I Didn’t Know How Good It Would Feel To Be A Kid Again – By Ben Clemmer.
SPOILER WARNING for the finale of the second season of The Mandalorian
My wife and I just finished working our way through The Umbrella Academy, and one of that show’s leads makes it abundantly clear that being stuck as a child is far from a fun experience. On some level, the topics we’ve covered on Storytelling Breakdown are inspired by properties we’ve carried with us since our childhoods. Between the range of target audiences for comic books and the blockbuster experience intended for family trips to the movies, stories of heroes and villains have followed us into adulthood. Even with endless reinterpretations of stories we’ve known since our childhoods, it’s rare that a piece of media makes us feel like a kid again.
And then I watched the final episode of the second season of The Mandalorian.
If you’ve seen that episode, I probably don’t need to explain why I’m writing this blog post on this topic. If you haven’t seen that episode, you should have stopped reading at the top of the page, because here we go…
Luke Skywalker appearing on screen, and appearing as he did as we last saw him in Return of the Jedi, made me feel like a kid again.
The moment wasn’t perfect. It didn’t have to be. Inevitably there will be those who criticize it for everything from being a hit of nostalgia and excessive fan service, to being CGI that didn’t quite make it over the uncanny valley. And sure, the Star Wars prequels gave us plenty of moments of Jedi making quick work of droid enemies.
It didn’t matter.
The only Star Wars film of the Disney era that got even close to what The Mandalorian just did is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That film made a mark with memorable new characters, although I will admit it took a few watches to remember everyone’s names, and by placing its story so close to the original trilogy in the timeline. It closed the galaxy’s biggest plothole and the scenes with Grand Moff Tarkin, Princess Leia, and Darth Vader all made me smile. We’ve had time to digest Rogue One. I had people in my life who didn’t realize Peter Cushing passed away before I was born and the CGI made it feel like he’d been preserved since 1977. Leia’s appearance arguably could have been shot without showing her face. Seeing the cinnamon buns hairstyle from the back even with the white hood over them would have been unmistakable. When characters are iconic, you can let them be iconic. Though depending on when you first saw the film, we were still reeling from Carrie Fisher’s passing. The scene is still powerful even if it too fell into the uncanny valley.
Stephen and I discussed Vader’s attack on the rebels in Rogue One and you can see some parallels with Luke’s arrival in The Mandalorian. The menace of Vader’s breath and each attack with his lightsaber showcases his power as he brutally mows rebels down. However, Luke is a true Jedi by the time we see him in The Mandalorian. The camera angles in the elevator hallway are very similar to the Vader scene, but Luke is so different. He is heroic, calm, confident and dispassionate. Luke remains an altruistic contrast to the dark path his father took.
Now having said all of this, the moment that really got me, that made it so I was cheering in the theater during Rogue One, was when Red Leader and Gold Leader showed up. It made me remember first watching Star Wars on VHS and rooting for those guys as they made their attack on the Death Star. I was a kid on the couch, watching the original film on the biggest TV my family owned as soon as I saw who was leading the rebellion’s fighter attack.
So perhaps it’s appropriate we saw Red Five first as Luke’s X-Wing arrived.
I write this as someone who, and this is abundantly clear after Storytelling Breakdown’s first season, grew up with Batman and Star Wars as my childhood fantasy worlds of choice.
When it comes to Batman, I was set. There was so much live action and animated content targeting a variety of ages from a variety of eras. I was ten when Batman Begins came out. Even before getting into comic books, with Batman as a hero who inspired me as a child, I had as much film and television as I’d ever want.
Luke Skywalker was a different story. We had his appearance in three live action films and that was it. I’m barely old enough to remember a time when there were only three Star Wars films. We followed Luke’s hero’s journey as he became a fully realized Jedi and then the story wrapped up. Every kid who saw those movies wanted more.
Every kid who grew up with Star Wars action figures and Legos played out those scenes over and over again. Odds C-3PO wouldn’t shut up about, a starship full of Imperials, friends in harm’s way, and Luke Skywalker still finds a way to save the day. This was what we all wanted to see and we waited for it.
Anakin in the prequels was not helped by this. Anakin had moments of heroism, but the prequels’ tragic hero wasn’t the Luke we knew.
Luke’s appearances in the sequel trilogy was not helped by this. So much was gone of the character we remembered. The reluctant mentor tortured by failure wasn’t the Luke we knew.
The Luke we knew appeared for the first time since Return of the Jedi in The Mandalorian episode, The Rescue.
The reactions that have followed have said so many things that I would repeat here. Many Star Wars fans are on the same page. YouTuber Jeremy Jahns put it simply, “it gave people what they wanted in 2015.” That is true. Another reaction was even simpler, “people love their heroes being heroic.”
We wanted to see Luke, not much older than he was in Return of the Jedi, saving the day, and fans older than me have been waiting for this since 1983. R2-D2 being there too certainly helped. Those of us who weren’t already visibly emotional, probably lost composure there.
We knew who was coming as soon as the X-Wing arrived, but the slow reveal made it a moment Star Wars fans will carry with them forever.
The black cloak, the right glove, the green lightsaber, the Force is strong with this one.
They finally got it right.
And I didn’t know how good it would feel to be a kid again.