Given the fact that I am an adult born in the 70s and with a technical inclination, it would come as no surprise that I am a Star Wars geek. It has always very much been a private obsession since my childhood, but how could I not fall in love with X-Wings, lightsabers and Star Destroyers. In large part, the imagination of George Lucas pushed me onto my professional path – and I bet there are many other engineers of my vintage who would probably say the same. My childhood play was always trying to recreate the fantastical world of “a galaxy far, far, away.”
So when ‘The Pok’ (AKA my son) started to describe the Clone Wars in his adventures and play at daycare, I knew the time was right to indoctrinate him in the ways of the force. Particularly given that he was playing out these adventures without having seen any of the films or TV shows.
It got me thinking, “how should I do this?”
So on one of our Dad-Son Friday movie nights, I unleashed the ultimate weapon in the arsenal…
Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back!
Or at least the first third of it.
Let’s pause for a moment and contemplate the psychological assault that I was about to unleash as a parent on the mind of my four year old son. Here is the context of reality of his world.
- He lives in Australia, and has never seen snow. Deep morning frost, yes, snow and ice, never.
- The only things that he knows that fly are planes and helicopters (and his Mickey Mouse when he throws the rodent down the stairs – not really flying).
- What is an energy shield or power generator?
- As for armoured vehicles, they are pretty low to the ground and run on caterpillar tracks.
- The only things he know that cut are knives and blades, from the kitchen or my toolbox.
- Kangaroos bound around in the outback on two hind legs and have a tail.
- Robots in our world are a bit crap, and don’t levitate.
- The International Space Station is big, kinda… well not really. And it looks flimsy too.
- The only way you get better is by resting at home, visiting the doctor, or if really sick going to the hospital.
- If you make a mistake, you don’t get one more chance before you die.
So with these 10 items as my base of reference here is what left him speechless and stunned, forever changing his mind like a jedi mind trick.
The Opening Scene
Immediately proceeding the scroll, which as I read it out made no sense to him whatsoever, he sees a big spaceship (an Imperial Star Destroyer) shooting out rocket powered vehicles (which we soon find out to be Imperial Probe Droids) in different trajectories. The vehicle we follow is shoots off to a planet covered in ice – completely covered in ice (the ice planet of Hoth)!
So there goes reality number 1, number 2, and number 8 (with the last two properly getting sorted out later on).
The vehicle properly crashes in the ice planet and what emerges from the wreckage is an insect like robot (our starring Imperial Probe Droid), which… levitates! And it looks like it means business, nasty business with its sinister humming sounds.
There goes reality number 7.
Enter our Heroes
Immediately proceeding the sinister opening that pretty much sets the tone for where the film will go, we see a zooming aerial shot of the ice planet honing in on an animal with rider (none other than Luke Skywalker, farmboy, death star assassin, last Jedi knight, sister kisser, etc.). The animal is a horse size kangaroo with horns like a ram (a Taun taun, the trusty frozen planet steed of the Rebel Alliance). Time to throw away reality number 6. Not only that but these furry horned kangaroos are rideable, which contrary to popular belief we Australians do not have the pleasure of doing with ours.
Of course the big ice monster (Wampa – possibly one of my brothers in costume) emerges to whack Luke and his steed, and then try to go all carnivorous on them. And don’t forget that the other hero, Han Solo, rides the furry kangaroos too. Upon Han Solo’s return to the rebel military installation there is much talk discussion about the fact that Luke is missing. So Han goes out on his furry horned kangaroo to rescue him. Meanwhile Luke uses his blue glowing light sword (lightsaber) to cut himself from the hanging upside down from the ceiling, cut off a wampa arm, and then when Han finally does rescue him the sword is used to cut open his furry horned kangaroo belly. Scratch reality number 5 and begin eternal fascination with the most elegant weapon ever invented. Also cue the question that has been plaguing me since my childhood, “did Han shove in Luke headfirst? And if so, how did he breathe surround by all those guts?”
Rescue and Recovery
Our heroes are found again the next morning, by a team of pilots commandeering a bunch of flying, hovering, air speeder things (Rebel Alliance Snowspeeders). After all these years I still think that this is one of the best vehicle designs invented, though how aerodynamic they are leaves me wondering. The way the snowspeeders fly by hugging the terrain is just beautiful. Further reinforcement of new reality number 2.
When Luke is brought back to the medical bay, his recovery and recuperation is nothing short of otherworldly. He is hooked up to a breathing apparatus completely submerged in a tank of blue fluid (bacta tank) with robots monitoring and tending to him (2-1B medical droid and FX-7 medical droid), all while wearing the a pair of whities that would make Bridget Jones proud. How is it possible that one is fixed like this when sick or injured. Knock reality number 9 on the head. From now on, the Pok will cite the need to be tended by a medical droid when he needs fixing.
