Battle of Yavin.

A long time ago, in a country far, far away…

It was 1978. I had heard of a new movie called Star Wars. All I knew about the movie was that it was a tale set in outer space. Kids of my generation at that time grew up on a dose of sci-fi telly programmes the likes of Space: 1999. A girl in my class saw the trailer in a cinema in Singapore, which further fueled my interest in the film. A few weeks later, I got to to see the trailer myself at Cathay cinema near Bukit Bintang.

I was blown away. Totally.

Like any eight-year old, I loved to draw. I replayed the trailer excerpts from the Death Star battle again and again in my head, to conjure up images of what i thought the X-wing fighter looked like so that i could draw it.

What I though an X-wing looked like when drawn from memory as an 8-year old. This is a reproduction, obviously.
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The poster that started it all. The TIE fighters were easier to draw as all you needed to doodle was an H-shaped spaceship. Heh.
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Star Wars actually premiered on 25 May 1977 in the US and Europe, which was a year earlier than Malaysia. In those days, movies didn’t get shown on Malaysian soil at the same time as the ‘States unlike today. I remembered then that over three weekends, the New Sunday Times ran an abridged version of the Alan Dean Foster novelisation. With the little stills they had and the movie poster, I finally learned to draw an X-wing fighter (and Darth Vader, but in only one pose!) properly.

Finally! This is also a reproduction. Obviously.
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I can’t remember when exactly, but the day I got to watch Star Wars I was really excited. From that day, the 20th Century Fox fanfare was Star Wars to me. After being blown away by the magnificent intro of the blockade runner being attacked by the Imperial Star Destroyer, every second was savoured with my jaws agape. However, I had the displeasure of sitting in front of a jabbering teenager going “Waaah… that’s Dak Weda. After that aaa…“.

Walking back towards the car park after the film, I remembered I was so looking forward to talk about it with my friends in school the following Monday. School recess time saw us playing Star Wars instead of the usual combat or police ‘n’ thief. Which Star Wars character was I assigned to? R2-D2. Oh well, but those were fun times.

In those days, the VCR was non-existent, at least in our household. To get my Star Wars fix, I’d watch this late night TV show called That’s Hollywood! was aired on RTM. Simply because the opening and end-credits had scenes including those of Luke’s X-wing being chased by Vader’s TIE fighter in the Death Star trench that leads to the thermal exhaust port (right below the main por… what? WHAT?!!).

I would wait every week without fail to watch that! I also had a 60-minute cassette tape that my parents bought for me in Singapore which basically was a mini audiobook narrated by Roscoe Lee Browne complete with original dialogue, sound effects and score from the actual movie. I played that tape to death, literally. Following the demise of said tape, I had to make do with a poorer version which had some other actor doing the voices. Badly.

The Story Of Star Wars is a 1977 record album presenting an abridged version of the events depicted in the film Star Wars, using dialogue and sound effects from the original film. The recording was produced by George Lucas and Alan Livingston, and was narrated by Roscoe Lee Browne. (Wikipedia)
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Star Wars mania was really big in KL at that time. We got a Polaroid of us taken with Darth Vader, Chewie, C-3PO and a stormtrooper at Jaya supermarket in Section 14 PJ. And then you have the toys. The Kenner action figures was like $3 apiece.

A fraction of what Kenner released between 1978-1985. My collection is now in storage in Kuala Lumpur.(Wikipedia)
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I still buy 'em. Hehe.My first ever action figure was, err.. R2-D2. I think my brother got Chewbacca. Little did I know that in 5 years time, both of us would have all 98 of the 6″ action figures ever released by Kenner for the period between 1978-1985. The larger toys like the X-wing were a bit too pricey, so we were happy to have gotten the smaller die-cast metal/plastic versions. For example, the smaller Millennium Falcon toy was scale-to-scale more accurate like the actual movie model, allowing me to be able to draw the falcon from any angle possible. Also, by the time bits of paint had chipped off the Falcon, it looked more weathered giving the ship a more realistic appearance of it being the “fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy”. At this juncture, I have to say that the sequels literally expanded the Star Wars universe. Which meant new planets, creatures and ships. And this meant new toys.

