When I was a kid, a film came out that changed the movie landscape forever — “The Godfather.” I was only 2 years old back then, so I thought it was a bit violent compared to “Sesame Street” and that Michael Corleone’s nearly instant mowing down of every other mob boss after his father’s death was a little too easy and simplistic. I gave it one tiny thumb’s up and one sideways.
Five years later, another film came out that changed the movie landscape yet again — “Star Wars.” In case you’ve never heard of it, it’s a sci-fi movie that launched a franchise that has made George Lucas literally hundreds of dollars. In it, a whiny kid encounters a couple of droids — including one who can miraculously roll on sand — who drag him off to see an old man who blew up the Bridge on the River Kwai before moving into a cave, kinda like David Allan Coe did when he was avoiding the IRS.
The whiny kid and old man head off to confront James Earl Jones, who dons a black helmet so that no one knows he is Mufasa, The Lion King, and attempts to rule a galaxy far, far away. Having had trouble recruiting an Army — this is pre-G.I. Bill — Mufasa Jones recruits thousands of white kids who failed basic marksmanship. They continue to fail at marksmanship throughout “Star Wars” and the next five sequels.
Like many kids my age, our universe began to evolve around “Star Wars.” We had little Star Wars action figures — NOT DOLLS! — and toy X-wing fighters, Death Stars and Millennium Falcons. On the playground, we ran around with our pretend light sabers and blasters. I was Han Solo. So was every other boy.
Nothing could be better than “Star Wars.” Or so we thought. Then “The Empire Strikes Back” came out and Luke was slightly less whiny and Han was even cooler, especially when Mufasa Jones turned him into a freezer pop and donated him to a giant snail.
We kept running around the playground pretending to be Han Solo and talking like Yoda, while our teachers pondered instituting a sixth-grade speech therapy class.
And then “Return of the Jedi” came out. I was pumped. This would end — or so we thought — the series that began confusingly with Episode IV, but whatever. In what we thought would be the final film of the franchise, Princess Leia tries to get her freezer pop from the giant snail, who makes her wear a gold bikini — as if this could get any better for a 13-year-old boy. The perfect movie was unfolding before my very eyes!
Then it all came crashing down as “Return of the Jedi” ends with a bunch of muppets called Ewoks saving the world. Really? I’ve been waiting years for this? Why not just have Kermit and Miss Piggy destroy the Empire? I felt like Ralphie after he got his secret decoder pen to save Little Orphan Annie, only to find out he’d fallen victim to some marketing scheme to sell Ovaltine.
“An Ewok? A crummy muppet?”
Yet, I’ve still seen every movie in the franchise to this day. Now, allegedly, the series comes to a close this week with the release of “Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.” People will line up to see it. I’ll wait until I can get it out of the Redbox or on some streaming service. Unfortunately, it’ll probably go straight to Disney Plus, which I don’t have because I’ve already got a couple of streaming services, and the whole point of cutting the cord and ditching satellite was to quit paying so much for television in the first place.
The film franchise’s main legacy is that “Return of the Jedi” really turned me off of sequels. In fact, I haven’t even seen “Godfather III” to this day. I’m terrified that Michael Corleone might get gunned down by Fozzie Bear — and I just can’t stomach that kind of theatrical disappointment again.