I Am (Usually) One with the Force

Why I love Star Wars and How it has Changed over Years

It goes without saying that I love Science Fiction. I am emotionally attached to many franchises, in various media categories. Warhammer 40k games, books and comics are the big ones.  I cling closely to the Mass Effect and Halo video game franchise, Dune and the Gap Series of novels, the Firefly and Expanse television series, and countless Sci-fi movies like Aliens, Fifth Element and Stargate. But, what about?…

I was getting to that. Geez.

The Blu-Ray set of the prequels and original series

I was introduced to the big two Sci-fi franchises when I was very young. Like, I cannot remember a point in my existence when I did not watch Star Wars and Star Trek. The introduction was brought to me by a very special lady, that of course, being my mom. She has a long-running attachment as well, and I remember her bringing me to conventions as a kid. I would stare, mouth agape, at the action figures and art prints that I wanted so bad it hurt. I got some signed Babylon 5 cast photos and I always wanted to buy a prop-replica of the M41-A Pulse Rifle from Aliens. Anyway, I digress, as per usual.

My mother, as far back as I can remember, leaned towards the “Trek” side of the equation. I think it was due to the ‘hope’ that the series was based on. For me though, I sided with the “Wars” side of things. The dirty, used future made so much more sense to my youthful mind. I mean, I had an Atari that was handed down to me from my parents as a kid, same with the stereo and media that I had in my bedroom, it only seemed practical that in the future the same thing would happen on a bigger scale, you know, with spaceships, and dirty cantinas and such. 

So, Yeah, I have a special connection with Star Wars. There is a very good chance that you do too. Not just because you have brought yourself to a website full of dorkiness about video games, miniature painting and random geekdom. But because Star Wars is the best kind of pop culture. 

Original Trilogy

We should get this outta the way quick: I am a Han-shot-first kinda guy. I first experienced Star Wars in its purest form. Well, maybe near purest, as I wasn’t even born when Star Wars (later renamed A New Hope) or Empire Strikes Back were released. My mom had what must have been the original VHS box set of the Trilogy.

These movies have always meant a lot to me, but it wasn’t until many years later that I was able to articulate just why that is. So, briefly:

A New Hope is almost the lowest common denominator in a way. Don’t get angry. Hear me out. It is essentially the same story that has been told by humanity through all of time. Young man sets out to become something, gets in over his head, and prevails thanks to some friends and a little belief in himself. That same sentence can describe most mythology for fucks-sake. It’s just set in space, in this instance. Folklore and mythology is built into our very being. It’s part of us. For most of humanity’s existence, we have had to tell each other stories for entertainment and escapism. A New Hope uses the tried and true formula to snare us in.

found pics online – I killed this set we own long ago

I dare you to not find something in it that resonates with you as a person. From wanting to escape your situation, to coping with loss. For me, it was the idea that you can accomplish anything with the right support behind you. Be it your plucky friends or the mentor.

When I was younger, Jedi was my favorite of the Trilogy. Then I grew up, and I realized that The Empire Strikes Back is the story of life. The rebels lose their home, Luke almost learns to be a Jedi, then he almost saves his friends, gets some shitty life-altering news and ends up mentally and physically fucked. But he doesn’t quit. In the end there is that glimmer of hope, that lingering possibility that it might work out, or at least not end up as a complete dumpster fire. I have had plenty of those moments in my life. The middle story ends on a downer, another classic story telling method, hooking you in for the third act. As the old adage goes, it’s darkest before dawn. 

Well, the third act arrives. Leia strangles a slug while wearing almost nothing after failing to save Han. Luke saves them both and lets a bunch of cute fuzzies die fighting Stormtroopers while he tries to save his shitty father, who makes a death-bed conversion back to the light and hangs out with Yoda and Obi-Wan while the cute fuzzies feast on storm trooper meat and celebrate. The end. What, you didn’t jump to that conclusion? Of course they are eating Stormtroopers, those helmets they are using as drums are empty now… anyway… Oh, yeah, some space battle shit happens too.

