Friday, November 3, 2017

Star Wars Nostalgia


Star Wars percolates with nostalgia. In fact, the only essential problem with some of the most recent Star Wars films is that they are too nostalgic.

The original definition of nostalgia was as a form of melancholy. Indeed, the word itself is comprised from the Greek roots of “homecoming” and “pain.” Considering the mythological tropes Star Wars has employed, this is worthy of our understanding.

Fortunately, for Star Wars fans, nostalgic items lean more towards homecoming than pain, and luckily there are a plethora of books, games, toys, and other items for every Star Wars fan out there to think back on good times.

Though some of the following list aren't exactly equivalent to Orson Welles' Rosebud, they are, I think, treasure none the less (and some are quite expensive). As we patiently await the December release of the newest Star Wars flick from Lucasfilm, take a moment to think back on some of these items. Below are some nostalgia items for any Star Wars fan out there:

Kenner's Toy Millenium Falcon (1978)

Fans of Netflix's Stranger Things, a show seeped in 80s nostalgia, saw the character Eleven telepathically playing with one of these toys from Kenner. Kenner produced all of the Star Wars action toys since the first film's release in 1977, selling hundreds of millions of toys, including this one.

The many Generation X Star Wars fans out there most likely saw this 53-centimeter toy as youngsters, and there's likely a high number of them who played with it. The commercial alone is likely to take fans back to their childhood. “Nice landing, Han Solo!” one of the kids shouts. “Come on, Chewbacca,” the other replies. “Stormtroopers are coming!”

Toys like these could be worth loads of money these days.

Princess Leia Action Figure (1984)

Also from Kenner, this action figure features Leia dressed in her Endor forest outfit, complete with a removable helmet, poncho, and blaster. The action figure was re-released along with many others in the late 1990s as the Special Edition films were being released in cinemas.

Star Wars only recently embraced the idea that female characters can be just as tough, if not tougher, than the boys. Case in point being characters in last year's The Force Awakens: Daisy Ridley as the the lead, a lady Stormtrooper commander, and Carrie Fisher's Leia changing from a princess to a general were all featured. The lead in Rogue One is played by Felicity Jones. While Princess Leia was always a tough rebel, I thought she was more badass as a general. Leia in the original films ranged from a damsel in distress to a slave in a medal bikini, so she isn't exactly (at least through modern lens) a feminist icon. But in Return of the Jedi from 1983, she was a character of grit and leadership. This action figure embodies that. 

Vlix Toy (1988)

Are you a fan of getting a whopping $6,000? Are you one of the few people on the planet who have an unopened Vlix toy? Then you're in luck. Vlix was a character who appeared in the animated series Droids. And this toy, considered to be the Holy Grail of Star Wars memorabilia, was produced by a Brazilian company, so there are very few of them around these days.

Full disclosure: I've never seen the animated series Droids or Ewoks, though I have seen (and don't recommend) the two made-for-TV Ewoks specials. I therefore can't really comment much more on who Vlix is or how special this toy is meant to be. And since it likely didn't go far from Brazil, it might be challenging to truly classify this as a piece of “nostalgia.”

That being said, for die-hard fans of the series (and especially the rich ones who have a bit of Indiana Jones in their DNA), tracking down this item might well be worth the time and dime.

Heir to the Empire Novel (1991)

There have been dozens of Star Wars novels since the novelization of the original film all the way back in 1977, but none are as terrific as Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire, the first of his trilogy.

Taking place only a few years after the original trilogy concluded, this series reunites our characters in a fight against the diminishing Galactic Empire, taken control by the malevolent and blue-skinned Grand Admiral Thrawn, who teams up with a Dark Jedi named Joruus Cbaoth to try and resurrect the Empire.

The novel became a best seller, and can be recommended for fans of most ages. 

As a side note, the 1978 novel Splinter in the Mind's Eye was written by Alan Dean Foster and commissioned by Lucas to serve partly as a framework for a small-budget sequel if the first film wasn't a hit. The Los Angeles Times has called this book the most influential of the Expanded Universe. 

Shadows of the Empire Soundtrack (1996)

In 1996, Lucasfilm, in anticipation for the release of the Special Edition the following year and then the start of George Lucas' prequel trilogy, released a multimedia project titled Shadows of the Empire, a tale of Luke Skywalker et al tracking down the carbonite casing of Han Solo in between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

The project involved a novel by Steve Perry, comics by John Wagner, a Nintendo 64 and computer game, and a group of new toys. But the element of the project that was the most impressive was the score written by Joel McNeely to be used for the audio book and games.

An epic and old-fashioned juxtaposition of intense choral arrangements and even a waltz (a first and only for the franchise), McNeely did a phenomenal job of channeling Star Wars composer John Williams without copying him. This music might be the best piece of Star Wars that most fans have never heard of.

Knights of the Old Republic Game (2003)

Released by LucasArts, the now defunct media publisher of Lucasfilm, Knights of the Old Republic, the role-playing video game for Xbox, is still regarded as one of the greatest video games of all time. As a matter of fact, it ranked in the top 100 according to Time a few years ago.

Taking place several thousand years before the formation of the Galactic Empire, characters can even make decisions that will align them with the Dark Side or the Light Side of the Force. The game was followed by several sequels and won a host of awards.


Fortunately for us all, there are more Star Wars films in the making, and who knows how many more games, books, toys, etc. What will the nostalgia items of the future be? The Chewbacca mask made famous by a laughing mom in her car? The Death Star Christmas tree light? Little BB-8s?

Time will surely tell, but the Force is surely strong with many of them.


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