There is nothing like seeing “Star Wars” for the first time. Ask any film geek, director, actor, or fan when they saw it and you are sure to get a long story of where they saw it, when, with whom, and the impact it had on their life.
Having been born a few years after “Return of the Jedi” was released to the big screens, I never saw the originals in all their silver-screen glory. But when I was about 8 or 9, my dad brought them home. Some families bond over sports events or family outings. Mine bonded through film. My dad would always bring home a selection of films for my brother and I to go through and often they were classic titles or children’s films he deemed significant enough (one of the traits I inherited from my dad: that of being a film snob). I can’t say I remember the experience of seeing any of the films, until the day he brought home the “Star Wars” trilogy.
I think in some way I am still trying to re-create that exact experience whenever I go to the movies. It’s the experience of the feeling of new worlds and inspirations opening in your mind because you are seeing something for the first time. The “Star Wars” trilogy works resonates with so many of us as children because it doesn’t once pander or talk down to us at that stage of life. Rather, it’s an adventure that takes us along for the ride. And while the films end with fireworks over Endor, the story never truly ends for us. We’re left to imagine what adventures Luke, Leia, and Han got into next, and to dream of the other worlds that inhabit the “Star Wars” universe.
The result of our youthful connection to “Star Wars” has its downsides and its upsides. The “Star Wars” prequels were a horrible mess that lacked all the magic of the originals; but even had they been great films, they never would have compared to the stories we all have fabricated in our heads after seeing the original films. I don’t think anything would have ever left us completely satisfied. Therein lies the upside. That feeling of discovery that the first “Star Wars” films left in us have in turn made people creative. Since “Return of the Jedi” there has been no shortage of “Star Wars” fiction, art, and films created by fans. And now that the internet allows us to share these creations with a click of a button, there’s a plethora of ways for Star Wars fans to revisit that youthful feeling of discovery.
Two short films, whose only common thread is a love of “Star Wars,” illustrate how the films can inspire unique explorations of the “Star Wars” universe.
The Solo Adventures
The first is a computer animated short called “The Solo Adventures” by Daniel L. Smith and Jeffery Scheetz. Directed in a style not at all dissimilar from the “Clone Wars” animated series, the approximately five-minute film follows Han Solo and Chewbacca on a smuggling run with an unnamed robotic bounty hunter. This film has a professional glean that, unless you knew otherwise, you would think it had been produced by Lucasarts. Of the original trilogy characters, Han and Chewie are often the most discussed in terms of their lives pre-“A New Hope.” Unlike Luke and Leia, who are quite young when we meet them, Han is likely in his late 20s and has already lived a few years as hardened smuggler. This brief glimpse into his pre-trilogy life is fun without presupposing to many facts about him that other fans might disagree with. The film also ends on humourous note that should appease the fans who had a major beef with one of the characters who appears in the prequels. “The Solo Adventures” won the “Best Animation” prize in the Star Wars Fan Film Challenge in 2010, and frankly represents the kind of stories that Lucasarts should be telling as it endeavors to further any financial gain that there is to be had from the Star Wars franchise.
AT-AT Day Afternoon
“AT-AT Day Afternoon” is entirely different type of homage to “Star Wars.” Coming in at a succinct one minute and four seconds, this stop-motion short is based on a simple concept; what if your AT-AT toy were a dog? In the films, the AT-ATs (if you don’t remember what an AT-AT is, they’re the four-legged transport vehicles seen for the first time in “The Empire Strikes Back”) are really cool, fearsome machines. The Kenner AT-AT toys were highly sought after for years, so much so I remember being highly jealous of a friend who was able to find one at a garage sale (at 24 she still has it proudly displayed in her apartment; I’m still jealous). “AT-AT Day Afternoon” plays with that idea and turns the toy of one of the most iconic Star Wars machines into a friendly puppy. The director, Patrick Boivine, seamlessly integrates the stop-motion animation and puppetry with live action to create something that is quirky and whimsical, but also works as an ode to our childhood’s playing with Star Wars toys and dreaming of a galaxy far, far away.
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