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FILM & TV

So long, Star Wars: One fan's fond farewell to the sci-fi series

Words by Rob Chilton

Rob Chilton reflects on the conclusion of the Star Wars saga and says goodbye to a treasured part of his childhood from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

It was 1982 and the football World Cup was in full flow. I was a football-mad six-year-old, transfixed by the skills of Michel Platini, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Zico and Paolo Rossi as they played in glorious Spanish sunlight. When the matches were over, I raced to fill in the scores on my World Cup wall chart that every fan had pinned to their walls. My mum insisted I use Blu Tack so I didn’t ruin the wallpaper.

One day towards the end of the tournament there were no games scheduled so my Dad took me to the video rental store, Caprides, which also doubled as a diving equipment shop, which, looking back, seems like an odd business plan, but it seemed perfectly normal at the time.

My Dad picked up a VHS cassette of Star Wars. A blond guy on the front held a gun, a black robot brandished a sword of light, there was a brown, hairy monster and some spaceships. “Let’s watch this,” he suggested.

Han, Luke and Leia take cover behind Chewie in Star Wars

We settled down to watch the original 1977 episode IV subtitled A New Hope and my life changed. I became obsessed. I watched it again and again before our rental session expired and we had to return it to the shelves at Caprides next to the oxygen tanks and snorkel masks. I loved how the movie flew from orange desert to black space, I loved the ugly aliens, the Stormtrooper costumes, the impossibly cool Han Solo, the noise the Tie-Fighters made and – of course – Princess Leia.

I grabbed my white plastic space gun from my room and pretended to zap Stormtroopers as Luke Skywalker. The World Cup resumed, but all I could think about was when we could next watch Star Wars. Numerous viewings followed as we became regular customers at Caprides. Being surrounded by all that diving equipment might have turned some kids onto becoming a deep-sea diver, but all I wanted to be was an X-Wing pilot.

Heroes in the Millennium Falcon

After wearing out the tape of Star Wars, we rented the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. Darker, more sinister, less glitzy, the film became my favourite of all the franchise with the battles on a snowy Hoth a particular highlight.

A crucial stage of my addiction came when I started collecting Star Wars action figures, bought with my pocket money. I re-enacted battle scenes with the figures that had the most amazing smell. My Luke Skywalker in an orange X-Wing flight suit was the most treasured figure in my collection.

In 1983 Return of the Jedi came out in cinemas and my Dad took me along. We waited in the queue for a long time in the hot sun and I became dizzy. Overly excited at the prospect of seeing my heroes on a cinema screen, I threw up in the gutter. We went home and I ate a banana to settle my stomach while my mother vacuumed, using lemon Shake 'n' Vac. Even today, the smell of a lemon cleaning product takes me back to that moment.

We tried the afternoon screening but only made it halfway to the cinema before my Dad had to stop the car in Reading’s Palmer Park for me to be sick again. My Mum suggested we go the next day and that I invite my friend Jon Stannard to go with us. Perhaps distracted from my nervous excitement by his presence, I watched the film with my lunch intact and loved it.

The new breed in Rise of Skywalker

I’ve since rewatched those first three films dozens of times. The prequels released from 1999 to 2005 – Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith – were okay but ultimately a disappointment. The latest movies, starting with 2015’s The Force Awakens, followed by The Last Jedi in 2017 and the most recent chapter, The Rise of Skywalker, were enjoyable.

But the thrill had gone.

I saw the most recent trio of movies within the first week of release, booking tickets in advance and looking forward to them every time. But truthfully, I was taking my seat out of loyalty, rather than genuine excitement at the spectacle that was to unfold before my eyes. There were plenty of nods and winks in the new movies for older Star Wars fans, but the flashy action sequences and droids just looked like ways of selling video games and merchandise. Ultimately, of course, I was simply too old to enjoy the Star Wars world of Luke, Han, Chewbacca and R2-D2 as I had done when I was a wide-eyed child in 1982.

And then, with 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker, it all ended. I had come full circle. The saga was complete. As JJ Abrams skilfully tied up all the loose ends (bravo) TROS was, for me, the most satisfying episode of the reboots.

No spoilers here, but the final scene in the desert really hit a nerve with me, as it did with many other Star Wars veterans. As if powered by the Millennium Falcon’s hyperspace, I felt my memory shooting back to being a little boy with his white plastic space gun in that golden summer of 1982. And that’s a good enough way to say ‘the end.’

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