Empire of the Son

18 months ago, I would have paid good money for someone else to take my son to see The Force Awakens. Now the day is here, however, and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing.

The Force is strong with this one

There’s a neverending game of parental one-upmanship, in which every participant tries to outdo each other in terms of who’s got it the hardest.

From the sanity-sapping whirlwind engulfing new parents, to the joy sponge that is parenting teens, via an endless trade-off between energy and time, during which almost none of your efforts will be appreciated by the target audience.

But if there are spikes of chaos along the parenting road, then there must also be better times as well. And I’m hyper aware that I’m in one now: an almost mythical spot on the parenting Venn diagram when my kids don’t want to hide away in their rooms all day, and aren’t yet embarrassed to be seen out with me in public.

I know it won’t last – Kid A is now just a year away from officially being a teenager – so I have to enjoy it while I can.

We do things for our kids that can only be explained by love, and willingly come back for more. We forget the sleep deprivation, the crying, the expense, the kit, the logistics, the threats, the coaxing, the hassle, and the punishments; the nightmares, the interruptions, the distractions, the endless demands for time, energy, attention, and money.

We endure the injuries and accidents, the spillages and breakages, the emergencies, the crises of conscience and self doubt. We forget the mess, chaos and bodily fluids.

We put up with it all, willingly – in many cases multiple times over – and why? For days like today.

For a day when my eight-year-old son’s eyes light up like light sabres. For a day he’s been looking forward to probably more than Christmas itself. For the Force to Awaken.

Lost generation

Despite being a massive film nerd, Star Wars and I never really got on. I mean, we should have been best buddies: I am the Star Wars generation, after all.

But I walked out of the original (I was watching it on a ferry and was feeling seasick long before the swaying camerawork of the trash compactor scene, at which point I bailed.)

Using the Force
Just landed in the UAE, and Amnesiac was already using the Force to control our cases…

I saw Empire on dry land, but found it all a bit camp and meh to be honest, so when 1983 rolled around, I gave Jedi a miss completely, only seeing it for the first time earlier this year. (What do you know? 10-year-old me was pretty smart.)

By the time the Panthem Menace (as Amnesiac called it until very recently) appeared in 1999, my passion for film was firmly in place but not for wasting my money on wooden acting, terrible dialogue and vaguely racist aliens.

A friend asked me how I could be so against something I hadn’t even seen, and offered to buy me a ticket in an attempt to prove me wrong. Cut to two hours later and, to paraphrase Dickie Attenborough in Jurassic Park, I was accepting his apology. Once bitten and so on, which is why I’ve never seen Episodes II and III.

Back for more, you will be

But it’s clear that the Star Wars universe isn’t done with me yet. When news of an Episode VII first came emerged, I shuddered as I realised it was going to put my son firmly in the demographic firing line.

About 18 months ago, I even made a public plea via this very blog for someone else to take him to watch the movie. I am such an idiot.

Episodes IV-VI DVDs
These are the DVDs you are looking for

But, just like all the other things we do for our kids because we love them even though we’d rather not – like buying, prepping and feeding them things we cannot stand ourselves because they’re cheap, tasty, nutritious and come in their own convenient packaging; I’m looking at you, bananas – I knew that at some point I was going to have to sit with Amnesiac and watch the lot of them by way of preparation.

So before last Christmas, I trawled eBay like Boba Fett for something very specific: an out of print (and therefore second-hand) DVD box set of Episodes IV–VI as originally released, without all the remastered CGI tinkering that gets the fanboys so upset. (Who shot first? I don’t care.)

  • Gallery images (c)The National, Abu Dhabi Film Commission and twofour54 Abu Dhabi

Bibbly bobbly

But The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams cares, because of eight year olds like Amnesiac all over the world. They want wonder, escape, excitement, bad guys, battles, explosions and adorable, bibbly bobbly robots and he’s delivered in spades.

Even worse than The Phantom Menace

I was already having a blast just being there with Amnesiac when a most unexpected thing happened: I realised how much I was enjoying it, too. It’s deft, and tense and exhilarating and far funnier than I ever dared imagine it might be.

Haters, let’s hear it, but for my money The Force Awakens is the best Episode of them all.

In place of the tedious Yoda and annoying Ewoks is BB-8 who needs a spin-off film of his/her own, stat. Force entertained three generations of the family including my Star Wars newbie of a father-in-law who declared it to be ‘extraordinary’.)

Is it the best film of the year? Nope. It’s not even 2015’s best film starring Oscar Isaac and Domnhall Gleeson (NSFW, kids.)

But it’s a frothy blast, made all the more enjoyable for seeing our homes old and new on the big screen: Abu Dhabi (specifically Liwa) doubling for desert planet Jakku, and the former US airbase at Greenham Common, where we used to ride our bikes of a weekend, taking centre stage as the Resistance base.

*   *   *

Too often, parenting can seem like a slog; an infinite loop of logistics and low-level hassle. And then there are days like today.

Days where expectations are exceeded, and you can’t wait to find out what happens next, whether that’s to the characters on the big screen, or the more important ones watching it.



3 thoughts on “Empire of the Son

  1. Kean Walmsley (@keanw) December 19, 2015 / 5:28 pm

    I have vivid memories of watching the original trilogy repeatedly on VHS (probably Matt Grainger’s) at 2 Calais Hill, but I guess that didn’t happen when we were all at #4, two years earlier.

    I do recommend getting your hands on The Despecialized Edition, if you get the chance. Google it.

    And yes – TFA is the best episode of the series, so far. Absolutely loved it.


    • littlecity December 20, 2015 / 2:35 am

      Wow, haven’t met anyone else who places TFA top of the pile too, so I’m glad you also loved it as much. So much fun. And cheers for the tip off, I shall Google away!

      PS – VHS was such a terrible format; so bad not even the hipsters want to revive it.

  2. Catherine Robinson December 23, 2015 / 4:49 pm

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