When I pounced on this writing assignment I didn’t have a specific hook in mind, I just knew that if something was going to be written about Star Wars then I wanted it to have my byline. I umm’d and ahh’d for a while and pitched some different ideas but nothing really made me want to dive onto my computer and start writing. It was only when my older brother, Ken, sent me a video of my five-year-old nephew, Leo, dancing to the Imperial March while talking about how ‘all the ships blowed up’, that I had my idea.

Star Wars is very much a Fallon family concern. There are other movies we all love but nothing unites all of us more than a simple, unabashed love of the Star Wars movies. My mum and I used to make it a December tradition that we would watch Return of the Jedi together and my mum would swoon over Lando (“He’s dead tasty!”) and I’d wait for my favourite moment to happen (“It’s a trap!”). I’ve written on these pages before about my love for Return of the Jedi and a lot of that love is thinking about sitting in my living room during the oppressive England winter and watching a Star Wars movie with my mum. I remember my brother going to see the special editions when they were released in the cinema and coming home in a Yoda t-shirt that I would eventually steal from him. When Attack of the Clones came out my mum and I went to the midnight screening and when Revenge of the Sith was released my brother and sister-in-law took me to see it in Manchester for my birthday. This has extended to my new family as my wife, who once upon a time had zero interest in Star Wars, has accompanied me to the opening nights of The Force Awakens and Rogue One, and had lots to say about both afterwards.

When I saw the video of Leo dancing and talking about ships blowing up I thought to myself how amazing it was that now three generations of my family all loved the same thing. I thought that rather than writing a list of the best Star Wars moments or just a long rambling love letter to the franchise, I would turn to the people I knew best and see how Star Wars came into their lives and try and work out how it has endured from grandparents down to grandchildren.

I recently Skyped with my folks in England and quizzed them about their Star Wars experiences. My parents saw Star Wars in February 1978. The movie had been out since May 1977 and it was still a huge thing nearly a year later (and still in cinemas apparently). It was while my parents were still dating and they had only been a couple for six or so months and decided to go to the cinema. The oddest part for me was when I asked them what they thought of it at the time my mum just said, “Meh.” They hadn’t really fancied it initially but the hype made it impossible to have not seen it. The most interesting thing they took from it was that Everton were playing West Ham the next day and the West Ham team were all sat on the front row of the cinema in Liverpool. I Googled this and it means that my parents saw the movie on February 17th, 1978 (and more importantly Everton won the match).

Once the sequels were released and they had rewatched the original their opinion shifted into the positive and eventually they wanted to share the movies with my brother and I. They first showed the movies to us when we all lived in South Africa in around 1986. At this time my brother was seven years old and I was only two. The process for watching movies in South Africa was that you went to the video store and rented a VHS player and a couple of movies for three nights then returned the player and videos back to the shop, which is nothing to do with Star Wars but is something that blew my mind. When we saw the movies on our rented VHS player, my brother and I were immediately hooked.

It was very interesting as my brother showed his kids the movies around the same age. My nephews, Leo and Rudy, are five and two respectively and while Leo has developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of them, all Rudy cares about is picking up toy lightsabers and making the vhroom noise as he moves it side to side.

I asked my brother, who lives in Spain, about the experience of showing his kids the movies and he told me that it was a very proud dad moment as they watched them over the course of three months, spreading them out over a few nights. He told me that ‘the really fun part were the days in between when we would be talking about what just happened and what was about to happen, with Leo asking loads of questions as he was trying to map out the whole saga in his head.’ He said the prequels were a lot of fun to watch as Leo was fascinated with how Anakin became Vader, since Darth Vader and the Emperor are his favourite characters, and he couldn’t wait for Darth Vader to put his mask on!

I also got a chance to interview my nephew about the movies:

Me: What is Star Wars about?

Leo: Star Wars is a story about space. It’s got lightsabers in it. It’s got Darth Vader and the Emperor in it. It’s got stormtroopers in it and they’re white. In every movie, Anakin is becoming more of a bad guy. It’s a story about good guys and bad guys.

Me: Who’s your favourite character?

Leo: The Emperor. He’s scary and he can make lightning. And Han Solo because he’s cool and he’s friends with Chewbacca (who looks like a monkey).

Me: Why do you like Star Wars?

Leo: Because they have lots of adventures and sometimes it’s a bit scary. And it’s got lightsabers in it.

There has never been a time in my life where I wasn’t a Star Wars fan. For me, these is no time in which I hadn’t seen it. I’ve always known that Darth Vader was Luke’s father and that Han and Leia were meant for each other. I’ve always known that the second Death Star was bait for a trap and that even though Lando said there was a way to save Han from the bounty hunter, they would always get the landing platform moments too late. My first ever memory is Christmas 1987 and coming downstairs to see that my folks had bought me all the Return of the Jedi toys and my Dad was buried in them like Scrooge McDuck swimming in gold coins. A few weeks ago my nephews were in England with my parents. My mum sent me a photo of the two boys sat in the living room where I used to watch Return of the Jedi with my mum, both playing with those same Star Wars toys in the spot where I had found them on Christmas morning thirty years previous.

I love Star Wars for a variety of reasons and I can agree with Leo that it has lots of adventures and is scary sometimes. I can also agree that the best part is watching Darth Vader turn to the dark side and be redeemed. It took me until I was in my 30s to see that that was the most compelling plot while Leo worked it out at five. When I took this writing assignment I realised that Star Wars, of all things, holds such a strong connection for me to my family who, now that I live in Australia while they live in England and Spain, I see very rarely and miss a lot.

For Christmas this year, all of us are heading to Vietnam. It will be my first Christmas with my family for twelve years and my first with Leo and Rudy ever. Planning has started amongst everyone as we try and work out exactly what we’re going to do, where we’re going to stay, what food we need to eat, what sights we need to see, and when we’ll be in Phu Quoc or Danang. As all this goes on I’ve let it wash over me because I’m too busy trying to find the best cinema in Ho Chi Minh for my mum, dad, brother, sister-in-law, wife, nephews, and myself to see the new Star Wars together, forty years after the original came out and provided my youngest nephew with a reason to pick up a toy the size of himself and try and hit people with it.

And of course, it’s not just my family who love the saga of the Skywalkers:

Featured Image: 20th Century Fox