I fielded quite a few questions this last week, and not all of them were “Hey, what’s wrong with your Kings?” No, they weren’t all focused on the demise of my favorite hockey team but rather the three original movies from the Star Wars franchise: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
The questions came from my kids: daughter Emily (9) and son Trevor (3), who sat down to watch all three movies with me during the week that was, and the questions came in bunches. Answers were sometimes specific (“Chewbacca is a Wookie, not a monkey.”), often a little curt (“I don’t know how Jabba gets around.”) and sometimes creatively made up (“Owen and Beru’s kitchen caught on fire and that’s how they burned up.”).
More than anything it was just really interesting to see the old movies again through the eyes of our little ones, especially when I consider the fact that Emily is just slightly younger than I was when I saw Star Wars for the very first time as a young lad.
What follows is a rough diary of the kids’ questions and observations from the three movies.
Episode IV: A New Hope
- Trevor question: Is it Chewie or Chewbacca?
- Emily question: Why does Darth Vader breathe so loud?
- Trevor observation: I love bad guys – I really love “Dark” Vader.
- Emily observation: Do you think that Princess Leia is beautiful?
Trevor struggled quite a bit with names, or more specifically, the nicknames. C-3PO was often called “3PO,” R2-D2 was shortened to “R2” and of course Chewbacca was “Chewie,” but Trevor insisted that they were being called by the wrong names. I attempted to explain to Trevor that these were simply nicknames and that people sometimes call him “Trevie” instead of Trevor, which allowed him to utter: “I don’t want to be called that any more.”
Perhaps the sweetest movie-watching moment for me was cheering with the kids when Luke Skywalker fires the kill-shot to the Death Star, and when the battle station blew to pieces there was tremendous joy in our household, which was a good thing considering that in a pivotal scene leading up to that happy moment featured tears, questions, pleading and the movie being paused for 20 minutes.
When Obi-Wan Kenobi selflessly allows himself to be killed by Darth Vader during their lightsaber duel – an act which allowed Luke, Han Solo, Princess Leia and company to escape with the plans to destroy the Death Star – Emily was mortified. “Wait, what? He’s dead? Why? No, no, no, no, no!” Oh, her cries broke my heart. I really didn’t see it coming. I attempted to assure her that we had not seen the last of Obi-Wan, that we would continue to see and hear from him, but she wasn’t having it. It was like her galactic grandpa had passed away or something. Very rough on her. With the movie paused we walked through all of Kenobi’s actions since the group arrived at the Death Star and I told her that he never intended to leave there alive, that he knew he had to sacrifice for the benefit of the good people. I told her that if Ben Kenobi didn’t die then Darth Vader and his evil ways would win in the end.
Silence. Thoughtful silence.
Tears dried (Trevor was eating a banana at this point just waiting), Emily recovered and accepted that the grandfatherly Obi-Wan was a hero. She just wished he didn’t have to die.
And I completely understood that sentiment.
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
- Trevor question: When do we get to see Yoda?
- Emily question: Why is C3PO so annoying?
- Trevor observation: Yoda’s house is sooooo cool. I want to live there!
- Emily observation: Princess Leia looks better in this one than the first one.
- Daddy observation: Billy Dee Williams: Really?
Of the three films, Empire is my personal favorite simply because the bad guys are all so awesomely bad and the movie ends with so many issues left to resolve. The kids really did not like the fact that Darth Vader had Han Solo frozen in carbonite and they asked me plenty of questions about it:
- Is he still alive? (Yes.)
- How do you know? (They just confirmed that he was okay.)
- Is he breathing? (No, he is alive but it’s like they hit the pause button – he’ll start breathing when he gets out.)
- So wait, he’s gonna get out? How? (We just have to watch the next movie.)
No Daddy, no! Tell us now!
That’s pretty much how it went.
Darth Vader seemed much more menacing in Empire, and the kids noticed that his helmet seemed shinier. I don’t believe there is a connection between the two, but I thought it odd that at the moment I was focusing in on his more sinister ways the kids were more focused on how cool he looked.
