George Lucas is a rich uncle to a generation who were kids in 1977 when “Star Wars” came out.
And like some stereotypical rich uncles, he’s been very protective of his assets. That is, he was until he recently announced that he sold his Lucasfilm to Disney; and furthermore, that Disney is planning to make more Star Wars movies. Millions of Generation Xers were astonished to hear Lucas say he was handing over control of his creation to others.
Over the years, Lucas has been very protective of anything Star Wars, going so far as to alienate fans by changing his movies and not allowing the original prints out into the marketplace. He’s said first that there would be three trilogies, then that there would not. He’s said that as creator and owner, he has the right to do with them as he wants.
Why does this matter?
In 1887, Arthur Conan Doyle was paid about $30 by a publisher for his manuscript of “A Study in Scarlet,” and, for the next seven years, Conan Doyle churned out stories featuring his master detective, Sherlock Holmes. Tiring of the character, the author wanted to write “more important” historical novels.
“I think of slaying Holmes … and winding him up for good and all. He takes my mind from better things,” Conan Doyle wrote in a letter to his mother.
For eight years, Conan Doyle put up with the public pressure for him to produce more Sherlock Holmes stories, and eventually he caved to the public, writing two more novels and several short story collections.
Scholars and Holmes fans pretty much agree, though: The post-hiatus stuff wasn’t as good as the original stories.
It can be argued that Conan Doyle was only bowing to public pressure by writing the new stories. Perhaps, he realized that Sherlock Holmes didn’t really belong to him anymore, much like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo don’t really belong to George Lucas, or Disney, anymore. They belong to all of us.
I was 12 years old in the summer of 1977. When the movie came out, I was away at summer camp and the rest of my family drove from Los Alamos — where we lived at the time — to Albuquerque to see this phenomenon. The reports I got were that this was the best movie ever made. But I had to wait two months before the old Centre Theater would get the movie. I agonized as I read my science fiction fan magazines as “Star Wars” swept across the country.
Finally, on a weekend before I was to start junior high school, I found myself standing in line next to my best friend and we had tickets to see this movie. It’s just a movie, right?
Wrong, and I knew that when the soundtrack started blaring that familiar theme and the prologue scrolled across the screen. But I wasn’t really hooked until a small spaceship came onto the screen, followed by an Imperial Star Destroyer, its cannons shooting laser bolts and its celluloid engines rumbling my seat.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention, as did my imagination. It’s a memory that I will take to my grave.
So, yeah, it’s just a movie and I’ve seen all the Star Wars films so many times that I’ve memorized the dialogue. But it’s a cultural touchstone for my generation.
The idea that there will be Star Wars movies from now until the end of time is fine. I guess there is a certain amount of comfort in knowing that it will always be there, but it will never be the same.
That’s the problem.
I will never be 12 again and, no matter how much anyone tinkers with “Star Wars,” I will always know that Han shot first.
Contact Rory McClannahan at 823-7102 or by email at editor@ mvtelegraph.com.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal