his own luck. He was gruff, resourceful, and just so damn cool. Consider this: after being given an admission of love by the woman he’d been in love with for three years, Han Solo calmly responded, “I know.” That is the kind of cool that melts your face right off.
The Luke kids couldn’t recognize that cool. All they saw was Luke’s lightsaber and they were immediately drawn to him. Not me. Luke may have been swinging sabers with Vader, but Han was able to make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. Han was able to fry Greedo in a cantina, and then give the owner a tip for “the mess.” Han was able to survive being a wall ornament on a sexually depraved slug-monster’s wall. Han was the absolute coolest.
– Ryan Ciecwisz
Chewie: A Toy Story
I learned a brief but important lesson about the Star Wars universe this week in the process of trying to locate information on a toy I had as a child: I know very little about it, and I shouldn’t bother trying to understand it. This comes to the front of my mind because I vividly remember my father, who frequently would go on business trips when I was younger, returning home once with the coolest Chewbacca action figure I had ever seen. He had come wild robotic armor and what I was until recently calling a “robot eye”—although I have now learned that the George Lucas-approved term is “cybernetic eye.” Unfortunately, the google search for “Robot Eye Chewbacca” didn’t really turn anything up. Instead, I discovered an expanded universe character called Snoova. I admitted defeat. I didn’t haven’t the coolest Chewbacca toy. I had the coolest, and presumably only, Snoova toy. My childhood was flipped upside down. All of those tall tales I had conjured about why Chewie might have robot eyes were now entirely invalidated.
That is, until a few minutes ago, when I discovered through a toy collecting website that the toy I had was in fact, Chewbacca. Not only was it Chewbacca, but through some bizarre in-universe explanation, this website divulged to me that Chewbacca was actually in disguise as Snoova for some reason. Both childhood Casey and adult Casey were absolutely elated by this discovery: The child in me content to know that I did totally have the coolest Chewbacca toy, and adult Casey proud to have the most nonsensical Chewbacca toy. The Star Wars universe is a dark and confusing place, but thankfully, characters apparently disguise themselves as each other all the time.
– Casey Simonson
The Star Wars Experience on VHS
For those of a certain age, the definitive version of Star Wars is on VHS. It features crude puppets, grainy footage, exactly zero digital effects and no extras of any kind, save for an awkward interview with George Lucas. In stripping away all of the attempts to modernize the trilogy, it in fact becomes the only version that hasn’t aged poorly. No “Greedo shot first” nonsense, no outdated CGI to muck up the frame, no Hayden Christensen. All that is left is pure, nostalgic bliss. A story that remains ubiquitous in this listicle-ruled information world. Sure, it may look like a relic, but what could be more fitting for a series that opens with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”?
– Joel Kalow
The Prequels: Then vs. Now
Summer, 1999: The lights go down in the theater. I’m nervous in the dark, but my dad is right by my side. A powerful theme blasts from the speakers and I jump, inspiring a nervous energy in me as a smile creases my lips and my eyes go wide in wonder. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace unfolds before me in what can only be described as childlike magic, casting its marvelous spell of adventure upon me. Anakin is a kid, like me! Darth Maul has two lightsabers in one? Wow! His painted face and horned head scares me, but I can’t turn away from the fantastical world around him. The pod race takes my breath away. The alien landscapes capture my imagination. The characters feel so real to me and I want to be in their world. I want to be a Jedi. I want more Star Wars! As my dad and I walk out of the theater the world seems new, full of possibilities and adventures. If one thing is for certain in the world we have emerged into, it’s this: Star Wars Episode I is the greatest movie, ever.
Summer, 2010. An innocent Star Wars marathon. I turn off the lights in my living room. The Phantom Menace DVD slides into my player. Two hours later, I feel the first strings of adulthood piercing my heart. Outside my window, the world looks a little less bright. The glimmering CGI digs a hollow hole in my heart.The words “Mee-sa Jar Jar Binks” ring through my head and I shudder. I watch Jake Lloyd play Anakin and feel an awful desire to punch him. Instead of the vast deserts of Tatooine, my mind is cast off to Skywalker Ranch, where George Lucas is no doubt bathing in a pool of dollar bills. I feel exploited. Sick. The curtain has been pulled back to reveal the man pulling the strings. And I don’t like that man. But the Star Wars Marathon has just begun. And I still have to get through Episode II.
