Growing up with Star Wars

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I’ve mentioned before that when I was at first school, most of my friends wanted to be Sandy in Grease, but I wanted to be Princess Leia.  I even got my Mum to put my hair in Leia-type hairdo’s, involving plaits mostly.  The boys let me play as none of them wanted to be Leia.  They were too busy arguing over who was Han and who was Luke…..and Chewie and the droids.

Iconic scene from Star Wars: Luke on Tatooine

Any child born, or growing up, in the 70’s would literally have to have been from another planet if they had not at least seen, what is, the most famous movie saga in the world.  That instantly recognisable operatic movie score from John Williams.  The closest anything else has come to Star Wars is Harry Potter, but that is for another post.

Star Wars: The Millennium Falcon

When George Lucas wrote Star Wars, he was writing a space adventure for children to enjoy.  He never envisaged it would reach such stratospheric levels of fandom, love and devotion. He says he was inspired by westerns, the old-fashioned good vs. evil and that good always wins in the end.

The Empire Strikes Back: Luke and Yoda

I remember my brothers collecting the Star Wars spaceships and figures.  I was bought My Little Pony and Barbie, which utterly bored me.  I was forever playing with Lego and Star Wars toys when I wasn’t riding my bike, or climbing trees.  I was a little tomboy.  Hence my admiration for Princess Leia.  I loved the scene in Return of the Jedi when she leaps on a speeder bike in pursuit of a biker scout, for example.  She didn’t wait for the boys to deal with the dilemma/problem.

That ending. Gulp….

I was 8 when I saw the Empire Strikes Back (the same year I saw ET) and I remember crying when Han got frozen, confusion at that paternity revelation and the ending.  It couldn’t end like that, could it?  As an adult, Empire is my favourite of the trilogy.  It is the operatic, dark, second act.  However, back to my childhood, I was relieved when good won out in Jedi and loved the cute ewoks, but my brothers found them annoying.  However, the boys got Leia in a gold bikini so they shouldn’t complain.

Return of the Jedi

My teens, which I hated, came and went.  In my early 20’s the trilogy was rereleased at cinemas ahead of the new prequel, The Phantom Menace.  I had never seen the films at the cinema as I was only 2 when Star Wars came out.  I dragged one of my best friends along and after seeing Star Wars, she really looked forward to the next two films.  Seeing certain scenes such as the X-Wing attack on the Death Star, Hoth, Cloud City and the speeder bike chase on Endor was amazing.  To a child, this would be pure cinematic magic.

Wicket. Cute.

So, in 1999, the day tickets went on sale for The Phantom Menace, I got up early and booked tickets for myself and two best friends for the first showing.  On the day, queues were going round the block and people were offering three or four times the price for a ticket, but nobody was selling.  There was an air of hushed excitement when we all filed in, which I’ve never experienced before in a cinema………it was all for nothing.  It just didn’t have the charm, or magic.  The best thing Star Wars-related that year was Simon Pegg’s episode of Spaced called ‘Chaos’.  Simon Pegg is another huge fan of the trilogy.

Mace Windu. Bad-Ass Jedi. Purple Lightsaber.

I dutifully watched Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, hoping things would improve, the latter film being the best of the prequels.  I feel sorry for Jake Lloyd who copped all the flak.  He was just a kid.  Lucas should have cast an older Anakin and Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman (forgiven because of Black Swan) were wooden and awful.  Then there was the awful Jar-Jar Binks….. There were a few good scenes and glimpses of what could have been, in all three movies.  Ewan McGregor hit his stride as Obi Wan in Clones and Revenge.  Darth Maul was the best thing in Phantom.  Mace Windu was the best thing about the whole trilogy.  Too cool for Jedi school.

Episode VII Cast Meeting

Anyway, onwards and upwards.  My 5 year old is now Star Wars obsessed.  Star Wars is his world.  Luke Skywalker is awesome and my son wants to be a Jedi when he grows up, alongside acting, directing and winning the Tour de France. Of course.  He will be 7 when Episode VII is released in December 2015.  I cannot wait to take him to the cinema, along with my husband, my brothers and nephews.  This is a film with huge expectations, build-up and excitement, much like Christmas.  I have every faith in JJ Abrams being the man for the job.  I think the force is strong in this one.

