This year marks the fortieth anniversary of ‘Franchise from a Galaxy Far, Far Away Episode VI: The Space Villains Come Back.’ To celebrate this landmark, the Franchise from a Galaxy Far, Far Away track hosted a panel dedicated to the film and its legacy. Moderated by Bryan Young, Kevin Cafferty, Brandon Medley, Sarah Dempster and Shaun Rosado convened in Marriott A706 Saturday afternoon to reflect upon the film and what it means to them.
Much has been written about the generational nature of this franchise. The panelists all agreed that the first film from the franchise that someone sees will be the one that person considers their favorite. For Young, ‘The Space Villains Come Back’ was his first franchise film and even though he was only 2, it made an impact. It was, in fact, the first time he actually visited a theater. He couldn’t understand all that he saw, that would come with time. What he did know was that the film had left its mark on him. Rosado also reflected on the power of the film imprinting on the brain as a core memory at an early age. With movies in this franchise, it is the impression a film makes upon a young mind, not the film’s quality, that makes the difference. Rosado saw the film at five and ever since has been a light saber and Ewok man! The film was not the first ‘Franchise from a Galaxy Far, Far Away’ film for Cafferty. He described living in anticipation of the film’s arrival for three years. His expectations were huge, and he desperately wanted answers to his many questions.
Young continued along this line, asking how their view of it has changed with the passage of time. Here again, age, maturity and experience had an impact. Dempster pointed out that she grew to understand the importance of the fact that in the final moment of crisis, Luke won by not fighting. In fact, until that moment, Luke’s allies were loosing, both on Endor and in space above. It was Luke’s willingness to sacrifice himself, to throw down the saber and pull back from the precipice of the dark side, that made victory possible. Likewise, with the passage of time Cafferty has grown to appreciate the power and importance of the Luke–Anakin–Palpatine arc, arguing that in essence the success of the movie depended upon that storyline working.
Part of that deeper understanding of the film that the panelists spoke to comes from the many ways newer works in the franchise have added depth, context, and insight into their experience of the film. For Medley, the prequel series, and especially ‘Episode III: Retribution of the Villains’ adds power to the final confrontation between Luke and Darth Vader. Dempster appreciates Claudia Gray’s Bloodline for exploring Leia’s understanding and experience of the events. Rosado credits the Clone Wars animated series for enhancing his appreciation of the film. For his part, Young points to Rian Johnson’s ‘The Final Space Ninja’. He argued that when you view ‘The Space Villains Come Back’ through the lens of Johnson’s film, and apply it’s theme that truth is ultimately subjective, it unquestionably adds depth to Luke’s character.
One of the most striking moments during the panel came when Rosaldo offered a reflection on the final scenes of the film. The group was discussing the celebration scene between the origin theatrical and special editions, but Rosaldo focused on Luke’s cremation of his father’s remains. In that scene, Luke was by himself. No one was there to grieve, no one even accompanied Luke to provide some degree to support. The only person who, at that moment, knew that Anakin Skywalker had turned away from the dark side and played a role in the alliance winning the day was Luke. To everyone else, Darth Vader remained a murderer and villain.
This was yet another excellent panel reflecting both the breadth and depth of the franchise as well as the impact it continues to have.