Just forget the words and sing along

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

All the Times I've Bought Star Wars: Episode II -- One Last Time....

For those just joining us, welcome to All the Times I've Bought Star Wars, my epic series of blog entries recounting all the times I've bought Star Wars.  I also try to figure out why the heck I've bought it so many times.  And now, our story continues with Episode II: One Last Time....

The year was 1995.  I finished high school.  I remember graduation being strangely anticlimactic.  The first 18 years of my life gone...for a piece of paper.  As soon as that was done, I was onto a very difficult summer job.  Word of advice to all the youngsters out there:  never get a summer job at your favourite summertime hangout.  Because once summer is done, you will want to burn it to the ground.  With that all done, I was taking a few months off just to figure out where to go next in life.  

So there I was.  Spending my days doing a whole lot of nothing and just trying to get my head together.  I was watching a lot of TV.  Unhealthy amounts of TV.  It was right around this time that YTV started showing Sailor Moon and I became 100% obsessed with it.  As the holiday season started rolling around, and all kinds of TV commercials for potential Christmas presents started being shown, I started seeing the commercials for...it.  The Star Wars Trilogy.  Being re-released on video!  But, what’s this that the commercials are saying?  It’s going to be released on video...just one last time?  After this, it’s not going to be on video anymore? 

Who else remembers the Lucasfilm hype machine for the 1995 video releases?  That was the tag line, wasn’t it?  Each and every commercial was quick to point out that this would be the absolute last time that The Star Wars Trilogy was going to be released on home video.  After this...gone.  No more.  It was something that really didn’t surprise me.  I mean, Disney had already introduced their “Disney vault” concept for their home video releases.  It just made sense that other studios would follow suit.  And here it was.  Star Wars.  My last chance to own it.  

I didn’t get it for Christmas, despite dropping heavy hints all over the house.  So, it was a few days after Christmas, at HMV in West Edmonton Mall, where I gingerly picked up the boxed set of the trilogy off the shelf, dropped it on the counter, and gently handed my Christmas money over to the clerk.  As I made the purchase, my mother gave me a bewildered look.  “I didn’t know you liked Star Wars that much,” said Mom.  Short answer:  Yes, Mom.  I do.

The long answer:  how could you not know I love Star Wars that much?  I was raised with Star Wars.  My earliest conscious memories of television are for Empire Strikes Back toy commercials.  I remember kindergarten, where my favourite activity during free time was to sit in the corner and read the Empire Strikes Back pop-up book.  Pull the tab and the Millennium Falcon flies away from that asteroid monster!  And, if my teacher, Mrs. Martin, was in a good mood, she’d put on the Star Wars book-and-record for me, so I could listen and read.  When I was in first grade, and book orders started, the first book I ever ordered was the Return of the Jedi storybook adaptation.  (I still have it in a box at home somewhere.)  I remember rushing home from Cub Scouts so I could watch From Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of an Epic on TV.  There were countless Saturday mornings getting up to watch the Ewoks and Droids cartoons.  Heck, Mom, do you not remember just one year ago when I borrowed the trilogy from a friend and rented a VCR from the rental place so I could dub copies for myself?  The main reason why I’m buying the trilogy today is because I’ve worn out my dub.  For geeks and nerds of my generation, Star Wars has become imprinted into our collective unconsciousness.  YES, MOM, I LOVE IT THAT MUCH!!  AND THIS IS MY LAST CHANCE TO HAVE IT WITH ME FOREVER!!  THE TV COMMERCIALS SAID SO!!  

So let’s take a look at these videos.  Did they go all-out for it being on video for one last time?  Well, they were the first VHS tapes digitally remastered in THX.  I remember that was also something heavily hyped in all the TV commercials at the time.  For all my love of movies and the cinema and home theatre, I’m still not exactly sure what THX is supposed to do, besides putting that cool sound at the start of your movie.  According to the repository of the world’s knowledge, Wikipedia, THX is a set of quality control guidelines laid out of Lucasfilm.  They are the first and still most demanding set of quality control guidelines.  Good to know.  

They also produced a neat featurette for each film.  Each film opens with an interview with George Lucas, conducted by legendary film critic/film historian Leonard Maltin, about each respective film in the trilogy.  This is where I first learned such interesting tidbits that it was originally supposed to be the Wookies in Return of the Jedi, but as the trilogy evolved, Lucas felt he needed different aliens on the forest moon of Endor.  So he cut the Wookies in half, wrote their names backward and came up with Ewoks.  Lucas also made a passing mention in regards to “new versions [he’s] working on,” which we later learned was a cryptic statement of things to come.  

It’s also interesting to note that this is the only version of the trilogy that I own in fullscreen.  I hadn’t quite become a widescreen snob yet.  I hear that these versions were released in widescreen.  Well, actually, I remember seeing it on the store shelf, once, after I’d already bought my version.  Video stores didn’t have “widescreen” sections yet, so they were still a special order item.  

I remember getting the videos home.  I remember gently opening them.  I remember sitting down to watch the entire trilogy on one lazy Sunday.  I remember watching The Empire Strikes Back, with its opening scenes of Luke Skywalker riding his Taumtaum across the snowscapes of Hoth.  And I remember my father coming into the room, pointing at the scene, and bursting into laughter.  “That guy’s riding a dinosaur!  My God, this is a stupid movie!” said my Dad.  I realized then that it was time to move out.  I looked up at the calendar.  I was off to college in two weeks.
And, just like throughout my childhood, Star Wars would be there with me, as I moved on to the next great stage in life.  Good thing I leapt into action when it was on sale, and I got it on video this one last time.

Too bad we didn’t read the fine print.  The next time I buy it, Greedo shoots first.

Next Issue:  Greedo Shoots First

No comments: