I’m currently playing my way through “Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga”, which I got for Christmas last year. It’s my third Lego experience, after Lego Batman and Lego Harry Potter, and the Lego magic is still very much alive for me. Those games have such a high fun factor, you really feel that you are not just gaming but playing. And play is sacred.
I say “the Lego magic” and not “the Star Wars magic”, because I really am playing it chiefly because it’s a Lego game. I know that there are people, hordes of them, who might pick it up because of their love for Star Wars. But not me. I’m a nerd for many things but not for Star Wars. I bear Star Wars cultists no ill will, and indeed I have a little envy. I wish I loved those movies the way they do. And I like the original trilogy just fine. But I don’t love it. And I never will.
Because the first Star Wars movie I say was Phantom Menace. Enough said, I guess.
I never watched the originals as a child, even when my friends were talking about them. I didn’t watch a lot of movies. They were on my to-watch list, but it never happened. When I heard about the prequel trilogy, I was excited. I planned to watch the six movies in story order. Episodes I through III as they came out, and then the next day an original trilogy marathon. That’s not how it worked out, though. After the first movie I was sufficiently disappointed and nonplussed that I rented the originals all in one go, wanting to see what it was that had made so many people so excited to see .. that. But by then it was too late for me. It’s true what they say about first impressions.
Last weekend, the Not My Job segment on “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” was quite apropos: Simon Pegg, actor and author of Nerd Do Well. (You can read or listen here.) Peter Sagal and Simon Pegg spend a good bit of the conversation nerding out about the original Star Wars Trilogy (stirring in me, as always, a quiet jealousy for the love some people have for those movies), and the conversation takes an angrier turn when they come to discuss the prequel trilogy.
This reminded me of one of my all-time favorite pieces from This American Life: John Hodgman’s “Jar Jar Head”. It’s Act 3 of this episode. If you don’t know this about me already, I’m an unapologetic Hodgmaniac. I read and reread Areas of My Expertise and More Information than You Require, I watch and rewatch his You’re Welcome clips on The Daily Show (too hard to pick a favorite clip, but my favorite line is surely “No, if anything, it’s not.” from this one; surely one of the all-time great throwaway lines). But this is different. This is John Hodgman before his persona was established, before he was playing the character John Hodgman. The emotion is real, the poignancy and vulnerability are not feigned. That’s right, it’s vintage John Hodgman. Please, take 10 minutes and listen.