Waiting, Waiting, Waiting for December 18th

Casey St. Charnez - February 2, 2015

"...the date is all but tattooed on the inside of my eyelids."

If you are heavily into Lucasfilm, you already well know December 18th 2015 is the release date for “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.”

If not, then December 18th 2015 is a Friday and nothing less or more.

Me? I don’t even need to write it into my engagement calendar, as the date is all but tattooed on the inside of my eyelids.

Yet, steadfastly, I haven’t even watched the official trailer, not wanting a single moment previsualized, not a line of dialog spoiled.

Lest one assume otherwise, I must proclaim that I am no “Star Wars” fanatic…although constant readers of this column may recall that I consider the original movie is my own top favorite. I dearly love and deeply appreciate “Gone With the Wind,” “Doctor Zhivago,” “Some Like It Hot,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Cleopatra,” “Ghostbusters,” and many, too many, others—but “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” rules them all.

Over the past 3 ½ years, I’ve written about it twice on the SantaFe.com site, once when George Lucas sold the rights to Disney (you can read that 11/07/2012 “Darth Mickey” blog here http://www.santafe.com/blogs/read/darth-mickey), and again when our Museum of Indian Arts and Culture showed the Navajo-dubbed version (that 04/14/2014 column “Star Wars in Navajo Finally in Santa Fe” is here http://www.santafe.com/blogs/read/star-wars-in-navajo-finally-in-santa-fe). 

Why yes, of course I own the six movies on DVD: Episodes IV, V, and VI, consisting of “Star Wars” (1977), “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), and “Return of the Jedi” (1983); plus Episodes I, II, and III, including “The Phantom Empire” (1999), “Attack of the Clones” (2002), and “Revenge of the Sith” (2005). Saw them all theatrically, some twice each.

That said, I still have never re-watched them at home with commentary nor have I perused the extras. The sextet seems enough by itself without the ancillaries. Moreover, I have none of the kaboodles of toys, the plentiful novels and novelizations, or any memorabilia, collectibles, Happy Meal inclusions, action figures,  videogames, and etc. Cartoon Network’s animated spinoff “The Clone Wars” is unknown to me.

However, I must confess to having just finished reading (and by reading, I mean eating alive) the new 450-page book “How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise” by Chris Taylor, a Berkeley-based writer and editor who is a self-described nerd, geek, and Lucas-head.

(NOTE: I checked out the book for free from the SFe Public Library. It’s on the 14-day shelf. Otherwise, it’s $28.99, or $21.59 plus shipping at Amazon. I like free.)

I sure got a lot out of the book. It’s clear that IV/V/VI form the Luke Skywalker story arc, as he morphs from whiny farmboy to Jedi Knight, while I/II/III comprise the Anakin Skywalker story arc, as he transforms from a cool little kid into nasty ol’ Darth Vader. What I didn’t see—according to author Taylor—is that the classic trilogy is as anti-American as can be, with the evil Empire an analog for the Nixon era, and the Rebellion a symbol of the Viet Cong uprising against imperialist oppressors. Furthermore, Taylor asserts that the later set of three films are indictments of the Bush era; bad guy Nute Gunray, for instance, is a stand-in for Newt Gingrich.

All fine and good, but I think it’s grain-of-salt time. After all, I’m someone who prefers to read the Narnia books as straight fairy tales, not Christian allegories. Aswan is a lion, albeit a heroic one, but just a lion, period.

Still, there’s a lot more gold to be mined from Taylor’s pages (kindly peruse the sidebar “A Baker’s Dozen of Star Wars Factoids”). There’s an interesting fact on every page. No need to enumerate them here.

Unfortunate, then, that the book is rather sloppily copy-edited and fact-checked. The alien world in “Forbidden Planet” (1956) is Altair IV, not Altaria IV; it’s Hugh Hefner not “Heffner”; and there’s no such word as “feeels.” Slip-ups like these make me wonder about other assertions.

Still, I devoured this book hungrily, voraciously, greedily. Anyone of similar bent will do so. These people would be the ones who consistently, perhaps compulsively, made certain to mail all their letters in the special Artoo Detoo mailbox that the Postal Service used to have downtown at the corner of Lincoln and San Francisco, I among them.

Upon reflection, I realize that there are a couple of “Star Wars” ephemera around the house. Lisa and I have two plastic Toys R Us lightsabers, one green (Jedi) and one red (Sith), that whoosh satisfyingly when we swing them around in the backyard. Lisa always wins.

Oh, I almost forgot about my Queen Amidala paper dolls.

I also proudly possess a framed poster of “Revenge of the Jedi,” the original shooting title of Episode VI, about which Lucas had second thoughts and eventually changed it to “Return…”, but not before Kenner had to recall the packaging on its bountiful line of licensed tie-in toys, and not before Lucas had forced Paramount to change the title of “Star Trek II: The Revenge of Khan” to “…The Wrath of Khan.”

That poster is a real collector’s item.

I am taking no offers.

To be sure, there are a lot of other movies coming out this year which I’m looking forward to, “Jurassic World” (June 12) prime among them.

But nothing compares to the anticipation of December 18th. And no, I would never go to the first show on the first day, leaving that to the utterly obsessed, among whom I do not count myself, not me, certainly not, no sirree.

On the other hand, I see that “Star Wars Episode VII” will open a day earlier in Brazil, on December 17th.

Tempting. Damn tempting.

“A Baker’s Dozen of Star Wars Factoids”
       1. The droids C-3PO and Artoo Detoo are the only characters to be in all the movies to date, and little Artoo is the only one who saves the lives of all the major characters.
       2. Luke Skywalker started out as Luke Starkiller.
       3. Indiana Jones was supposed to find the skeleton of Han Solo in one of his movie series (a deleted script idea).
       4. Fanboys have camped out as long as 139 days outside a theater before tickets went on sale.
       5. Lucas writes the scripts thinking he is doing jazz riffs off the beloved “Flash Gordon” serials he saw on TV as a child, and that he feels he has had an impact on the U.S. space race.
       6. Harrison Ford has wanted Han Solo to die from Episode IV on, still does, and probably will do so in Episode VII.
       7. Japan is by far the most “Star Wars”-crazed culture.
       8. There are tens of thousands of homegrown Stormtroopers, devoted crafters who have fabricated their own costumes, many of whom marched proudly and in step in a Tournament of Roses parade.             
       9. A parsec is a measure of distance, not time, an oft-cited goof in the canon.
       10. The ’77 film was the movie that brought stereophonic sound back to movie theaters after a long dormancy.
       11. The actor who is Lucasfilm’s official Threepio who goes out on personal appearances must starve himself on a supermodel diet to be able to fit into the gold-plated costume.
       12. Barack Obama was pleasantly surprised to share a White House elevator with Threepio and Chewbacca.
       13. “Ewok” is “Wookiee” spelled sideways.