Just like the Lord of the Rings, this story is about being able to do anything you set your mind to, if you have the resolve. In this movie, the whole little guy is hairy, instead of just having fuzzy feet. But I mean, come on, the Ewok’s are throwing rocks at AT-STs and they still win the day. Luke shows up in all black and recharges his cellphone the hard way while chatting with the emperor, but manages to get Anakin to admit he was a bit dickish through willpower alone. You too can do anything you set your mind to, my young Padawan. Be like the Ewok’s, go full crazy mode (also, sticks and stones help as well) and attack your problems with all your heart and you will prevail. Luke shows us this too, but definitely isn’t as adorable while doing it…

This is all pre-cgi fuckery mind you, when the Dewback looked like a cardboard standee in the background on Tatooine, and the tight budget didn’t let them hire a brigade of Stormtroopers for Han to run away from while in the Deathstar. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some good CG in movies. When other kids wanted to be astronauts and firemen, I wanted to be a CGI artist for movies. I also get that art is never finished, but only abandoned, and in the case of Star Wars, only temporarily. But, George Lucas went back and changed things unnecessarily and then refused to release the original version. George, come on man, we had these for upwards of thirty years, they were assimilated into pop culture and our lives. It’s kinda like New Coke, only you are too douchey to give us back the original recipe. This is not the only time that Lucas will be the biggest villain in the whole star wars universe.

I cannot remember a time when these movies were not an integral part of me. I straight up love them. Even the fucked-with versions. I just can’t help it. So do many people. Star Wars had moved into the realm of pop culture long before I became obsessed with them. The best kind of pop culture too, since it was universally fun. With no hate or bias. You cannot go a single day without seeing a t-shirt or bumper-sticker. You can buy Lego mini-figs of the characters and the toys still have permanent and significant frontage in the toy section of department stores and specialty boutiques. There are even television shows and other movies that have no other point than making Star Wars references. It’s just part of who we are now. Then, George Lucas happened. Again.

there are no open bounties on my night stand

Prequel Trilogy

I don’t care what he says, the stories may have been in his head for years, but Phantom Menace feels like he thought it up over breakfast and started shooting that afternoon. An easy 80% of the movie feels like filler. You can’t tell me space C-Span is exciting. And yeah. We know Anakin is going to grow up to be a good pilot, but we don’t need 30 minutes of mediocre CG race scenes with no actual threat to the main character. We are here for Liam Neeson as a Jedi and the Duel of Fates, the gold standard of light saber fight scenes. That’s it. At least young Anakin accidentally blows up a Trade Federation ship to save the day…

Whereas the first movie didn’t have enough story, the other two were a mess of too many story-lines crammed together. The robot bad guy had a bad cough and collected lightsaber’s from the Jedi he killed, most likely by not covering his mouth. Obi-Wan has plot armor and got the coughing robot in the end, and then everyone fought in an arena with ugly CG monsters. The Jedi arrive in the nick of time to kill all the robots, which is okay in a PG movie, of course. R2-D2 and C-3PO get into some zany adventures, R2 uses rockets that he forgets about and C-3PO loses his head, but gets it re-cut off later so it all turns out okay.

Anakin has an even worse attitude in Revenge, and in a tacked on love story that is not even close to believable, ends up with Padmé dying from sadness. Anakin kills some kids at Jedi-school and then has a lightsaber-based hissy-fit while Obi-Wan is forced to turn him into a sith-cabob. Palpatine, having spent all of the senate’s money on the clones, can’t even make Anakin a suit with a silent breathing system and the newly titled Darth Vader does the worst-dad-in-the-galaxy thing for a while. 

Here’s the thing. I may be a bit more critical about these three movies, but I still love them. Sure, Midi-chlorians is fuckin forced into the story to add a level of science bullshit that was truly unnecesary and destroys the religious duality of the whole universe that was perfectly fine before. But we also get Darth Maul, second most badass Darth in the whole galaxy and best lightsaber based fight scene in any live action movie. And we got more Star Wars, which is hard to complain about. 

