• Thomas Loftin

A long time ago in a theater far, far away...

"Why do you like Star Wars so much?”

“I don’t, I love it.”

“Really? It’s just a movie.”

That question has been uttered to me too many times to count, yet I never get tired of conversing about my love of all things Star Wars. After a few times of being asked to explain myself I truly became introspective. Why do I love Star Wars so much? I could not arrive at a simple answer. Could any fan, really? What if someone asked you why you have a favorite color or why you are left handed? Are those easy questions to answer? Simply put, No. One cannot explain the concept of love in a mere sentence or two, yet today you get a chance to read my attempt.

It all began in the 1980’s. I was born the year before Return of the Jedi released in theaters, so to say I have been a fan since the beginning is absurd. Now, my brother is a different story, he was 5 when he first caught Empire Strikes Back in it’s initial release. He was instantly hooked. By the time I came along and began to creatively play with action figures, my brother had the whole run of Star Wars characters and vehicles. I had a few, like my Royal Guard and Lando, but didn’t really know who they were. Those figures usually became cannon fodder for my G.I. Joe battles. In the early 90’s around the time I turned ten, I recall catching Episodes V and VI running on a local station. I was blown away.

Star Wars seemed a little different than anything I had ever seen. I would ask my brother about the films because there were lots of things I didn’t understand. He was happy to oblige, but insisted that I see the original Star Wars. Year after year, on Thanksgiving, I would catch ESB and ROTJ playing on that same station. It was tradition. Still Episode IV eluded me. Local video stores either didn’t have it in stock when I was able to go or their copy had never been returned. By 1995, I had memorized ESB and ROTJ like the back of my hand and needed to see New Hope. So, I faked my parents name on a VHS club order form, checked “bill me later” and enrolled as a member of Columbia House. My initial selections were the trilogy, of course. 6-8 weeks later I was in heaven and began to adore Episode IV as I had the others.

The Special Editions came in 1997, and I begged to finally see them on the big screen. “Why would I pay to see a movie that we already own?” My parents didn’t get it. It was more than a series of films. While I wasn't able to see the Special Edition releases in theaters, I was able to enjoy the marketing campaign and rounds of new merchandise that hit stores. Just as that seemed to fade, my family had finally bought a home PC and merged onto the information superhighway. With the internet, I found a glimpse of hope in my quest to see the saga as it was meant to. I discovered that a new Star Wars was going to be released. A new film to answer all the questions that my brother and even Episode IV couldn’t. All I had to do was wait.

Episode 1 was to be released on May 19, 1999 and was going to begin to tell the story of why Anakin fell from grace to become the most feared villain in the galaxy. The anticipation was tough, yet I found solace in the lead up to the film. New characters were revealed online and there was even a behind the scenes web series, so I knew much about the background of the characters before I even stepped foot in the theater. My brother and I went on opening weekend to see the new installment. It was a treat for the eyes and the imagination. The pod race, Darth Maul, and Obi-Wan had my adrenaline running for days. There was so many answers that had began to develop along with new questions that arose. The film was too intense to understand by a single viewing. I had to see it again. A few friends and I went to a late night showing. As I had digested my first screening, this second time was sure to be more enjoyable. It was even better the second time. It was so different than the original trilogy, yet I saw the rhythm that the creator was going for. I deeply connected to the Phantom Menace; this was my Star Wars.

As the prequel trilogy progressed and comments about its comparison to the original trilogy divided the fans, I found myself in an odd place. I understood their grievances, but I didn’t feel similar. My love for the originals was extended to the prequels like a parents love extends to its grandchildren. I didn’t feel that one was better than the other, they were different. Both from the same origins yet different in composition and presentation. That’s when I realized that I loved Star Wars. I didn’t have a favorite and would rethink myself if I ever said i did. These movies represent a lifelong attachment to a belief in things greater than myself and my place in the universe just like “the force”. The saga is a staple of my childhood, a piece of youthful nostalgia that I refuse to give up. I have become a better man by emulating the heroes in these films and by passing those same character traits to my children. Simply put, I love Star Wars, it’s who I am.

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