Henry Hammond: A Star Wars Story

The year was 1993. In the basement of my pal Scott’s house, a cluster of six year olds embraced the pandemonium while our parents partied upstairs. This was my young life, wild and unfocused for the most part. Finally the noise forced our parents to bring out the old electronic babysitter and pop in a movie for us to keep us calm. There were multiple requests but one option rang loudest.
“Star Wars!”

As the chorus of voices joined in the throng, I alone remained indifferently perplexed. This was the first time I had heard the title and knew not what this thing was that my friends apparently adored, and had done so without my knowing for our first two years of kindergarten. I refer to Star Wars as a thing and not a film or series of films and with good reason.
What follows only appears in my memory a flashes… you know just images really… feelings.
I remember a frozen wasteland blanketed with snow with the small silhouette of a strangle camel-kangaroo hybrid creature running along carrying a man on its back. I remember running from the room in terror as a snow monster gnashed its teeth at the camera. And most of all the image of titanous robotic dinosaur-like creatures menacingly advancing towards the screen… this much I remember.
I didn’t like it.
Or at least, I thought I didn’t. While I wasn’t conscientiously won over the fleeting images of that unique world lingered with me. It put me in a strange state of being the like I hadn’t felt before. For a few years following I would occasionally see bits and pieces of these movies, but it wasn’t until winter of 1996 that suddenly these movies really captured my imagination.
Finally my grandparents took me to Milwaukee’s old Oriental Theatre to see the re-released Special Edition (I won’t go into my mixed feelings about that. It was my first true Star Wars experience so I can’t hate it). I exited the theatre a changed person. Star Wars filled me with an indescribable feeling of elation and hope, and once again put me into a unique state of being.
The prequel years were a dark time for me. Not because of the movies but because I was in middle school and hated my life, you know how that goes. I will be honest, the first time I saw Phantom Menace, I rather liked it. I thought it was a lot of fun, while consciously thinking to myself that I enjoyed the originals better. Upon repeated viewings over the years I slowly learned my lesson the hard way. Years later the trailers for Attack of the Clones started appearing and I started to get hyped. My biggest problem with Phantom Menace was that it didn’t look like the same Star Wars universe I loved, whereas this one appeared to be more on the mark. Then I saw the midnight screening. I couldn’t accept that I didn’t like it so I just lied to myself. The Clone Wars cartoon micro series gave me far more enjoyment than the films, but by then I was more a casual enthusiast and not the drooling young fanboy I had been. By the time Revenge of the Sith came around I reacted with mild indifference and once again fooled myself into thinking I enjoyed it. I look back on those films now with disappointment and sadness.
Around this time I was in college, and then the nostalgia bug bit me hard and I started collecting Star Wars figures by the truckload. And not just collecting, I’m talking customization, diorama building, stop-motion fan films that will never be seen my mortal eyes beyond my own and a renewed interest in the comics and books. It was also this time that the Clone Wars series burst onto the scene. After a rocky getting-to-know-you I warmed up to the cartoon as it found its footing despite my enormous dislike for Ahsoka Tano (the evolution of my love for her is a discussion for another post), and I genuinely enjoyed having a weekly episode to look forward to.
Then of course there was the big purchase by Disney which shocked many and frankly didn’t surprise me in the least. I’d seen Star Wars Weekends, and Lucas’ love for Disney, you could completely see it coming. The downsides were of course the tragic bitter abrupt end to the Clone Wars and the dissolution of the Expanded Universe. Unlike most people however I reacted with utter zeal when I saw the new animated series was going to be called “Rebels.” Rebels vs Empire trumps Droids vs Clones in my book any day.
And yet, after all these years of adoring and obsessing over Star Wars, I have to admit… they’re not my favorite movies. The Star Wars films at their core are fun escapist adventure serials that are pretty to look at and can evoke powerful emotions, but they’re far too flawed and in some ways sloppy for such a critical minded jerk like me to call them my favorite films. I lump all the Star Wars films into one and place them somewhere in my top 20, but as I said earlier I don’t consider Star Wars a film, to me it’s world I love to lose myself in; fantastical universe of limitless possibilities that truly feel magical. How very Disney that sounds. To me and I think for a lot of people Star Wars transcends the films and gives us something to believe in… I mean, yes, it’s a brand being fed to us by genius marketers but hey, it’s a product I enjoy. If Star Wars has taught me anything however it’s that everything has a light and dark side, so while the mindless consumerism that accompanies our Star Wars love is a constant, the feeling Star Wars gives us of wanting to be the best people we can shines true.

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