Star Wars is a perfect example of what happens when a movie expands far beyond the screens onto which it was first projected. From its iconic music, memorable production design and ground-breaking special effects, it has transcended cinemas and inspired countless artists, filmmakers, authors and other creative types in its wake—from books about the philosophy and religion of Star Wars to Star Wars-themed cookbooks and craft books. As we reflect on our own memories of Star Wars and wait with taut anticipation for J. J. Abrams’ contribution—Star Wars: The Force Awakens—check out some of these materials from your Library, the place that brings a galaxy far, far away a little bit closer to home.
I remember going to see the midnight premier of The Phantom Menace at the drive-in back in 1999. My mother, brother and I arrived early, parked in a prime spot and then, with nothing to do until the film began, we decided to take a nap. I was worried that we’d sleep through the whole thing—it was a school night, after all. I’m not sure whose idea it was, but we decided that we’d tune the radio to the proper channel and crank the volume as high as it would go. There would be no way, we thought, that we’d sleep through John Williams‘ world-renowned theme. So with the radio set, we reclined our seats and drifted off to sleep. After what seemed like several hours of unconsciousness, I heard a violent near-speaker-shattering explosion of sound: Williams’ triumphant, orchestral onslaught yanking me from my slumber. In my delusional, disjointed state, I threw open the door and was about to make an aimless run for it when I suddenly realized where I was and slowly began piecing things together. It was still hours away from midnight, the movie screen was still blank, but the music was spilling out of every car around me. The drive-inn had just decided to play samples from the soundtrack to pass the time. My breath finally catching up with me, I got back in the car where I found my mother and five-year-old brother laughing their heads off.
Anyway, an almost-heart-attack and sixteen years later, the wonder and awe of seeing a new Star Wars movie hadn’t really hit me until I bought my tickets (yes, it might suck, but I’m trying to remain cautiously optimistic). Since then, Williams’ cues have been playing on an endless loop in my mind. Listening to the music has reminded me of something mentioned in the commentaries and bonus features on the Star Wars Blu-rays and DVDs (nerd alert)—the music tells the story. The dialogue and sound effects could be taken away and Williams’ score would still be able to provide the necessary emotional beats. That’s kind of wonderful, isn’t it? That the music Williams has crafted is so emotive on its own that other means of storytelling fall by the wayside. Listen for yourself. Download some tracks from Freegal or give each film’s soundtrack a listen. We’ve got them all, along with his other works.
My deepest love for the Star Wars franchise lies with the expanded universe—that vast collection of novels, graphic novels, RPGs, toys and other stuff that grew out of the first trilogy. In many ways Mr. Lucas and Co. invented movie marketing and product tie-ins. Enter Marvel Comics circa 1977 – 1978. They licensed Star Wars and produced some amazing comics for it. Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago collects the first twenty-six issues of that series, including the amazing “Eight Against A World” from issue #8. This incredible story features a takeoff on the classic Seven Samurai / Magnificent Seven story line, where a small band of ragtag heroes must overcome a much larger force of marauders. This collection will deliver loads of Star Wars nostalgia.
I was 11 years old when Star Wars (Episode IV, A New Hope) came out. My family went to see it on opening day. There was a huge line, and we didn’t get in to the show. My step-father convinced us to stay and wait for the next showing, saying something like “Don’t worry, you’ll like it, I promise!” We didn’t get in to the next showing either, and my sister and I were beside ourselves. “You’ll like it! YOU WILL LIKE IT!” We finally got into the theater and I remember my step-father afterwards looking at me with triumph in his eyes. “Well?” Yes, yes, he was right, we were floored. We had never seen anything like it before.
Thirty-eight years later, my whole family is set to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening day. It happens to fall on the date of my daughter’s 13th birthday. We are ridiculously excited. Just in case you were wondering, I showed my kids the movies in the “correct order,” starting with A New Hope. What good would the big reveal be if you didn’t watch it in the order that the movies came out?
My children (and I) loved the hilarious book The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. An oddball sixth grader has created a prognosticating Yoda finger puppet, who delivers curiously sage advise to the rest of the class. Is Origami Yoda real? It’s up to the detective work of the rest of the class to decide. I guess you can say that this is not part of the canon.
Even though Disney wiped out the old Star Wars canon (I discuss that decision and the new canon in this post here), my favorite character has always been (and probably always will be) Mara Jade. Originally introduced in the 1991 book Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, Mara Jade became an instant fan favorite, especially among women, who had precious few Star Wars characters in which to see themselves (remember, this was pre-prequels, pre-Disney reboot, pre-almost everything except the original trilogy and very few comics—see Scott’s post above—and novels). Mara Jade starts off as a “dark” Jedi who serves as the Emperor’s Hand. Her last mission is to kill Luke Skywalker, and even though the Emperor is dead, she feels compelled to complete it. The three books commonly known as the Thrawn Trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command) chronicle her attempts to carry out that mission, and what comes of it.
Mara is a capable fighter, tough and a powerful Jedi. She’s the kind of woman who can stick up for herself and knows she’s awesome, and doesn’t take any crap. As a teenager, I wanted to be Mara (so I did what any self-respecting fangirl would do and made myself a Mara Jade costume). A few years ago, I was able to meet Timothy Zahn and thank him for creating a character I could look up to at a time when there weren’t as many of those as there should have been. The copy of Heir to the Empire and By the Emperor’s Hand he signed for me are two of my favorite things (and for me, meeting Zahn equaled meeting Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill—this character is that important to me).
I’m excited for The Force Awakens and the new canon, but Mara will always be first in my Star-Wars-loving heart.
Do you have tickets for tonight’s premiere of The Force Awakens? What’s your favorite Star Wars memory, toy or other piece of memorabilia? Let us know in the comments!
-Team Eleventh Stack