As we re-explore the Star Wars prequels and steel ourselves for the upcoming installments, we need to hear a grounding voice. A deep, sonorous, awe-inspiring… terrifyingly epic voice. Sith Lords are notoriously unafraid to state their opinions.
Mark Fordham is an artist, filmmaker, former cop, father of five, husband of a Stormtroopette, seasoned veteran of the 501st Alpine Garrison, and a well-known Darth Vader impersonator. Mark can be contacted through markfordham.com. And may I add here that the 501st is much more than an amazing fan and cosplay club. It is an awesome community service organization that many people (including myself) have benefitted from.
Why do you love Star Wars?
When I first saw Star Wars I connected to it because it was believable. I grew up watching Star Trek, but it was all so clean and sterile. Reactors had occasional issues and there seemed to be a recurring shortage of dilithium crystals. But it wasn’t all that compelling. In Star Wars, however, there was grease, and dirt, and weathering! The Millennium Falcon had Hodge-podge paint and bent and broken ventilation louvers. Things were faded and looked like they had been-there-and-done-that!
Beyond the look of the film were the sounds! The blasters and lightsabers, and spaceship engines and explosions! It was all so visceral! And the soundtrack was unlike anything I had ever heard before. So mighty and majestic, and hauntingly emotional at times. Then there were the effects! Ships flying without strings, plus lightsabers, light-speed…just so much to love!
Then there is the story. It had great messages and mysteries. It used an underdog, and we ALL love underdogs. It was David and Goliath on a galactic scale! And beyond the main cast, you had so many interesting aliens and lifeforms. And the droids! We can’t forget the droids. But in short, if someone asked me what I liked about Star Wars I’d probably reply, “what’s NOT to like?!”
What is your favorite Star Wars movie and why?
My favorite episode is without question The Empire Strikes Back! I’ve heard it referred to as the “adult” Star Wars, probably because it’s quite a bit darker and less hero-always-wins. We see the characters with more depth as they are thrust into complex situations. And it’s where we get to meet Yoda and really learn what the Force is all about. Once again, the soundtrack rocks! Who doesn’t know the Imperial March, right? Beyond that, we get our first glimpse of Vader under the mask, we learn of the whole ‘father’ thing, but are left wondering if it’s true. We see the Emperor for the first time (via hologram). And we get lots of time with our favorite characters and spaceships across a broad variety of landscapes. It’s just a fabulously well-done film.
How do you feel about the prequels?
Many people are down on the prequels, especially Episode I. I actually liked Episode I! Sure, I could have done without Jar Jar. But we get to see a younger Kenobi, and Qui-Gon is great! And Darth Maul and his double bladed lightsaber filled the villain role extremely well! And the prequels are part of the story that has to be told. Honestly, I think my least favorite is Episode II. But how can you not like Episode III? That was the pinnacle of lightsaber fighting! And we had answered before our eyes the question left by all other episodes; how did the little kid grow from powerful Jedi to Lord of the Sith? Wouldn’t you know, it was over the love of a woman! The Force is strong, but I will agree that love is stronger!
How to you feel about the upcoming slate of movies?
I remain cautiously optimistic about the new films. Honestly, I’m a fan of the original trilogy. And with each new film, the cartoons, and all the Expanded Universe stuff, I see a dillution of what I grew up calling Star Wars. So though I am interested to see where the story goes, it will be yet another departure from what Star Wars really is to me. I am excited to see our old heroes again, and hope to hear more phenomenal music. But effects wise, I almost feel like it’s all been done. Maybe J. J. Abrams will break new ground. But I just don’t feel like this is going to rock the film world the way the original trilogy did. Geez, listen to me! I’m showing my age!
Still, it will put Star Wars back in the mainstream and back on the big screen. It will introduce new generations to Star Wars, and ultimately their journey will include the original movies. So I see it as all part of the bigger universe, and I guess there’s room in that universe for a lot more Star Wars!
How do you feel about the Expanded Universe, or “Legends”?
I’ve not gotten into the EU myself. As I mentioned, I feel every tangent distracts from the original movies. And I don’t feel George’s vision in some of it. There are some great characters and some interesting stories and back-stories. But since most mainstream fans aren’t exposed to it, they don’t connect to it or even recognizing it sometimes from a costuming standpoint. I’ve seen EU costumers do incredible renditions of some great costumes, but then not get the love or recognition from the fans that I think they expect and deserve.
Darth Mark, thank you for your AWESOMELY AUTHENTIC perspective.
Mark mentioned: “And with each new film, the cartoons, and all the Expanded Universe stuff, I see a dilution of what I grew up calling Star Wars.”
There is some haunting truth to this. The Sith are so good at making ominous statements!