Additionally, being critical of the prequel trilogy does not preclude me from enjoying watching the movies: they are still Star Wars. Sure, they are not MY Star Wars, not the story I grew up with. They are, on the other hand, the movies that a whole other generation got to grow up with and enjoy. Star Wars, fundamentally, is made for young adults. Plenty of adults enjoy them. Plenty of adults enjoy Harry Potter. That doesn’t mean they were the target audience. So. Yeah, I hate Jar Jar, but the kids, who he was designed to entertain, loved him. 

There was a shining beacon that came from all of this. The best thing that came during this era was, undoubtedly and unequivocally, the Clone Wars movie and the cartoon series. Lucky for us it was considered Canon. Without this series we would not have Ahsoka, and that would be a tragedy. There is a lot here once you get past the fact that it was made in a way to make sure that seven year olds could enjoy the story. Up to and including Yoda teaching Obi-Wan Kenobi how to become one with the force when he dies, you know, like what he does in A New Hope. This is important shit. If you haven’t watched it, give it a shot. 

The Expanded Universe 

As much as the original Star Wars movies mean to me, and it’s quite a bit, the aptly named Expanded Universe is where most of my passion came from over the years. Technically approved by Lucasfilm but never fully embraced, the Expanded Universe was largely created by Dark Horse Comics and Bantam books as far as I can tell. There was surely plenty of bloat and a lot of material that I didn’t care for. Which isn’t to say that someone else didn’t absolutely love that aspect of the EU and that was the strength of the more fleshed out version of Star Wars. The breadth of options. 

I have been meaning to dig these out and re-read them

I dare you to find a better Star Wars story than that of the Heir to the Empire trilogy, also sometimes known as the Thrawn trilogy. Timothy Zhan does amazing things with the characters from the original trilogy, and I dare you to argue with the fact that they are handled better in those books than Lucas ever managed. A cloned semi-insane Jedi master is helping Grand Admiral Thrawn, while assassin monsters hired by Darth Vader before his untimely demise are hunting Leia who is pregnant with her third child by Han and flees to Kashyyyk (the Wookiee home world, duh). The woman that will eventually marry Luke Skywalker tries to kill him, he does some badass Jedi shit. It’s three amazing books. You should read them. Don’t worry, I will wait.

After publishing dozens and dozens of books, having fleshed out the Old Republic a bit, and the rebellion years around and after the movies, Bantam created a whole new era with the New Jedi Order series. At the time it was by far the longest series of books I had ever embarked on. Of course, after reading the 54 books of the Horus Heresy, not including the Siege books that are still coming out, this feels rather silly. But, if you’re not into books, a lot of them were done in comic form. 

Publishing many comics based on Sci-fi franchises I love, such as Aliens, Predator and Terminator, Dark Horse comics had published many fantastic series over the years. The first thing that comes to mind is the Dark Empire series. Dark Horse had the clone-the-emperor idea a long time ago, and Luke, realizing that he could never understand the force fully without knowing the dark side, went and studied with the bastard. Han and Leia had to go extract his unwilling ass from danger and defeat the big nasty shit the re-made Emperor had going on. Then there was the tales series, which was a wonderful glimpse into the universe at large, without having to focus on a main character in some way.

I own the individual issues as well, for the next series too

Let’s take a second to recognize that Star Wars has been around longer than video games. Well, the Atari anyway, which launched later that same year. As one would imagine, the galaxy far far away had been the subject of many video games and the Atari alone had several cartridges with the Star Wars logo on it. I know I rented at least one if not multiple Star Wars games for the NES, back in the day when you could borrow them from the grocery store and bring them back when you shopped the following week. Problem is, I can’t remember any of them.

