The first time I laid eyes on a Star Wars film, I was kicked out of the room almost instantly. I was probably nine or ten and had just come wandering in to investigate the noise our surround sound was making. I marched right in firing questions off as I watched two men poke each other with long glow sticks.
“What are you watching? Who is that? Why are they doing that? Why does that black robot sound like Great Aunt Helen when she sleeps?”
I got a few mumbled responses; something about a force of death in the stars and a princess who didn’t know her brother was her brother. I watched for a while, trying to resist the gurgle of questions that was just waiting to come out. Until this point, the most epic film I’d ever laid eyes on was Never Ending Story, but this Nothing was obviously a something. This was perhaps the first instance of humanistic evil I’d seen. Until then, I’d only known faceless evil. Monsters were inherently evil because they were monsters. But, this was something more.
Someone quickly explained to me the significance of Darth Vader’s past. He was a fallen Jedi, a knight who went a little power crazy and lost everything in the process. This only made me that much more curious about his character. He was obviously the central character of the story’s Big Bad, and realizing that even things that go bump in the night had lives once that weren’t consumed of stroking a sinister-looking feline while sitting in the big, evil driver’s seat. This manifestation into reality of the “fall from grace” altered me a little. If that sounds a little dramatic, it’s because it kind of was. Until then, I saw good and evil as states of permanent being that were beyond us; now I saw that good and evil were created by our choices – and clothing style, of course. (Seriously, look at Vader and try not to think “evil.”)
I never lived through Star Wars mania in the beginning – I wasn’t even born when Return Of The Jedi hit theaters – but I think I’m proof of the large impact the franchise stirred internationally. I may be unable to long for late 70s-style cinemas and popcorn that didn’t cost $7 a bucket, but I will always remember my first encounter with personified evil and the revelation that why yes, princesses do have laser guns.