The end of Star Wars

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(HOST) For commentator Caleb Daniloff, the end of the Star Wars series left him trying to reconcile the past with the present.

(DANILOFF) The other weekend, I went to see Revenge of the Sith, the last installment of George Lucas’s Star Wars saga – where Anakin Skywalker finally transforms into Darth Vader, where his children Luke and Leia are born. And, like the original Star Wars twenty-eight years ago, a round of applause went up at the ending credits.

But this time, the clapping produced in me the exact opposite effect – a feeling of disconnect. What I heard around me was not applause, but the distinct sound of sadness.

The movie was a let down for sure, overwrought and a bit sappy. And given the hyper-marketed disappointments that were Epi- sodes One and Two, this was not entirely a surprise.

But Revenge of the Sith was to be the completion of a narrative journey that took root in a million imaginations almost thirty years ago. And it was barely recognizable – a smorgasbord of celebri- ties, dismal dialogue and tidal waves of special effects posing as story.

As the credits rolled – not only on the movie, but on countless childhoods – I just couldn’t bring my hands together, couldn’t reconcile the two halves – the sequels and the prequels. Perhaps
I had simply grown up. Or maybe it was that sometimes painful reminder that you can’t step in the same river twice.

At eight years old, I went repeatedly to Star Wars. Some class- mates had seen the film ten, fifteen times. I peaked at a respect- able seven. VCRs had barely hit the market, so the film was left to rattle around in our imaginations. It was the first time a movie had ever swallowed me whole.

Star Wars, with its famous opening text, suggested creation itself. Indeed, in that darkened theater among all those rows of heart- beats, new sounds nested in our brains – R2D2’s animated chirps and beeps, Chewbacca’s plaintive yowls, the high-voltage hum of a light saber, and of course, Darth Vader’s menacing breath. These were sounds as fresh as birds at first light.

Even Joseph Campbell singled out Star Wars for its tapping of collective mythology: the hero’s journey, trials and temptations, the confrontation with the father, and the realization of the individual.

Soon after The Empire Strikes Back was released, my journalist parents and I moved to Moscow. I barely spoke Russian when I started Soviet School. But Star Wars was spoken in the hallways. My classmates knew every character, recited bits of dialogue, drew pictures of Luke and C3PO. Not one of them had seen the banned movie. I filled in their sketchy narratives and friendships took root.

But as I sat in my seat twenty-eight years later reading the names of Revenge of the Sith actors not even born in 1977, something occurred to me: despite the disappointment of prior installments, people still stood in long lines for that first midnight showing. We all still showed up – a mass act of hope and faith. And didn’t that mirror a central theme in the saga – the belief in something beyond ourselves, a trait distinctly marking us as human?

I turned back to the screen. Several people were now casting shadow puppets, finger beaks chomping at the remaining credits. I laughed. Childhood waters may have long since left for the sea, but right there on screen, a timeless display of its spirit. And for that moment, all felt right with the universe.

This is Caleb Daniloff in Middlebury.

Caleb Daniloff is a copywriter, book reviewer and freelance journalist.

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