Retrospective: 45 Years since ‘Star Wars’ Took us to a Galaxy Far, Far Away By Jesse Striewski

Long before the countless spin-offs, Sci Fi conventions, and overly complex storylines, Star Wars was simply just another rite of passage for an average kid growing up in the ’80s such as myself. Back then, we didn’t see it as the crowning achievement of filmmaking that it has since come to be known as today; we just thought it was really…cool.

I was not around yet when George Lucas’ landmark film was originally released to theaters on May 25, 1977, but I was caught up with a quickness, having an older brother and cousins who were already savvy to the series before I was. Original action figures from the toyline were already firmly in place in my household, and each and every time any of the films were shown on TV, it became an event for everyone.

The original film/space opera, which has retroactively come to be known as Episode IV: A New Hope in many circles, introduced the world to some of pop cultures most iconic figures; Mark Hamill as the everyday hero Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as the lovely Princess Leia, and Harrison Ford as badass smuggler Han Solo. Then of course there were the unforgettable, non-human characters like droid C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), wookie Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and the evil Darth Vadar (voiced by James Earl Jones).

Star Wars became the highest grossest film ever at the time, earning over $775 million at the box office, and clinging to that title until E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial eventually surpassed it a few years later in 1982. The film’s success spawned two initial sequels, 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back (largely viewed by many as superior to the original) and 1983’s Return of the Jedi, each equally essential viewing for kids from my era.

Even without anymore films being released throughout the rest of the decade, various action figures and other media sources kept the franchise alive throughout the ’80s; two made-for-TV spin-off films based off the Ewoks were released in 1984 and 1985, respectively, and an animated series based off them, as well as Star Wars: Droids, also kept the material alive from 1985-86.

The original Star Wars trilogy on VHS, courtesy of the author’s collection.

Then of course the late ’90s brought on the remastered versions of the first three films, which found them with newly added footage thanks to George Lucas (I still despise these versions to this day), and the even lesser-received prequel trilogy, beginning with Episode I – The Phantom Menace in 1999 (my least favorite entry of all the Star Wars films, yet ironically the first one of the series I ever saw on the “big screen”), which in turn spawned several animated shows, as well as the theatrically-released The Clone Wars in 2008.

In 2012, Lucas relinquished his ownership and sold the rights to Disney, who revived the franchise with yet another sequel trilogy, starting with 2015’s The Force Awakens. Since then there’s been numerous spin-off films in the form of 2016’s Rogue One and 2018’s Solo, as well as a host of new shows like The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi.

It’s been forty five years now since one man’s imagination took us to a galaxy far, far away, and while the material that has come since may not be quite on par with the original film and trilogy, I still watch with anticipation each and every time something new comes along in the name of Star Wars. I can’t imagine having had to endure a childhood without something as whimsical, and feel genuine pity for those who have missed out. May the force be with you, always.

Film Review: Coming 2 America (Prime Video)

By: Jesse Striewski

For many in my own age group, the 1988 original comedy classic Coming to America starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, was a staple go-to default flick on cable TV back in the day. But was a second edition over three decades in the making really worth the wait, or even necessary?

The sequel finds Prince Akeem (Murphy) having to track down a son (played by Jermaine Fowler) he unknowingly fathered his first time around in New York, and grooming him to become the next heir to the throne. Of course this leads to various culture and emotional conflicts for both parties involved and their loved ones (both Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan add to this chaos perfectly in new supporting roles).

The nostalgic factors alone are worthwhile themselves; just seeing Murphy and Hall return to McDowell’s, or hilariously don the makeup for such characters as Randy Watson or Reverend Brown again, or even watching such greats as James Earl Jones, Louie Anderson, and John Amos return in their respective roles, were all welcomed trips down memory lane.

But unfortunately, the actual jokes themselves are often too far and few in between, and come off as either too forced, or often times just strain to be overly timely. At the heart of it, Coming 2 America wants to be an endearing film, but comes up far too short. If you really want to revisit Zamunda, you’re better off just going back to the original.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars