WHEN STAR WARS HOOKED ME FOR GOOD
Updated: Oct 6
I’ve spoken at length about my very first Star War, but something I’ve not really discussed is how I really became a Star Wars fan.
At seven years old, The Phantom Menace was the best thing in the world. The problem with being seven years old, though, is you don’t have the attention span for more than a handful of interests. The 1999 summer of Star Wars wound to a close with a new football season right around the corner, and my own time playing the game was just beginning. I'd pretend I played for Manchester United on Saturday morning, watched United that afternoon, and sprinkled in as much Pokémon as one could possibly handle; I truly was livin’ la vida loca.
How do you find time for Star Wars among such a hectic schedule?
It quickly became very apparent that David Beckham I was not, despite demanding the number seven shirt. My obvious lack of footballing talent led to a period of disillusionment as a player. Come 2002, I was on a different team as a bit player at best, and my love for the game existed purely from an observer's standpoint. I was open to finding a new interest.
In stepped the trailer for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
Happy Birthday to me
In my family, trips to the cinema weren’t a regular occurrence. With three incredibly whiny and annoying kids to contend with, my parents didn’t deem the trip worthwhile. Exceptions were made for films they knew we'd be desperate to see (Harry Potter, Pokémon), one film at the end of a family holiday, and birthdays. Unlike Episode I, Episode II was released in the UK and the US on the same date, which meant, 13 days after its May 16th release, I saw Attack of the Clones on my 10th birthday. Just like Episode I for seven-year-old Thomas Willoughby, Episode II was everything I wanted to see as a 10-year-old. Come to think of it, I really don’t know what 10-year-old me would have wanted from a film, but Attack of the Clones was it. Most importantly, this was the first time I’d been able to revisit the Star Wars universe since the summer of 1999, and I ate it up—my dad made an effort to shield me from the original trilogy until after Episode III. In hindsight, I think what I loved most about Episode II was what it laid the groundwork for. As we walked out of the George Street Odeon, my friends acting out a lightsaber fight in the rain, I wanted more. Yoda had just proclaimed, “Begun, the Clone War has," minutes prior. More than anything, I wanted to see what that entailed. As we drove home, I was overcome with a sense of sadness. Not that my birthday barbecue (originally planned for that evening) had been hastily cancelled, but because I wouldn’t get to enjoy new Star Wars for another three years.
Onto the next one
The summer of 2002 passed quickly thanks to the World Cup—games kicked off at about 7am some days—and, soon enough, the Star Wars buzz faded... again. Life returned to the old ways: football, video games, and whatever fad had swept across school (Yu-Gi-Oh!, if memory serves). Fast forward to a cold morning in November 2003, the saga occupying barely a fraction of my thoughts, I walked into school and was met with an excitement: “Did you watch Star Wars?!?”.
Star Wars? I didn’t see a Star Wars? What Star Wars!?
What? When I got home that evening, lo and behold, there it was: Star Wars: Clone Wars.
Oh, it was glorious. New episodes aired every day for two to three weeks, lasting only five minutes each, but it was still marvelous. Largely without speech, the action spoke for itself. The duel between Anakin and Asajj Ventress on Yavin IV comes to mind as a particularly brutal sequence. Star Wars was doing things I’d never seen from it before, and I loved it.
Season three served as the connective tissue to Revenge of the Sith, and by then I was hooked. That consistent stream of Star Wars was enough to permanently engrave it in my subconscious. No longer was it just something I knew I liked, but rather it was now something I loved to the ends of the Earth.
Although I look back on Episode II with very little of the esteem I held it in some 18 years ago, I have to thank it for sealing the deal: I would be a Star Wars fan for life.
Thomas is a Star Wars fan living in the UK. When he's not imagining where his place in the Galaxy would be, he can be found being perennially upset at the state of the Atlanta Falcons and Manchester United and playing more video games than can be considered healthy.