There comes a time in every child’s life when they are finally old enough to watch the Star Wars movies. Ever since my two boys were born, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the day when they would be ready to watch the classic films that were an indelible part of my own childhood. The question, as a parent, is when to introduce the films. If you show them the films too early, they won’t get it and actually may be traumatized by the scarier elements. On the other hand, wait too long and risk having certain plot twists spoiled by friends or other media.
For me, I feared both of those extremes in equal measure. Last year, my older son was 4 when a friend at the park told him that Darth Vader was really Luke’s dad. Now my son had not yet seen the movies, but he knew the characters from playing with action figures and reading some library books that explored them a bit. But this was a plot twist that I had been zealously trying to keep from him to preserve the revelation of the film. When his friend spilled those beans, there was no cleaning them up again. Star Wars has become such a cultural touchstone that it’s very hard to avoid such things. The boys have a book that talks about the first movie and actually calls Leia Luke’s sister for crying out loud! I had to censor the content every time I read it. So, I decided that for my 34th birthday I wanted to watch Star Wars with my boys for the very first time.
Of course, the question everyone always ask is “Which movie will you start with?” I think there’s only one correct answer: Episode IV: A New Hope. While many think that Episode I has aged better than we would have guessed and it’s certainly geared more towards young children, it simply isn’t the gateway into the Star Wars universe in my mind. I wanted my boys to experience the franchise the way I did – starting at the very beginning with the 1977 original film.
Along with the choice to watch Episode IV first, I wanted them to see the original, unaltered version of the film – not the Special Edition, updated version. Luckily, I purchased a DVD set of the films years back that actually includes a bonus disc containing the unedited versions of the movies! Sure, they are actually just transfers from the Laserdisc versions and are not re-mastered or anything, but they are the real deal. Han shoots first, Jabba doesn’t appear until Jedi, things don’t look cartoonish, etc. Maybe someday Disney will see their way clear to release crisp remasters of the original cuts, but until that happens I’ll be watching these copies.
So the plan is to watch IV, V and VI followed by I and II. Episode III is the only PG-13 entry in the series (so far) and I can’t let my 4 and 5.5 year old boys see the volcano scene until they’re a few years older.
I’m very excited to share these films with my boys and I’m also very excited to watch them again myself! It’s been far, far too long. I will be documenting how the boys respond to the films and also my own thoughts as I re-watch the movies for the first time in years.