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According to folklore, George Lucas, creator of Star Wars made three prequel films that told the origin story of Darth Vader. I’m being sarcastic, obviously. As I mentioned towards the end of the last Star Wars blog, the end of the 1980s saw a diminish in Star Wars interest at least in the public spectrum.
During the 1990s there was resurgence in the Star Wars universe. First, author Timothy Zahn wrote the Thrawn trilogy of books from 1991-1993. These books, Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command, told the story of what happened in the years following Return of the Jedi. The books were met with great enthusiasm from fans. Personally, I would have like to have seen them turned into Episodes 7, 8 and 9 in the Star Wars cinematic universe.
In 1995, Hasbro, after purchasing original Star Wars toy maker Kenner in 1991, released the first line of new Star Wars action figures. For anyone who collected the original figures back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, this was like Christmas being year round. As a nerdy college student, I took to collecting these new figures like it was a job. My interest wasn’t just in collecting. Oh no. That would be too rational. Because of the way the original figures had gained value over time, and because I was an obsessive fan, I had to collect all variations of the figures. Boba Fett has different markings on his gloves? Have to own both. Luke Skywalker has two different color vests? I own both the black and the tan version. Of course, I wasn’t the only one to think this way, which is why these figures have not seen a dramatic increase in value over the past 20 years. Fanboys were collecting them en masse.
While the action figures and expanded universe books kept Star Wars fans happy, an announcement in early 1997 (for the sake of this blog, I’m going to pretend that is a correct timeframe) made all the wannabe Jedis lose their minds. George Lucas was going to make Episodes 1, 2 and 3. Being released in May of 1999, after a long 16-year wait, The Phantom Menace was the first new Star Wars film to hit the big screen.
I remember getting tickets for the midnight showing along with several friends. We arrived at the theater around 10pm. This was back before reserved seating in theaters was common. I’m not going to say I was wearing a Darth Maul mask. But I’m also not going to say I wasn’t. The energy in line was electric. Star Wars fans were excited for something they never thought they’d get to witness.
When were allowed into the theater, we all took our seats and tried to patiently wait for the clock to strike 12. Then it happened. The lights dimmed, the Fox studios logo came up on the screen and the Fox fanfare played. The Lucasfilm logo then occupied the screen followed by the operatic Star Wars theme that may go down as one of the best musical compositions in film history. Everyone in the theater cheered in excitement before settling down to see the first stage in the story of one of the most feared villains in this galaxy or one far, far away.
We watched as a young Obi-Wan, along with his mentor Qui-Gon Jinn, met a young Anakin Skywalker. Then something unique happened. About halfway through the film, right at the star of the pod race, Qui-Gon goes to put young Ani in the pod race and the power goes out. All of a sudden we’re sitting in a packed, dark, silent theater. In the words of Darth Vader 6 years later, “Noooooooo!” After about 5 minutes of waiting for the power to be restored, theater employees came in and said a power grid had been knocked out (later we’d find out a raccoon had gotten too close and fried himself) and the power wouldn’t be restored anytime soon. We were given free passes to come back and see the film at a later date. Naturally, we all went back the next day.
Following The Phantom Menace, 2002 saw the release of Attack of the Clones while Revenge of the Sith concluded the prequels trilogy in 2005. Looking back, while each film was met with excitement because it was Star Wars, the films themselves do not hold up as well as the original trilogy. There are many reasons for this and if you’re really interested in hearing reasons, I recommend checking out the lengthy in-depth reviews at Red Letter Media.
Since the release of the prequels, the Star Wars universe has been kept alive with more books, and two popular cartoons; The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. I have not watched these shows so I can’t speak from experience, but I’ve been told they are more in line with the original trilogy than the prequels.
Now it’s 2015 and we’re ready to go back to the future….. sorry, wrong trilogy. Um, Star Wars fans are eager to see what happened to Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia after defeating the Empire. More on that in the next blog.