Saturday, May 24, 2014

Star Child, War Child

May the 24th Be With You.

May 4th was Star Wars Day, of course, and what better occasion to take a day out and solemnly reflect upon the enormous impact this movie series has had on our lives,the lives of Disney's marketing arm, the lives of our loved ones, and those of our children – perhaps even our children’s children.
As I’ve outlined a few times before, my history with Star Wars is extremely uncomplicated. I was seven when I saw it, and saw every movie on the big screen first. It occupied a HUGE amount of my fevered imagination as a child, was re-fed when I hit double digits, but I knew I was over it at the age of thirteen – everything since then has been an exercise in nostalgia with diminishing returns and that, really, should be that. There’s more Star Wars to come next year, though, and I have to confess that small, long-dormant neural endings in my brain have begun to spark a little recently – especially since the release of THAT picture. Next year Jet Jr will be the same age I was when the battlefront of Star Wars reached te late-lamented Majestic Theatre in Oamaru, so you could say I have at least a small investment in the nostalgia and, if some may insist, ceremony.

Jet Jr will be exposed to this new iteration of the series in a different way. He attended a birthday party last year to a kid thesame age as him which was a Star Wars Angry Birds theme bash – bash being the operative word, as foam lightsabers, running combat throughout the house and wild unfocussed Xbox games were the order of the day’s activities. JJ, oblivious to the whole Angry Birds thing, not to mention Star Wars itself, just saw it as a lot of running around with the occasional pause to watch the crashing graphics. He wasn't outwardly confused, ut it's not really part pof his world yet, and maybe if I have anything to do with it, it won't be for a while.

He and I watched Star Wars a few months ago – in fits and starts, with Dad’s finger judiciously paused over the skip button on the remote. I’m no shrinking violet – I had friends who fractured arms and collarbones jumping off their dad’s garage while playing Superman, but I held off my skeletal injuries until they were properly scary – in my thirties. If I view the whole space saga with adult and parental eyes then I can ill-afford myself to not exercise a little censorship / leave some juicy discoveries for when he’s a year or two older. Frankly, war games and body horror aren’t part of his play vocabulary yet, so all in good time, I think.In the man-time, his favourite characters from the movie were the Droids and his favourite moment the Death Star chasm ropeswing. All good - I think I would have been the same at his age.

There is, of course, a third way – to watch the movies with him, as we have already done. There’s a fine and genuinely moving example of this courtesy of film-maker dad and one-time AintItCool reviewer Drew McWeeny over on his blog on HitFix, and it really is worth a read. McWeeny’s blog has, however, been a timely reminder of just how much the prequels up the violence count – I was a squeamish young Simian with Star Wars’ lopped-off hands at seven, let alone Obi Wan’s bloodless self-sacrifice. What would I have made of Darth Maul’s bifurcation, Jango Fett’s decapitation, Anikin’s immolation? Probably something like my disturbed reaction to the extreme deaths dished out in The Black Hole (Disney’s volley in the family-oriented Sci Fi boom of the late Seventies.) Beyond the body horror and gunplay McWeeny also reminds me that the stories are emotionally a gut punch – particularly the prequels, wherein a hero to his kids through the Clone Wars cartoons undergoes a traumatic and (hitherto unknown to them) horrendous physical transformation into one of cinema’s enduring baddies. The gradual reveal of the dark end to Anikin’s early life is drawn out in McWeeny’s blog, making it an arresting and confronting read.

McWeeny writes very well (AICN has been the poorer for his departure), and I find him quite relatable, even if my brows were furrowed a fair bit at the age he introduced his offspring to George Lucas’ opus - they age three and six at the time of their exposure, and one of those ages, parental presence or not, seems quite young to me. But kids can be surprisingly media savvy these days, and more media literate than I was. You, dear reader, may differ in your mileage. I'll be lining up to see Star Wars' seventh chapter sometime next year, but for myself, I don’t think Jet Jr is ‘there’ yet, and his time will come a little later on.

And in the mean-time, those McWeeny links:


  1. They may celebrate May 4th over in America, but over here we celebrate April the 5th!

  2. See, now that I did not know. Already I'm being educated!

  3. From my own experience watching with a young relative, age four only elicited a cry of "Naughty!" when Vader first appeared in A New Hope (John William's musical cues are unmistakable, even at that age) but attention quickly evaporated afterwards.
    Age 6 was a different matter, however, and a re-watching of A New Hope just before the prequels broke resulted in a new Padawan with enthusiasm which out-stripped my own for quite a few years. (and boy did I hear about it from his Mum...)