Dave Barry

Classic ’99: Watch where you stick that light saber, pal

Contestants line up for a Star Wars costume contest at Muvico Paradise 24 theaters May 29, 1999.
Contestants line up for a Star Wars costume contest at Muvico Paradise 24 theaters May 29, 1999. Herald Staff

This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, May 2, 1999.

It's coming! Put your ear to the page and listen....

BOM-bom! Bom bom bom BOM-bom! Bom bom bom BOM bom! Bom bom bom bom . . . .

That's right: It's the theme from Star Wars, the movie series that gave the world a whole new lexicon, including such phrases as ``the Force,'' ``Death Star,'' ``light saber,'' ``lexicon'' and ``licensed merchandise.''

Star Wars has become an important and cherished part of our shared cultural heritage, like Starbucks and Pez. And soon another chapter will be added to the Star Wars legend with the release of the long-awaited new installment in the series, entitled Episode One: The Empire Gets a Building Permit. On the day this movie is released, millions of Americans will flock to movie theaters to share in the excitement and wonder of being told that the theater is sold out through October because all the tickets have been snapped up by crazed drooling Star Wars geeks wearing officially licensed Han Solo underwear.

What explains the powerful appeal of the Star Wars series? Speaking as one who saw Return of the Jedi on video at least 14,000 times when my son was four and refused to watch anything else but also refused to be left alone with Jabba the Hutt, I would say that the key element is the theme of Good vs. Evil. Good is of course represented by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who has the Force, a mystical, universal power that causes him to be attracted to his sister. Fortunately, Luke gets over that and meets a wise Jedi master named Yoda (Raymond Burr) who trains Luke to harness the awesome power of the Force so that he can speak lines of really bad dialogue without laughing.

Along the way, Luke meets many memorable characters, including Han Solo (Indiana Jones), Chewbacca (Sonny Bono), Princess Leia (Prince) and two quirky, lovable robots, C-3PO (Tony Danza) and R2-D2 (F7-Z9). After many hair-raising adventures, Luke finally goes to the Death Star (Marlon Brando) where he confronts Evil in the form of his father, Darth Vader (voice by Perry Como) and, in a heartwarming scene of reconciliation, beats him up. The dramatic climax comes when Luke removes the helmet from the dying Vader and gazes, at last, into the eyes of the person beneath the harsh, forbidding mask (Martha Stewart). In the end, Good triumphs over Evil, and Luke and his friends celebrate on the planet of the Ewoks, a race of fun-loving, short, hairy creatures (Robin Williams).

As humans, we relate to this timeless story because we all go through the same kind of moral struggle in our own lives. We have a Force within us, and sometimes we use it for Good, as when we decide to have a salad instead of a cheeseburger and fries; but sometimes we turn toward the Dark Side, as when we load up our salad with a fatty ranch dressing, or we take all the remaining artichoke segments from the salad bar, leaving none for the next person in line (Nick Nolte).

These timeless themes explain why we are all so excited that director George Lucas (Inc.) has decided, despite the very real risk that he will make billions of dollars, to come out with a new episode of Star Wars. Until recently, specific information about the new episode was ``Top Secret'' - nobody knew the plot except Lucas, the actors, and of course the government of China. Fortunately, however, I have obtained, from high-level sources who asked not to be identified (Al and Tipper Gore) specific details on the plot. If you don't want me to spoil the shocking surprise ending (Liam Neeson gets killed), stop reading right now, because here is . . .

THE PLOT: There is big trouble brewing in the universe (California). The evil and greedy Trade Federation (Microsoft) is planning to invade the tiny planet of Naboo (Naboo), which is inhabited by a race of strange frog-like beings (the House Judiciary Committee). Two Jedi knights, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn (Siegfried and Roy) go to Naboo, where, after overcoming numerous special effects, they are joined by the Naboo queen (Dennis Rodman). They escape in a space ship, but when the D'-cell batteries in their light sabers run low, they are forced to land on the evil, Hutt-controlled planet of Tatooine (New Jersey). There they meet 9-year-old Anakin Skywalker (Danny DeVito), and they realize that he has the Force when he is able, without physically touching it, to raise and lower a garage door. After a meeting with the ancient Jedi Council (the Rolling Stones), Anakin and the others return to Naboo for a climactic finale in which Siegfried (Roy) battles with the evil warlord Darth Maul (Marv Albert) to determine who will ultimately control the tie-in rights for Star Wars collectibles (Pepsi). As the movie ends, we see the young Anakin preparing to face an uncertain future consisting of at least 14 more sequels, and we hear the stirring sound of . . .

BOM-bom! Bom bom bom BOM-bom! Bom bom bom BOM bom! Bom bom bom bom . . .

. . . and we feel the Force welling up from deep inside ourselves. And so we burp.

© 1999 Dave Barry

This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Electronic or print reproduction, adaptation, or distribution without permission is prohibited.