Discovery by the Galactic Empire
The master plot in the first third of the film is the pursuit of the Rebel Alliance by the Galactic Empire, and true to script they are discovered by that nasty levitating robot. This is where the sense of awestruck truly begins for my little guy, the introduction of the biggest spaceship he has ever seen. One so big that it casts shadows as it passes over the other smaller ones (which are themselves five times the length of a USN aircraft carrier).
Enter the Super Star Destroyer – the Executor. Flagship of the fleet, darker grey than the rest and no white space engines for this bad boy – all flaming orange. Soooo bad and truly beautiful!
Somebody recently tried to communicate the scale of this fictional space vehicle by overlaying it on the island of Manhattan. Now that is what I would call big! The bar has now been properly set for the new reality number 8.
Enter the Dark Lord Vader too, and he is a tough boss. His chief lieutenant overlooks the clue to finding the Rebel Alliance’s base, and he goes over the top of him to order his fleet to attack the enemy residing on the ice planet. There is a whole bunch of military gobbledygook that is spoken while the tension mounts for what is to be the big battle piece. In my boy’s world, no-one talks like that, and he now has a new set of phrases and terms added to his vocabulary. Then the poor Imperial officer, named Admiral Nozzle (or was it Ozzel – who knows…) makes mistake number two! When will people ever learn to not come out of hyperspace too close to a system? Cue the first addition to the body count in this film, with Darth Vader choking his officer… via Skype! WTF? Lesson to the unwise, don’t be clumsy and stupid and if some guy in a big black helmet / mask combo calls don’t answer. Reality number 10 – gone!
The Great Ice Battle
The preparations for the big attack in the snow begin. Pilots are briefed, troops rush to their stations. The key piece on the board is declared as the main power generator. Hmmmm… what could that possibly be. Evacuating ships launch off into space by opening shields, supported by a huge bulbous gun firing big energy bolts into thousands of kilometers into enemy ships. Zapping them into submission. He still has not said a word at this stage.
Then, the troops positioned in the trenches spot awestruck moment number two. “Echo Station 3T8, we’ve spotted Imperial Walkers.” Ginormous armoured dogs that walk like elephants and are bristling with laser guns (Imperial All Terrain – Armoured Transports, or AT-AT for short) are coming to get you.
You betcha, and a can of whip@ss is about to be unleashed. Reality number 4 is smashed out of the park and with the lumbering beasts becoming the true star of the movie for the next 10 minutes of movie magic.
In the ensuing battle, we bare witness to the second coolest aerial maneuver executed in movie history (some would argue that Maverick and Goose giving their Soviet counterparts the bird is the number one maneuver). Can you repeat after me, “Good shot Jansen.”? More importantly, who would have thought that this bit of flying was executed by a pilot named after a chunk of potato and a with all these laser guns they used a harpoon.
A bit more carnage and chaos occurs, followed by the lead walker reaching the main power generator and blowing it up with “Maximum Firepower”. You obviously need this amount of ordinance to blow up a main power generator – so that explains the new reality number 3. This makes the little holographic Dark Lord of the Sith happy, and the officer who scored the hit (General Maximillian Veers – the coolest name in the Star Wars universe) makes no mistake and doesn’t get choked to death by Skype.
And our Dark Lord gets to play in the ice cave base with his white hooded and kilted troops. A couple of them get whacked by the secret gun of the Millennium Falcon, but our heroes retreat to fight another day off into space (albeit with a great deal of misfortune to come in the final two thirds). That is where I stopped the film, and where he finally came up for air and spoke for the first time by asking a several of incoherent questions simultaneously. My wife took over at that point and took him to his bed to hit the sack, where he proceeded to replay what he just witnessed in a two minute babble. He crashed and my wife asked me what did you just watch.
My Boy is now a Star Wars Geek
Some would call me a bad parent for indoctrinating him into the world of Star Wars, and yes there is some stylized violence in this film. But this is a fight between good and evil, where the good guys are good and the bad guys are so bad that they are cool. As for the psychological manipulation, guilty as charged. I have held back on showing him the more violent parts of the other movies, like the whole of Episode III, because he doesn’t have the emotional maturity to comprehend. That will come in time, when he gets a little bit older. He can figure out the sister kissing bit on his own.
He now plays Star Wars every day with his friends at pre-school and wants to watch the films and TV shows with his Dad. I don’t mind, as it sure beats watching Thomas the Tank Engine. Of course he has also asked that his fifth birthday party be a Star Wars party.
In his new reality he talks about hyperspace, shield generators, wants a lightsaber, and thinks that we should build an R2-D2. Maybe he makes some of these things a reality in our world in the future. But for the moment, he is still a preschooler and there is still a bit of silliness to be found in this Star Wars stuff thanks to Robot Chicken.
Closing note – all the images are the copyright of Disney – Lucasfilm. I could be forgiven for including the film screenshots in my blog post given the amount of money I have contributed to George Lucas through merchandising. If you want to copy the images, buy the films.