Yoda’s swamp shanty was the subject of much discussion, as was the beast swimming around the swamp that took R2 down and then spit him up. Was it an alligator? Was it a dinosaur? Was it a monster? Knowing that the monster was not to be heard or seen from again I attempted to get the kids focused back on Luke’s purpose for the visit: To meet Yoda and commence his Jedi training. But no, they wanted to talk about the Loch Ness Monster-like creature in Yoda’s swamp. So we pulled up pictures on the internet and settled on the below.
Empire Strikes Back leaves the viewer wanting answers and things resolved: Han Solo is frozen, Darth Vader is Luke’s dad and why in the world is Billy Dee Williams here? The kids were mortified that Vader chopped off Luke’s hand just prior to revealing that he was Daddy, but I kept laughing to myself that the movie could have been called “Cool Hand Luke.” Not funny.
There could be no delay in our watching Return of the Jedi so that all of the questions could be answered, but there was a bit of technical issue.
We don’t own copies of the Star Wars DVDs, so I had been recording the movies on Spike TV. Not only was it a challenge to quickly scroll through the amazingly inappropriate commercials, but it would seem that the network’s programming schedules were all off kilter, and even though I set our DVR to record long past the scheduled end times for each movie, I could tell right away with Jedi that we were going to miss the ending. Never fear though: My buddy Mike had the DVD, so we had a short delay in getting to the climactic ending (to date) of the Star Wars saga.
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
- Trevor question: Why is Yoda so old? Is he gonna die?
- Emily question: Why is Princess Leia wearing that outfit?
- Trevor observation: Yoda’s voice sounds funny.
- Emily’s observation: The Ewoks are so adorable!
Both kids absolutely loved Jabba the Hutt. I remembered him being practically impossible to look at when I originally saw Jedi, what, with his amazing girth, slimy slug-like appearance, but the kids were mesmerized by him. They thought he was funny but also knew that he was very mean, and when a scantily clad Princess Leia choked Jabba to death there was a palpable roar in the Fulton household. They liked seeing him, yet they were glad that he was gone.
Just like Trevor struggled with shortened names or nicknames, Emily had a tough time remembering that it was Boba Fett the bounty hunter and Jabba the Hutt, evil crime boss. She thought the name was Boba “Fat” and that they were referring to Jabba the Hutt and that it was a little mean to be calling him fat. We paused, I explained and all was well.
Jedi moves along nicely with Luke and Vader continuing the father-son dance, and now it is revealed that Leia is Luke’s twin sister, so we all flashed back to the seemingly innocent kiss that Leia laid on Luke in one of the earlier movies, and that combined with the fact that it was fairly well established that Luke was crushing on Leia, and yeah, it was a little uncomfortable in our living room for a few minutes while I tried to explain.
- Gross! They are brother and sister and they kissed! (No big deal, just an innocent kiss.)
- But Luke has a crush on her! (Maybe, but we’ve been seeing that she and Han are definitely in love, right?)
- But she kissed Luke! Gross. (Sigh.)
Ewoks, Muppets, too much music, some over-the-top romance and just too much C3PO make Jedi my least favorite of the three. In fact, it is my least favorite of the six Star Wars movies made to date. The only thing that could make it worse would be the inclusion of Jar Jar Binks.
But Jedi has a distinctly satisfying ending, as things are blown to bits (good-bye Death Star II), good triumphs over evil and all questions are answered.
Once we finished our viewing of Jedi and we had completed our Fulton family tour of the original three movies I asked both kids which movie they enjoyed the most (and why), and what character was their favorite:
- Favorite movie: The Empire Strikes Back. It was his favorite because he liked seeing Yoda’s house and the monster that lived in Yoda’s swamp.
- Favorite character: Yoda.
- Favorite movie: Return of the Jedi. It was her favorite movie for a few reasons. First, she loves, loves, LOVES the Ewoks, especially the baby Ewoks. Finally, she was terrified to see Darth Vader’s shiny helmet come off for fear of what she would see, but she had tremendous sympathy for him when she saw his sad, Humpty Dumpty-like face. She was so thrilled that his heart had softened and that Luke was right – there was some good inside him.
- Favorite character: Obi-Wan Kenobi.
My kids struggle to see the good in each other, as they argue about sleeping on the top bunk and fight over sharing toys, but they are in agreement that Star Wars was a lot of fun to watch and they are thrilled to tell anyone that good is always better than evil.
And that Chewbacca is a Wookie, not a monkey.