Confessions Of An Ex-Star Wars Obsessive

From an Australian version with an extra second of footage to playing cards and radio shows, my Star Wars collection is massive. But I've had enough, I can't do it anymore, Lucas can stick his Phantom Menace up his...
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From an Australian version with an extra second of footage to playing cards and radio shows, my Star Wars collection is massive. But I've had enough, I can't do it anymore, Lucas can stick his Phantom Menace up his...

Well, it's been - what? - four or five months already, and it's time for another bite of the Star Wars apple, this time with the cinematic re-release of the films in 3D, beginning with The Phantom Menace this month. Now, I could easily spend the next couple of thousand words sniping at the prospect of watching the Star Wars prequels with an added dimension: through the wonders of technology, Hayden Christensen's performance finally gains some depth! See the films as the director in no way ever originally intended but hey, what the fuck, there's an untapped commercial possibility to be exploited and the George Lucas money mountain needs topping up!

But really, what's the point? It's all been said before, and by better men than me. Bashing the Star Wars prequels has become a socially ordained tradition in our culture, in much the same way that giving the EDF doorstep salesman a five-minute head start before you broke out the shotgun used to be.

Nowadays, I'm not overly horrified that yet another version of the Star Wars saga is being foisted on the world, and I don't find myself becoming exercised that Mr. Lucas will once again fail to resist the urge to tinker under the bonnet, fruitlessly searching for an empty inch of screen that hasn't already been filled with some robotic widget that can be given away with a Happy Meal in a lucrative sponsorship tie-in.

I'm not keeping up with the Joneses anymore, I refuse. When it comes to the exhausting game of getting the very latest versions of the Star Wars films on the very latest format, I'm afraid my wad has long since been shot.

A long time ago, in a London borough far, far away, I bought The Story of Star Wars LP, having worn the local library's copy down to a nubbin after borrowing it for about six months straight. I diligently taped the radio dramatisation off Radio 1, and did my own artwork on the cassette cases (later on, I picked up the official release cassettes, and I'm fairly certain I've got the compact disc releases knocking about somewhere). I was well on the way to creating my own Star Wars multimedia experience.

Bashing the Star Wars prequels has become a socially ordained tradition in our culture, in much the same way that giving the EDF doorstep salesman a five-minute head start before you broke out the shotgun used to be

I had the film novelizations, and the comics, and avidly read the spin-off books, which at that point you could still count on the fingers of one hand: there was Splinter of the Mind's Eye, in which Darth Vader returns and does everything he can to sabotage Luke's fairly amateurish attempts to knob Leia (at least, that's what I can remember of the plot; there was also something about a crystal with mysterious properties and an old bint who had a vague idea as to its whereabouts), and a trilogy of Han Solo spin-offs. I added the US editions of the Han Solo books to my growing collection (courtesy of a little science fiction bookshop called Forbidden Planet up on Denmark Street) when I found out that the American author - in a sublime bit of cultural ignorance that was never going to survive the journey across the Atlantic intact – had blessed Han's reluctant robot sidekick with the name Bollux.

At school, my “got, not got” obsession was Star Wars cards (for appearances' sake, I also dabbled in football stickers, but my heart wasn't ever really in it). Blue ones, red ones. Unlike the well-connected kids – the kind of kids who would grow up to have fabulously trendy media careers - I could never get my hands on the ultra-rare green or yellow cards. Twenty-five years, one boozy Sunday lunchtime, and several eBay auctions later, I finally did get my green and yellow Star Wars cards, damn near a full set. So what do you think of that, Mr. Managing Director of one of Europe’s leading independent record labels?

In 1982, I waited in feverish anticipation for the bloke from Radio Rentals to deliver the family's first VCR so that I'd be able to tape the very first ever showing of Star Wars on UK television that weekend. Of course it was on ITV and so - after a crash course in how to operate a VCR - my heart was in my mouth every time I had to re-start recording after the adverts (please, please, please, don't let me hit the wrong button). When my sister tried to trick me by telling me I was taping the wrong channel, I almost throttled her with the cable of the remote control. For anyone who thought they'd misread it first time around, that's the cable of the remote control. Even at the tender age of eleven, you did not fuck with me when it came to Star Wars, not unless you were looking to unleash my inner Peter Sutcliffe.

I first got the proper copies of the films on widescreen VHS about a decade later (and this, young 'uns, was long before widescreen TVs and all this “anamorphic” gubbins. Letterbox format? Tell me about it, it was like watching the films projected through a gnat's chuff). I was working part-time in the local sports centre (as the obnoxious git who hoses down the changing room floors and gets your socks wet) and it took five hours of pissing off members of the public to raise the necessary funds to buy each film.

I bought them all over again a couple of years later, when someone at Lucasfilm decided they should be digitally remastered, or THX-ed, or something. I went out and got the 1997 Special Editions when they came out on home video, and again when they got the widescreen release treatment a short time later.

The part of my brain that's successfully blocking out the memory of the prequels has done its job so well that it's apparently robbed me of my enthusiasm for the original films

Then some fucker went and invented DVD, and the whole sorry cycle began once more - but not before (unsure as to whether the new format was going to catch on or not) I'd picked up the widescreen VHS release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace .

I even got hold of the Far East DVD of Phantom from somewhere, which had Ewan McGregor dropping the f-bomb in the “making of” documentary (“Do you want to do Star Wars, they said. I said too fucking right!”), and the Australian DVD version of Attack of the Clones where Jango Fett lands a vicious headbutt right on Kenobi's kisser. That's a DVD that had to travel over 10,000 miles just so I could watch a mere one second of footage the British Board of Film Classification didn't want me to see.

But, after all that effort, all that consumption, I find I can't be arsed anymore. I'm done. For all the bootleg copies, re-releases, spin-offs and merchandise I've gone out and bought over the years, I don't think I've just sat down at home and put on a Star Wars film for the best part of a decade – and I've got a very decent projector and amp on constant standby; at the drop of a hat, I can watch those films six foot high and ten foot wide, with surround sound that would make your perineum quiver. But I never particularly feel like it. Somewhere along the way (and I suspect, in the end, it was Revenge of the Sith what did it), I simply peaked. So bollocks to the “complete” Blu-ray editions, and bollocks to the 3D cinema releases, and to all the inevitable home cinema editions to come.

I think it was Simon Pegg who called the prequels “retroactively destructive”, and they certainly seem to have done the trick for me. The part of my brain that's successfully blocking out the memory of the prequels has done its job so well that it's apparently robbed me of my enthusiasm for the original films. It makes no sense to me, because everything up to now suggests that of an evening, I should be turning to my wife and saying “No dear, we shan't be watching Birdsong, because tonight is StarWars night again, you know that. Ready your perineum”.

However, as much as I may be done with Star Wars, it looks like Star Wars isn't done with me. With what I can only describe as jaw-dropping insensitivity to my Lucas-free lifestyle, Vodafone have weighed in with a StarWars-themed advert that celebrates everything that jarred about the prequels. The male protagonist is a charisma-free plank who shares no chemistry whatsoever with his female lead. The characterisations are all over the shop (Yoda has turned into Simon Day's Billy Bleach character from The Fast Show - “Hold them two bells, mate. Go on. Press Start”). It's only sixty seconds long but, like each of the prequels, it could do with being a good half-hour shorter, it's overly reliant on visual trickery, and the funny bits....aren't. Wasabi? Fucking wasabi?

Watch it, and tell me I'm wrong.

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