As I alluded earlier in this post, drawing was my passion in my primary school days. I couldn’t colour to save my life, but doing pencil drawings were pretty much my forte. Not artistic sketches, but comic-style drawings. Marvel Comics had Star Wars titles which had stories set after Episode IV. I literally copied the comic artwork which were then pencilled/penned by the likes of Howard Chaykin and Carmine Infantino. Infantino’s characters had ridiculously angular jaws and his version of Princess Leia was so like Angelina Jolie, lip-wise and, err, tit-wise. It was from there that I started to do my own comics. I’d buy exercise books at school and started writing/drawing my own Star Wars stories. The stories were ridiculously simple and written off the cuff. Content-wise it was ever so random and you could never see a plot. In fact, one part of the story I could remember, because my brother keeps taunting me about it to this very day.

See what I mean? The language style used in these was acceptable to me and my primary school friends at that time. What were you expecting?

By the time Empire Strikes Back came out, VCRs were already common in most households. When we bought our very first VCR, we had to be contented with pirated copies of Episodes IV and V. By the time when Return of the Jedi was released in 1983, RTM screened Star Wars as part of their Dunhill-sponsored movie selections. Being my enterprising self, I recorded myself a better copy of the film using the home VCR, as compared to the pirated ones. It wasn’t until I was in university in the early 90’s when I got to purchase original VHS tapes of the films. I think to date, I have owned the original trilogy in full screen, widescreen and the remastered widescreen. It’s a pity Lucas didn’t think of having the original unedited versions in the DVD.

Like my recent interest in tracing the roots of modern rock music, I bought the DVD of Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress 「隠し砦の三悪人」, the inspiration behind the basic story of Episode IV. Any self-respecting Star Wars fan should check this classic piece of cinema out. Do watch out for the two protagonists, Tahei and Matashichi, both of whom inspired Lucas in creating C-3PO and R2-D2. The dynamics between the two characters are ever so similar to the two lovable droids. There’s also a general and a princess in The Hidden Fortress, and the basic premise of the story revolving around the two characters getting caught in the midst of everything is ever so familiar.

Star Wars still means a lot to me. It is part of current popular culture, and you don’t need to be a Star Wars geek to know what a lightsabre is. As I grow older, it has stopped becoming an obsession (like listening to that audio cassette, I have lost count of how many instances I have watched all three episodes). When Episode I came out in 1999, I think I watched it like 4 times in a row. I was amazed to find that by the time I was viewing it for the fourth time, I began to fall asleep in the cinema. As a big fan of the original non-digital episodes, I wasn’t as bowled over as I was when I saw Episode IV all those years ago. And it wasn’t just the wooden acting (everything went downhill, acting-wise, from Episode VI onwards).

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So, the circle is finally complete, as I watched the final installment earlier today, less than one week to the day the first film was released 28 years ago.

The film included many scenes (and dialogue – “lock s-foils in attack positions!“) echoing the main trilogy, like the speeder bike/Jedi genocide scene and the final looking at the horizon with the twin Tatooine suns, G1 and G2, setting. In fact, one Episode III scene appeared to be reminiscent of the crappy Han Solo-Lando Calrissian “just get going, you pirate!” dialogue in the hangar scene of ROTJ. But Lucas redeemed himself with the superb introductory battle scene together with the numerous lightsabre fights we get to see throughout the film. Every question was indeed answered, may it be in the form of a scene or a single line of dialogue, some of the exposition seemed a tad rushed as these were done at the end of the film.

Onboard the Tantive IV.As I am writing this post, I have, in the background, the Episode IV DVD playing. Watching it now with a renewed sense changes everything. Everything is now crystal clear. Luke and Leia aren’t just two characters trying to rid the universe of the tyranny of the evil galactic Empire. Now, I see them as children of a man who sacrificed his soul because of the love of his life. After watching Episode III, just put the Episode IV DVD on and you will see what I mean.

To anyone who feels bummed that there will be no more Star Wars after this, Lucasfilm will be doing a 3D animated version of the Clone Wars followed by a television series set in the Star Wars universe. So, watch this space.