– Kevin Fermini
Storytime at the Opera House
If you mention the prequel films to a group of Star Wars fans, you’ll likely be stuck in a screaming match about how terrible Jar Jar Binks among other topics. My personal view of the prequels envisions them more as a welcome continuation of an incredible trilogy of films. While they are incredibly flawed in a cinematic sense, there are some good aspects to them if you look deeper. One of my favorite moments in the entire Star Wars cinematic universe is the opera house scene from Revenge of the Sith. In this scene, Palpatine tells Anakin the story of a man named Darth Plagueis: a man with such great control of the force that he was not only able to create life, but also prevent others from dying, teaching these skills to an apprentice before his death. This scene isn’t effective just because of the editing or even the performances, but the way the emperor goes about convincing Anakin to convert to the dark side. It’s not through exposition, but through a tale passed on from sith to sith. Though it is implied that Palpatine was said apprentice, this can also be seen as Palpatine manipulating the story to fit his needs. This small scene is a shining light of brilliance in a sea of crap.
– Elizabeth Esten
Late to the Party
Around the time of its release, someone bought me a poster for The Phantom Menace. And why wouldn’t they? I was a kid, and what kid doesn’t love Star Wars? Well, I didn’t love Star Wars. And I still don’t. Let me explain.
I didn’t see any of the films—original or prequel—until I went to college. When I tell people this they respond by going “Really?” or by yelling many words we shouldn’t print in this magazine. I get their anger. I’m the same way when people tell me they’ve never watched a Simpsons episode. I grew up watching that show religiously and can’t imagine life without it. And the fans that yell at me grew up watching Star Wars religiously.
Had I seen The Phantom Menace when I was a child, I might be one of them, because chances are I would have loved it. One of the most interesting things about the Star Wars fandom is the generational divide for who loves or hates the prequels. The people who love them are usually the ones who grew up with them. To everyone else, they suck. I’ve found this is because Star Wars is tied to an almost childlike cinematic wonderment. Watching A New Hope for the first time at 18, I imagined my four-year-old self watching it from the VCR and realizing just how big the universe could be. The idea that there’s something incredible out there just beyond the stars! It’s a powerful feeling, especially for a kid. No wonder people claimed the prequels ruined their childhood.
– Austin Gold
The Battle of Hoth
The base is abuzz with activity as pilots ready their ships and soldiers run to their posts. With the support of a powerful ion cannon and a pair of X-wings, a transport makes its escape, soaring through the atmosphere and past a discombobulated Star Destroyer. A cheer goes up as the ship’s safe passage is announced. The evacuation continues, but all is not quite right. Something is coming, looming on the horizon, approaching one step at a time.
Of all the wonderful scenes the original Star Wars trilogy has to offer, one of the most thrilling sequences for me has to be the Battle of Hoth. Until now, we had never seen the full military might of the Empire (at least not exerted on land). We weren’t dealing with roaring TIE Fighters and an all-powerful Death Star anymore. Instead, we are met with the formidable image of the massive AT-AT walkers, craning their necks and lumbering through the snow like armor-plated, blaster-outfitted dinosaurs. On first viewing, I remember being absolutely riveted by the quiet that preceded their appearance and then chilled to the bone by my first glimpse of them slowly marching in the distance. From that point on, it’s pure Star Wars action. Snowspeeders swarm the walkers, making some progress before getting overwhelmed, the Rebels are driven from their trenches and finally, Darth Vader makes his entrance on the battlefield, leading his troops through the base and watching as the Millennium Falcon shoots out of the hangar at the last second.
My young mind could barely take the dread, the excitement and the tension packed into that 10-minute sequence. More than a decade later, I’m still pulling myself together.
– Byron Bixler
C-3PO in My Heart
I have always been enthralled by the whole cinematic spectacle Lucas created in the Star Wars films, especially when it came to one particular android. In A New Hope, C-3PO always held my attention more directly than any other character. To me, he is the modern equivalent of a Shakespearean clown. He provides comic relief for a cast of characters who are stuck in an otherwise dark society. Not only did 3PO crack some wise jokes, but he also dispelled necessary advice that, had it not been said, some characters would have wound up in grave danger. Most everything C-3PO stated in the films had a deal of weight, and that is what made me enjoy him so much. I feel that without him, the cast of characters in the Star Wars cinematic universe would not be as strong or memorable as they currently are to fans of the series. Without him, I would not be the Star Wars enthusiast I am today.
– Haley Goetz
The Fan Awakens
Although my father isn’t a massive Star Wars fan, he has been part of the fandom ever since the first film came out in 1977. I only found out recently that he has been a closeted Star Wars fan. He has seen all the films and many of its parodies such as Spaceballs and Laugh It Up, Fuzzball: The Family Guy Trilogy. In the depths of one of our closets, there are multiple “copies” of episodes four through six on old CDs, a Taco Bell drink topper of young Anakin Skywalker on a podracer as a promotional tie-in for The Phantom Menace, and other space-related toys. My brother and I were never allowed to go in this closet, but now that we know that our father is, in fact, a Star Wars fan, we’re planning on seeing the new film with him during break.
– Kris DiNardi