Saturday, April 25, 2015

“How did this happen to me?” or, “Is it jumping on the bandwagon if you are just coming back to your original seat?”

First of all, let me confess: I wrote this.  It was 2009, and as you see here I was having a real problem with something, and someone.  “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” turned me off so much, I didn’t do my yearly rewatch of the films for three years.  I didn’t buy toys, I didn’t buy comics.  (OK, that’s a fib, I did finally find my coveted-and-lost-years-ago die-cast Millennium Falcon and Han Solo blaster at a used store and I bought the hell out of those.)  I would always have affection for Star Wars, but after Ziro the Hutt and Skyguy and Snips, I was done.

So what changed?

Not this:

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I loved this teaser.  It was really neat and I think JJ Abrams is a marvelous person to make a Star Wars film—after all, that’s basically what his Star Trek films are—but that’s not what brought me back.  It was these people:

“Star Wars: Rebels” managed to find him.  When I say him, I mean the 5-year-old sitting in the Cine Capri theater in Phoenix, Arizona next to his Dad, watching an Imperial Star Destroyer chasing a Corellian Corvette and realized the real world was never going to be enough for him again.  As an adult who had gotten a bit tired of thousands of arrogant robed wankers with lazer swords, I made way for the kid who came back when Kanan Jarrus, 15 years after Order 66 ignites his lightsaber for the first time since he saw his master die.  I caught my breath as the stunned Imperial agent, Kallus tells his similarly surprised troops to, “focus your fire on…on the Jedi!”  Suddenly, the word had power again, and I longed to return to that Galaxy Far, Far Away as I had in my youth.  Sure, there’s a couple of missteps in the first season of Rebels, but it was Star Wars in heart and soul.  A ship I loved, a rag tag crew (SW does Firefly?  Yes please!), and even my first crush on a cartoon character since I was 12. 

Oh, Hera.  Sigh. 

I watched as trailers for Episode VII came out, and I was pleased.  I rewatched the films again using “Machete Order” (which I still recommend).  But then, I had one more obstacle I had to face.  One more experience I had to reconcile before I could come back into the fold: Her.

Yep, there she was, Hannah Mont…I mean Ahsoka Tano.  I was going to have to face her, as if I was wondering into a cave on Dagobah; I too was unable to put down my blaster, and I watched the next three episodes of season one of Clone Wars (right where I had left off) with disdain in my belly.  I hated her.  What was I to do?

Then, I got a little help from my friends.  Long time fellow Geek William Schwartz recommended I skip around a bit.  Get ahead of the show trying to find its footing, and tune into where it was going.  I consulted some lists, I consulted Tumblr (because where else do you go for things like this?) and I set up a regimen for catching about 5 episodes of season 1, about half of season 2, most of season 3, and all the rest of it.  I found something very interesting.

I found everything the prequels should have been.  I found epic fantasy storytelling, and character development, and big questions about identity versus programming.  I found a man driven by tragedy slowly letting darkness take him in an Anakin Skywalker who does not simply take a knee to Palpatine for the heck of it, but because he sees a way to save the Galaxy.  I saw an actual friendship between him and Obi Wan, long one of my very favorite characters in any incarnation of Star Wars, here realized as the Master Jedi whose example could have saved both the Jedi Order and the Republic…if the Jedi council had not been so blind to their own arrogance.  And, dammit, I found Ahsoka.  Not just a smartmouth teenager playing the Scrappy Doo of the Star Wars universe, but an innocent caught up in an adventure, who begins to be changed by the war around her, flirts with the Darkness her Master is giving himself into, and is eventually betrayed by the very order of Knights she once saw as he symbol of justice.

When you stick around long enough, Ahsoka Tano is…a character, and a damn good one.

So (spoiler warning for the end of S1 of Rebels!) when the crew of the Ghost finally comes face to face with the fact they are part of a fomenting  Rebel Alliance, and their secret contact, code name “Fulcrum,” is in fact Ahsoka Tano, I smiled.  I welcomed her.  What Rebels remembers immediately that the first season of Clone Wars had to discover is the same thing that makes this 42 year old man tear up when a 72 year old actor mutters, “Chewie, we’re home.”  It remembers that Star Wars is about the characters.  It’s not the effects (though they help) it’s about these people, often flawed but striving to make their universe better while galactic history plays around them. 

So here I am, eagerly awaiting more cartoons, counting down to a new movie, scouring the stores for action figures (by the way Hasbro, your distribution plan sucks).  Despite that bad break up in 2009, I am here, I am excited, I am painting a huge Millennium Falcon, and I nod in admiration at even Ahsoka Tano.

I, in fact, have a new hope.

Here, watch this again.  You know you want to:

(All images property of Disney, no infringement is intended.)