Images: IMDb

Lord of the Rings

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Like many others, I was a fan of Tolkien’s trilogy long before Peter Jackson and New Line brought the films to our screens in 2001.  My first introduction to Tolkien’s world was at 9 years of age when my school screened Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated version of the books.  I did not discover until I read the books, as a teen, that his version stopped mid-way through The Two Towers.  However, this was my entrée into Middle Earth and I was hooked.

For any (rare) people who don’t know the story of Lord of the Rings, it is about Frodo Baggins, a hobbit, who is left a ring by his Uncle, Bilbo Baggins.  The ring happens to be the most powerful thing in Middle Earth and the dark lord Sauron wants it back.  With this ring, Sauron and his dark army of orcs, goblins and uruk-hai will be able to control Middle Earth.  Frodo, along with his hobbit friends, Sam, Pippin and Merry, end up on an adventure, travelling through Middle Earth, in a quest that must see Frodo destroy the ring….but, will it destroy him first?  To help Frodo on his quest are; Gandalf the Grey, Aragorn (a mysterious Ranger), Boromir, Legolas (an elf) and Gimli (a dwarf).  The trilogy is also about these friends and how they all have their own part to play in helping Frodo.

Hobbiton

In my early 20’s, I eagerly followed the production progress of Peter Jackson’s films via Empire magazine and I vividly remember the first published photos of the ringwraiths.  I think those pictures went viral.  Here was a director who was a Tolkien fanboy too.  Any cynicism was erased because I was looking at Tolkien’s world coming to life.

The Nasgul/Ringwraiths/Black Riders

The LoTR films have already become modern classics.  As with any other film in this category, casting is key.  Peter Jackson found a cast who lived and breathed their characters, they invested themselves in the whole process with him and realised these films were a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Frodo Baggins, Pocket-Sized Hero

If the actors don’t believe in the story, or director, how will it ever translate well on screen (for example, Natalie Portman in the Star Wars films).  Before these films and Andy Serkis, who ever would have thought they would sympathise with Gollum?

Gollum/Smeagol

Everybody has a favourite character, or characters.  I love Legolas, Eowyn and Sam.  My 5 year old is already a fan and he loves Legolas, Boromir and Frodo.  Legolas  because he is just too cool for school, surfing on shields as he fires arrows at orcs, taking down olyphants and making it look effortless.  Eowyn feels trapped and wants to help fight for those she loves.  She proves very brave indeed.  And Sam?  Sam is loyal and true and loves his friend, Frodo, and would do anything for him.

Boromir of Gondor

Boromir: “It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing.”

There are stand-out cinematic moments in each of the three films.  For me personally, I love the Mines of Moria sequence, Helm’s Deep, I love Eowyn standing up to and destroying the Witch King and, although it made me cry, the scene with the boat departing for the undying lands (I will say no more, no spoilers!).

Merry and Pippin (probably thinking about second breakfast)

Friendship runs at the heart of each film, the Fellowship of 9, Sam and Frodo, Merry and Pippin, Merry and Eowyn, Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn, Aragorn and Boromir.  It is these relationships that also carry the films through.

Eowyn, Shield-Maiden of Rohan

Peter Jackson achieved what George Lucas did not (with episodes 1-3) and created a world that you could see, feel and touch.  The land of the Shire and Hobbiton were created a year before filming so that they had a lived in, real look and it shows in the films. Most of the sets and locations were real and the bits of CGI that are in the films, are so well done that you forget it’s CGI.  You know that Peter Jackson believes in the books, his work, the creative process and getting it right and it comes out through every pore of these films.

Frodo: “I’m glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee, here, at the end of all things.”

Trivia:

Peter Jackson gave one of the rings used in the movies to both Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis as gift when the shoot was finished. They both thought they had the only one

The Fellowship of 9 actors (Sean Bean, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Ian Mckellen, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan) all got a tattoo with the elvish word for ‘9’.  John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) did not, but his stunt double did.

Christopher Lee (Saruman) reads the LoTR’s books once a year and has met Tolkien.

Images: IMDb and LoTR.wiki