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.

Series Review: The Book of Boba Fett (Disney Plus)

By: Jesse Striewski

The direction the Star Wars franchise has been heading into starting with The Mandalorian in 2019, has been nothing short of impressive. The Book of Boba Fett further builds on the foundations set up by the previously mentioned show and expands on it perfectly.

Like The Mandalorian, the events of Boba Fett take place directly after 1983’s Return of the Jedi, even going so far as to show how the title character (once again portrayed by Temuera Morrison) emerged from his seemingly original doom from the sar lac in Jedi. Eventually with the help of assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), Fett rises to a position of power in the place of the notorious Jabba the Hutt.

There’s plenty of side stories, and characters new and old that fans of the original series should appreciate, including Luke Skywalker himself (Mark Hamil and Graham Hamilton), and yes, even Grogu, a.k.a. baby Yoda. I was exceptionally elated to see appearances by former Suicidal Tendencies bassist Stephen “Thundercat” Brunner (whom I had the pleasure of personally meeting back in 2010), and Jennifer Beals, who still looks as good as she did when she first threw on those leg warmers for Flashdance back in the early ’80s.

Look, I’ve never been one of those unforgiving nerds with high expectations with each and every franchise they follow religiously (in fact, Star Wars has always been one of the few of its kind I even bother following at all). But for the most part, I think what Disney has been producing here lately has put the franchise back on the right track, and you can’t really ask for much more than that.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Series Review: The Mandalorian Season 2 (Disney+)

By: Jesse Striewski

Last year, series creator Jon Favreau surprised the world over with hands down one of the most imaginative additions to the Star Wars universe in recent memory, The Mandalorian. Favreau has opened up all new worlds, ripe with possibilities for the franchise, and it’s no surprise the show has taken off the way it has.

In the first season we met Din Djarin, or “Mando” (played by Pedro Pascal), a bounty hunter who is assigned a bounty known only as “The Child” (now of course known to fans as “Baby Yoda”), but rather than turning him over, ends up going rogue and protecting him in a very father-like role. Carl Weathers and Gina Carano helped round out that season.

Without giving too much away, season 2 expands on that same premise, and brings back a number of the same cast as the first season, and each episode still plays out like it’s own, separate mini movie. But what really moves The Mandalorian along is it’s use of drama, and the addition of such beloved characters from the franchise as Boba Fett, and even the one and only Luke Skywalker, that has propelled season 2 to new heights.

The response and momentum caused from this season undeniably infectious; at least three more spin offs like it have already been announced (The Book of Boba Fett, Rangers of the New Republic, and Ahsoka). From the looks of things, The Mandalorian was only the beginning. This is the way indeed.

Rating: 4/5 Stars