The first game set in the Star Wars universe that made an impact on me was Dark Forces. Shooting Stormtroopers is as socially acceptable as killing Nazi’s for some reason, and I recall exploring this badly digitized world at Isaac’s house on their semi-ancient PC. It looked great for the era, doesn’t hold up so well now though. It sure was fun running around shooting Stormtroopers in the monochromatic space station corridors. 

if you have not played them, you must do so now

In my humble and unrequited opinion, the Knights of the Old Republic game, released on the original xbox, was the best game set in the Star Wars universe. Not only did it not rely on the preexisting characters and the established stories, it wasn’t even set in the same time period. Like the books and comics set in the same era, the game takes place at the height of the Jedi Order. There is a lot of creative space, so to speak, allowing a lot of creativity without stepping on the toes of George Lucas. The story was great, the characters were well done and the twist was amazing. I won’t spoil it here. If you haven’t played it, do so. You can play it on the phone that you are reading this on. Seriously. This was the first in a line of games coming out of BioWare that rocked my world.

So we have games, books, comics, and action figures of course. But no new movies for a long time before the prequels. What were we to do? Well, Lucasfilm conducted a sort of experiment. Shadows of the Empire was a movies worth of merchandise without the movie. Prince Xixor and Dash Rendar are memorable characters, the book was decent and I barely remember the game. I don’t think it worked as well as they had hoped, and Lucasfilm didn’t try that sort of campaign again. 

Disney era

Then Mickey murdered Star Wars and picked the corpse over. As would be expected when a heartless corporation that puts on a front of family friendly fun, takes over a decades old and much beloved franchise, mixed results are to be expected. The first thing they did was shitcan the whole expanded universe. Yeah, I agree. There was a lot of junk and filler in there, but there were also many examples that used George Lucas’s characters better than he ever did. And Disney just hit delete. It felt spiteful. Almost hateful, to me.  

Marvel started making their comics and they were somewhere between decent and great depending on the title. I bought a bunch, had every single issue for the first two years straight. But I got bored and traded them all away. New novels started coming out but they didn’t quite hold my attention either, especially compared to the now-defunct extended universe stories they were trying to replace. But I tried, especially when Disney gave in and brought back Thrawn from the expanded universe.

I tried – I read the top four but failed at Aftermath

The Force Awakens came out, and I was excited. This was what I had been waiting years for. For directors other than Lucas to have a stab at the Star Wars universe, since it could support any number of genres and stories, not only coming-of-age Jedi stories but also rebellious uprisings. I enjoyed the movie, in spite of it all. I liked the new cast enough to get myself caught up in a new trilogy. As time went on, though, the fact that it was practically the same movie as A New Hope with a slightly different crew and better CGI slowly degraded its worth in my eyes a little. At least there were no Gungans.

The next two movies in the Skywalker series didn’t do much for me. They were fun and enjoyable enough but ultimately forgettable. The Last Jedi movie focused on Luke and I appreciated that, because he was my space hero growing up and I am a crotchety old man now. Then he dies. Great. Then the Rise of Skywalker showed up as a rushed movie just like Revenge of the Sith, with too much going on, and too heavy a hand at editing so that there wasn’t enough story left for it to make sense. The Emperor comes back and they don’t even bother to address it. And Whiny, I mean Kylo Ren, decides he’s going to be a good guy all of a sudden and we are just supposed to accept that and forgive him. Sure, why not, in the words of Sarge, “It’s a movie about space wizards”, so we really have to accept whatever they toss at us.

even the cover of the steelbox case is amazing

While there was plenty of mediocrity to go around, the Disney era did bring us Rogue One, a wonderful movie that fit the look of the originals based on a single line of dialogue from A New Hope. The writing, acting, and directing were all great. Visually, it fits in with the original vision of the used future perfectly and it leads into the beginning of the first movie. They gave us CGI Tarkin and Leia, but they are integral to the story, so I choose to forgive.

Star Wars Rebels was great once you acknowledge that it was made specifically for kids. Lots of the best characters from the Clone Wars cartoon came back, we got a fight between Ahsoka and Darth Vader. If you look closely, you can even see the Ghost, the ship from Rebels, fighting over Scarif in Rogue One. 

