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Star Wars Next Generations

It’s hard to deliver to the nostalgist while trying to bring in an entire new generation. Here’s hoping then, says Star Wars fan Debra-Jane Appelby.

Rey and Finn

Will the Force be strong for new Star Wars characters Rey and Finn? All photos: LucasFilm/Disney.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is here. And on Sunday I am going to see it with my mum, dad and sister-in-law.

It is with eternal shame as a sci-fi geek that, despite being a very mature 10 years old when Star Wars hit British cinemas in the summer of 1977, I didn’t go and see it straight away.

I was a massive Doctor Who and Star Trek fan and I didn’t see what this upstart fairy tale could have over the weekly wonder that was Tom Baker’s Doctor and repeats of Kirk and Spock. Of course, I wasn’t so staunchly against it that I didn’t want all the toys. And once it hit, I saw what everyone else had seen and how amazing it looked and felt – even on a 1970s colour TV – compared to Star Trek’s polystyrene rocks and the Doctor’s shaky sets.

Star Wars also had a massive impact on my hometown of Keighley, West Yorkshire. Local resident Peter Mayhew had been cast as Chewbacca and he’d host charity days at a local pub. (The town has since claimed him and the character as their own. It’s nice to think that direct translations of those howls and barks would sound more like “Hey up me duck, them bloody Stormtroopers couldn’t hit nowt wi’ a bucket o’ mushy peas.”)

Chewbacca and Han

Chewbacca reacts sniffily to Han’s insinuation that these days he wears a wig.

I finally encountered the big-screen wonder of the now retitled Star Wars: A New Hope when I saw all three original trilogy films in a prequel-preparation iMax marathon. TV had been the only way to see the films for a long time and in full 70mm Dolby surround iMax glory they were even more amazing than I remembered. I had, of course, since become an avid fan, reading the adaptations, the Han Solo novels, the comics and playing all the video games.

I’m one of those who feels the prequels don’t match up to the nostalgia, seeming more like a Lucas vanity project than anything else. Had I been 10 at the time of The Phantom Menace, complete with lightsaber and Jar Jar Binks plushy doll then perhaps I would hold a different opinion.

"Jar Jar who? We don't know what you're talking about..."

“Jar Jar who? We don’t know what you’re talking about…”

But it’s always hard to deliver to the nostalgist while trying to bring in an entire new generation of fans.

Generation is an important word here. My parents enjoyed Star Wars and it was inevitable, given my sci-fi obsessions, that any child of mine would be immersed in the genre from day one. My daughter Stephanie says the films had a gigantic influence on her imagination and love of the fantasy genre.

She reminds me of a party held in McDonalds where one of the staff told her that a Star Wars toy wasn’t appropriate for a girl. “Apparently a film franchise featuring one of the most memorable and empowering female leads is only for boys, go figure. I still play with Star Wars toys now and will find any excuse to,” she says. And now I have grandchildren they can be introduced to the whole kit and caboodle, with their very own movies.

When Star Wars was released in 1977, my adoptive dad was the chief projectionist at the Bolton Odeon, a flagship cinema at the time. He says the very first screening of Star Wars played to approximately half the cinema’s capacity of 530 seats.

It was a Sunday afternoon and mainly a younger audience but by the Wednesday evening it was a full house, with older generations joining the queues. He says the audience were almost transported back to Saturday-morning children’s cinema programmes, soaking up the effects with wide eyes, enjoying the written intro scrolling up the screen like the sci-fi serials of the 30s and 40s.

There’s the chance that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has the same issues as the prequels but threefold. Not only does it have to appeal to new, old codgers like myself but those that claim the prequels as their first Star Wars experience and those kids who they hope will be the next generation of fans. (You know, the ones that have been playing with the toys for the last six months.)

Having the original cast in this one to hand over to the new generation might be a sop to the oldies but Hollywood has got a lot better at reboots, sequels and digital effects, not to mention the creative power and confidence the post-Marvel Universe Disney machine has. And I suppose if they can do for Star Wars what they did for little-known superheroes like Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy then this generation will have a Star Wars that will blow everyone away all over again.

@dj_appelby

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Written by Debra-Jane Appelby

Loud, Yorkshire, opinionated, techno-geek, trans-woman comedian with a fondness for excessive culinary pleasures and too little exercise.