Alumni Review: Alumnus' "Solo" experience with family

chris and collectionI was 4 years old the day my entire life changed.

At the time, I was living in Richmond, Virginia with my mom and dad. It was the summer and I spent the majority of my time doing the exact same things over and over: watching “Sesame Street,” relentlessly riding my Big Wheel up and down the block, and asking my mom every 15 minutes if I could have a bowl of chicken noodle soup.

It was most definitely a Saturday when my dad drove me to a nearby movie theater and I settled in to watch that film I had overheard my parents talking about just weeks before.

“You should take Christopher to see “Star Wars” …I think he will enjoy it!”

What happened over the course of that two hours in the theater literally changed the blueprint and direction for the rest of my days. I have described it to friends that in some mystical way, the thing that was “Star Wars” entered my brain and became an actual part of my DNA.

At the time, I was scared senseless at the first sight of Darth Vader. I cried my eyes out seeing Princess Leia at the end giving medals to the heroes. And oh, how I could not wait to get back home and pretend to be Luke Skywalker: put on my bathrobe and pretend to use my mother’s yardstick as a lightsaber!

For over 40 years now, not a day goes by where I don’t think, talk, or interact with the thing I fell deeply in love with as a 4-year-old. Even today, I wake up every morning with my head on a vintage Star Wars pillowcase. Getting dressed, I put on my Darth Vader watch and slide my R2-D2 wallet in my pocket. I play “Star Wars” video games; I read Star Wars books; I collect “Star Wars” toys, and much to my kids’ chagrin, I spew Obi-Wan Kenobi platitudes at them and pass it off as “parenting wisdom.”

And, it goes without saying, that every year my family celebrates May the 4th on the same level as we do holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. This past year, we drank blue milk while eating Death Star imprinted waffles. We made Wookiee cookies and poured Jell-O into silicone carbonite molds. We watched movies from the moment we woke up until the clock hit midnight. We decorated a “Star Wars” tree and hung stockings from the chimney in the hopes that Vader Claus would leave us toys and treats!

It goes without saying, the Force is strong with me and my family!

When presented with a new “Star Wars” film, I can only say that I greet these opportunities with a level of excitement and enthusiasm akin to that of a kid opening up a birthday present and marveling at the surprise. For me and my family, it’s usually not a question of if the movie will be good but rather will we want to incorporate it into our “Star Wars” Day celebrations or relegate it to the pile of “Star Wars” DVDs (also known as the “Ewoks Caravan of Courage stack”) only to be watched once every couple of years.

Upon writing this review, I have seen the new “Solo” film twice. After discussing this film with my nerdy friends and gauging the reactions from my kids, I cannot shake the idea that not only is that “Solo” a much-needed breath of fresh air for the Star Wars universe, but in many ways, it captures the very essence of the things I have loved most about “Star Wars”.

With a personal collection of over 250 “Star Wars” comic books, I could not help but notice at how closely “Solo” mimics the style and pace of the original Marvel and Dark Horse Classic adventures that I have loved for so long. The movie does a masterful job of introducing a host of new characters and locations, while rapidly cycling through fast-paced scenes and scenarios. At no point, did I ever feel like the movie had overstayed its welcome in any one location. For me, it was like watching my comic books come to life.

More importantly – especially for the fanboys – “Solo” always remained grounded in the “Star Wars” universe while subtlety tying this film with the other nine feature films as well as both the “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” animated series. Whether it was the sound of the Imperial March, the sight of a wandering astromech droid, or the occasional dropping of names there were enough small fanboy moments without overtly hampering the experience for “Star Wars” newbies. And it goes without saying that seeing moments like Han and Chewbacca meeting or Han getting his blaster fulfill backstory development for anyone who has ever loved these characters and the original trilogy.

It cannot be understated, as much as “Solo” is a wonderful vehicle for Alden Ehrenheich and Donald Glover to capture and portray the nuances of both Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, respectively, this movie was the Chewbacca show. It was a glorious thing seeing new depth and dimension from a character that we have known from the beginning. We finally saw what it is like when Chewbacca is at his angriest. We saw him demonstrate compassion toward his fellow Wookiee captives. And we began to see the makings of that fabric that have tied Han and Chewie together up until we first see them in the cantina on Tatooine.

For this “Star Wars” nerd, it was two hours of pure geeky happiness.

Of course, for me, the ultimate question is how this movie will fit into my own “Star Wars” universe…

Every year for at least the last eight years, on the day before Thanksgiving, while my family is cooking and preparing food, we watch the “Star Wars Holiday Special.” For the uninitiated, the “Star Wars Holiday Special” is a very real thing that aired once and only once on television in November 1978. It can best be described as two hours of strange scenes involving Harvey Korman, Bea Arthur, and Art Carney, all tied around Chewbacca’s family which literally spends the first 10 minutes doing nothing but grunting and groaning at each other. While most people detest it for how weird and strange it is, I absolutely love it. I can completely see watching the new “Solo” Movie and The Holiday Special together and celebrating wookiees of all shapes and sizes.

For me, “Solo” does more than just capture the love I have for Han Solo and his first mate, Chewbacca; it deftly captured the overwhelming breadth of imagination and passion I have for the “Star Wars” universe and the adventures that I have dreamed in its endless confines. It is with great enthusiasm that this nerd can’t wait to add this new movie to the extensive list of “Star Wars” traditions for me and my family.

 

Christopher Ward
Kennesaw State University
M.A. Professional Writing ‘11
B.S. Political Science ‘95

Christopher Ward is a proud alumnus of KSU and has worked at KSU since 2002. He is currently the Director of Web Services and Mobile Development. There is a strong legacy of KSU in his family with his mother, Diana Ward, having retired from KSU in 2008 after 25 years of service and his daughter, Grace Ward, attending KSU in the fall to study Communications.

In addition to managing/oversight over the university's web presence, Christopher also frequently lectures and presents on a variety of team development and leadership topics. Most recently, he gave a presentation in April 2018 to web professionals in the USG titled "We are Powerful Jedi and Strong in the Force."

(http://facultyweb.kennesaw.edu/cward1/presentations/jedi_presentation_webtechday.pptx

 

 

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