And let us not forget Mandalorian. Produced by Jon Favreau, the director that helped launch the MCU with Iron Man. Favreau shows us that he also loves the Galaxy Far, Far Away. The show shares the look and feel of Rogue One and the original trilogy, has practical effects to accompany the CGI, and introduces us to Din Djarin and Grogu, better known as the Child or just Baby Yoda. Boba Fett joins in on the fun and we get to see Ahsoka in live-action form for the first, and certainly not the last time. The story is fun, doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still holds itself to a higher standard in regards to the greater Star Wars setting. I haven’t talked to anyone who hasn’t found at least some enjoyment in the show. 

I can hear his themesong just by looking at this image

Waxing and Waning Love Affair

One of the worst things about Star Wars has nothing to do with the actual franchise: it  is the fans. Not all the fans, or even most of the fan-base. There is, on the other hand, a small vocal and entitled collection of internet asshats that give the word ‘fans’ a negative connotation. 

I get it, to an extent. I obsess about many things. I consume all I can and I love it when a franchise can support my obsessive nature by giving a whole that is even better than the individual pieces. I don’t have the space here or the free time to go into everything that I have been obsessed with over the years (there are already plenty of articles on this website about said obsessions). I have my opinions too. I can find faults easily, but I don’t get hung up on them. I focus on the enjoyment derived from whatever it is I currently can’t get enough of. It’s easy to fall below that line though, having spent so much time with certain fandom’s and franchises that a person can start to feel like they are owed for the years, or decades, of unwavering dedication. This is where that negativity springs from, because once you feel you are owed, it gets easier and easier to lash out. 

Don’t get me wrong, I think George Lucas has done irreparable harm to the franchise he created, pulling it apart and redoing things that we had been enjoying for half a lifetime. A lot of what he created came almost directly from other sources (go watch Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress, I’ll wait). But I can appreciate what I have, what Star Wars has been and has become and still find the fun in the projects that maybe I didn’t enjoy as much as I wanted. At the same time, I also don’t throw vitriol around on the internet and shame or harass the people involved. 

Everyone is entitled to their opinions. No one is entitled to ruin other people’s lives. These writers, actors, directors and producers are doing their job. They are entitled to create their vision, not yours or anyone else’s. You are entitled to decide whether you like their vision or not, but keep it to yourself, or like-minded friends while you hover in your parents basement. Come out from the dark, try to see the positive in what you have been given. And if you can’t, just shift some of that passion to another target. When Star Wars took a sharp u-turn away from the expanded universe, I gave it a try, but ultimately some of my dedication moved on. I poured a lot of that into the Warhammer 40k franchise and don’t regret it. Deep down though, no matter what, I still love Star Wars. 

I adore Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka and I cannot wait for more

I have hope for the future, as it looks to be bright. The positive reception for Mandalorian versus the less-than-stellar opinions of the Sequel trilogy has forced Disney to rethink their plans for Star Wars. They can’t shovel a Star Wars movie into our laps yearly and expect everyone to just be happy that they were allowed the privilege. A greater focus on the Disney+ TV series, with the right people behind them will get us to a location that we didn’t know we wanted to be, but turns out we do. Obi-Wan is around the corner, we are getting an Andor series linked to Rogue One(the best movie in the recent franchise), and we have reports of Ahsoka coming afterwards. There are even rumblings of the Heir to the Empire story being done, complete with a live-action Thrawn, and maybe even Mara Jade. I look forward to what we have to come.

Hopefully I will love every bit of it. But, even if I don’t, I guarantee I will still enjoy it. 

[This post was originally published at Otherverse Games & Hobbies]


Obsessive and neurotic collector of little plastic men, novels about the same little plastic men and paints to make the little plastic men pretty. Married to Kera, who puts up with him and pretends that she doesn’t hear him speaking to the little plastic men in between making pew pew noises in the hobby room. Requires adult supervision. A menace to himself but rarely to others. More beard than man

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