At seven weeks old, my son Kyle isn’t quite ready to watch Star Wars yet, but I have given the matter of his first exposure to George Lucas’ space opera some serious thought. The core question is this: which episode should be Kyle’s introduction to the Star Wars films? The idea of my own flesh and blood watching the prequels before the original trilogy gives me the willies.
I was four years old in 1977, so I didn’t see Star Wars in a movie theater. In fact, Return of the Jedi was the first of the original trilogy that I saw on the big screen. My first viewing of Star Wars was on HBO. We didn’t have a television, much less cable, so the whole family piled into the car and drove twenty-five miles to Hancock, Michigan, where my aunt and uncle lived. We watched Star Wars on a big, old, cabinet-style television and the movie completely blew my pre-adolescent mind. It must have been at least 1980, because I do recall asking my aunt to let me know the minute The Empire Strikes Back was on HBO so we could all come over and watch it.
I seriously doubt The Phantom Menace would have had that effect on me, and that’s part of why I am loath to begin my son’s Star Wars indoctrination with Episode I.
Then there’s the fact that the prequel trilogy utterly ruins what is arguably the single biggest reveal in the history of film. What kind of a Star Wars fan would I be if I just trotted out the series in numerical order, thus transforming what should be the ultimate “Oh… my… God!” moment into a “Well, duh!” moment? To say the idea rubs me the wrong way is something of an understatement.
So, we should begin where it began for me: Star Wars. Call it Episode IV or A New Hope, but to some of us it will always be simply Star Wars. Laura and I have a pre-THX, pre-Special Edition copy of the original trilogy on VHS tape; a copy that was rescued at the last minute from the pile of VHS tapes we were bringing to Half Price Books. This version is as close as I can get to what I saw on HBO twenty-odd years ago.
Of course, it’s not as simple as sitting Kyle down in front of the television and pressing “Play” on the VCR, is it? The world is full of people just waiting to talk to my young apprentice and ruin everything. In order to protect him from the prequel trilogy, I’ll have to lock him away until he is of sufficient age to appreciate Star Wars. This idea is attractive because I would be protecting him from any number of dangers that the outside world holds; attractive and most likely illegal (or, at the very least, frowned upon by Children’s Services). I guess I’ll just have to accept that there are factors outside of my control. Kyle will one day go to school, and what he learns about the Star Wars universe there may not be to my liking. It’s a risk that simply cannot be mitigated.
External influences aside, I’ll do my best to ensure that my young apprentice’s first Star Wars experience is as memorable and awe-inspiring as my own was. I think I’ll go home and burn my copy of The Phantom Menace, for starters.