Opinions: From the desk: A long time ago


courtesy of Angela Weaver

The dark lord of the Sith, Darth Vader (Mike Weaver, my father) poses with me, Jack Weaver, my brother; Dale Manzo, my cousin and my friends Nathan Bauman (12) and Griffin Anderson at my eighth birthday party, Aug. 26, 2006. Before taking this picture, my mother, Angela Weaver, handed out a variety of light sabers for all of our guests to fight with.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

I was a little kid with big dreams. For my fifth birthday, my parents bought me a Star Wars chess set. On one side were silver characters shaped like figures from the light side of the Force: Yoda, Leia, Luke and the other rebels. Facing them on the opposite side were pieces cloaked in black: Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine and the stormtroopers.

Some of my favorite toys growing up included Power Rangers and Batman action figures. But nothing could compete with my Star Wars chess set. When my imagination ran wild in the basement, the Star Wars chess pieces were always included.

I never played chess with them once.

A movie titled “Star Wars” hit U.S. theaters, May 25, 1977. My father was about five years old at the time. He grew up adoring the film, and he had the joy of watching my younger self adore it as well.

Like an old friend that always seems to stick around, the Star Wars saga is something that transcends pop culture and captivates people of all generations.

The plot of the original “Star Wars” movie is just another hero’s journey. A young farm boy gets thrown into the action of a galactic war between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance.

We’ve seen it a hundred times before in movies. Somehow, “Star Wars” was different.

Children across the country marveled as they watched the protagonist swing across a chasm holding the beautiful princess in his arms. As a child, I was beyond captivated. For a second, I wasn’t just watching characters on a screen; I was saving the day. I was the hero.

I was only six years old when Episode 3 was released. Like all young boys, I marveled at the spaceships, aliens, light saber fights and cool new planets.

After that, however, it was over. I remember googling Star Wars Episode 7 when I was ten and praying that another film would be lurking on the horizon. To my disappointment, there was no such thing.

Once the original trilogy was over (“A New Hope,” “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”), Lucasfilm went back and created three prequel movies (“The Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith”).

In the eyes of older fans who grew up with the property, the newer episodes one, two and three were a huge disappointment. I’m going to say it: they were awful. George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars series included fart jokes, plot holes and inconsistencies that were hard to overlook.

Like all good things, it seemed like Star Wars could finally come to an end.

The mouse thought otherwise.

The Walt Disney Company bought Lucasfilm and all of their properties, including Star Wars, for a lump sum of $4 billion, October 2012. My old friend had returned, and he was finally here to stay.

When I found out, I remember talking about it with my friends during lunch at LaSalle Springs Middle School. The emotions I felt were overwhelming. Bob Iger, Disney CEO, had just said that not only was there going to be an episode seven, eight and nine, but they were also going to make individual anthology films.

The first of these stand alone movies, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” debuts in theaters this Friday, Dec. 16.

Once again, I am brought back to my childhood. I’m a kid again playing with action figures and dreaming about saving the universe. In a world threatened by terrorists, diseases and death, it’s comforting to retreat to a world where the evil empire is guaranteed to lose eventually.

I retreat to this world often. When I play a Star Wars game (Battlefront was just meh), watch a Star Wars TV show (“Rebels” on Disney XD is actually quite good), or read a Star Wars book (okay, Lost Stars is an amazing novel), I am transported to a world without worry.

It makes me smile to know that I am able to share this passion with fans from around the world. (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was the third highest grossing box office film of all time.) Clearly the universe has a following; hundreds of people flock to Star Wars Celebration every year to get a glimpse into what the property may hold in the future.

In my own house, my littlest brother TJ loves to pull out his plastic light sabers and hit me with them. He was two when Episode 7 came out, and he’ll be four when Episode 8 debuts.

When he sees a dark menacing figure in a black mechanical outfit he instantly goes “Hey, Nicky, look it’s Darth Vader!” Except when he says it, it sounds more like “Darf Tater.”

“Let’s play Darf Tater versus Soda” is toddler talk for “Nick, go get my sword, I want to hit you with it.” It’s a game that I’m happy to play. Not only because it makes him incredibly happy, but it takes me away from college, away from stress and back to a place where I feel at home.

I am counting down the days until I can watch my favorite franchise on the big screen once again. A galaxy far, far away has never been closer.