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Using The Force: Special Edition

By Will Brooker

Special Exclusive Introduction for DMEB2 by Will

Using The Force - bookcover.I first saw The Phantom Menace in Cardiff, May 99. I'd booked my ticket a week in advance but the place was almost empty. After the movie I walked back to my university building, turning vague disappointment over in my mind, and settled back to writing up my PhD thesis on Batman.

That I saw Attack of the Clones in Chestnut Hill, MA, as part of a New York and Boston publicity tour, is thanks to Continuum, the publishers who have consistently supported me as I pursue my career of writing academic books about things I loved as a kid.

I had watched Phantom Menace in near-isolation. My struggle to put my finger on the dissatisfaction I felt afterwards was solitary. When I finally got to watch Attach of the Clones, it was after four days of "phoner" interviews in hotel rooms at unnerving hours with newspapers and radio shows from states I'd never visited - the Dallas Morning News calling me at 7am as I watched Star Wars features on breakfast TV, WSPD-AM calling me at midnight as I watched footage from the premiere. I was delivering the same soundbites several times a day, for cable news and websites.

I saw my face on posters in the windows of a Harvard bookstore. My voice was being broadcast in Toledo as I slept. It was minor fame, but it was as close as I'd gotten to celebrity since a section of the British media decided to label me Dr Batman. Every day, half a dozen strangers were asking me what I thought of the new movie. For most of my trip, I hadn't even seen it. I just had to say I was pinning a lot of hopes on it.

Will autographing Using The Force, for a young fan.But by the time I saw Attack of the Clones, the new instalment didn't matter so much. I had already spent two or three hours that made the trip, and the book, worthwhile: an evening at Bob's Candy Store, a bar in Brooklyn, where Continuum had set me up as quizmaster for a night and let me run forty questions, ten on each movie, past teams like "Dude, Where's My Sandcrawler". As soon as I took the microphone and heard someone in the back let out a low, rumbling Wookiee growl I knew I was with family.

Unsurprisingly, two diehard guys won. We gave a bonus to the team who said Count Dooku was the cousin of Sesame Street's Count Von Count and guessed "Jabba the Slut" instead of Gardulla. There was a special prize for the youngest contestant, a kid called Zachary who must have been around eight years old: the same age I was when I first saw A New Hope. He brought me a copy of Using the Force to sign. After that, Attack of the Clones could have been a washout and I would have been happy enough.

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An excerpt from that extra chapter...

Epilogue


Post Bellum

There is a moment at the start of every new Star Wars film, after the cyan of "a long time ago..." has faded to black, that seems to stretch. The screen is dark and silent. In an instant - surely the whole pause can't be more than five seconds, however long it feels - the familiar yellow logo will blare up onto the screen with the first horns of John Williams' march; but for that moment, it's just darkness and the friends next to you, and the hundreds of people in the cinema, and the millions of fans you imagine across the world who have been waiting years for this, a new episode of Star Wars. At that moment, at the top of the roller-coaster when everyone around you holds their breath, you can truly believe in a Force that binds, penetrates and unites.

I walked out of the AMC in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, unable to speak for the lump in my throat. This had been heavy stuff for a space opera – a mother dying in her son's arms, a father killed before his son's eyes, a young couple declaring love in the face of death – but what choked me up was the feeling of sheer relief that Attack of the Clones hadn't let me down. It had been a good film, thank God, and the mythos was saved. I wanted to find George Lucas and throw an arm round him, murmuring "It's alright- it's alright." Embarrassingly, I had become an Episode II gusher.

Over the next few weeks my opinions mellowed, fortunately, until I evened out at broadly enthusiastic rather than weepily ecstatic. Crucially, though, the main reason for my re-evaluation of the film was the experience of reading and responding to other fans' online opinions. This epilogue charts and explores the initial fan reaction to Attack of the Clones across most of the bases covered in previous chapters, revisiting the same sites and many of the same people. Almost all the data were gathered in May 2002, in the month following the film's release, while reactions were intense and traffic on boards like TheForce.net was peaking. Even by the time of writing, August 2002, online activity around Star Wars has settled down into a lull, a ticking-over in preparation for the serious detection and debate that will build momentum when meaty scraps from Episode III start coming in.

Will Brooker

April 2003

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So why not buy the book!

All in all - there are lots of reasons to get this book! If you did not buy the hardback edition, get the paperback version and read the rest of that extra chapter!

Other links to explore:

There is another review of Using The Force at the Revolution Science Fiction site, and an interview with the author on chrono radio. There is also an Internet interview on Echostation. To delve further into the world of media studies, start with Henry Jenkins of MIT.

'Star Wars' exerts such fascination for many of us because it is a representation of archetypes common to the majority of cultures, the hero (Luke), the shadow (Palpatine), the demon or devil, Darth Maul, and many others. For the world of myth and archetype, try looking for works by Carl Jung, and for myth, how Joseph Campbell's theories influenced George Lucas.


Details:

Hardcover: 265 pages Published 6 June, 2002
Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group - Academic and Professional;
ISBN: 0826452876
Category(ies): Society, Politics & Philosophy , Music, Stage & Screen. Sold in UK by Amazon.co.uk and all good bookshops.

Paperback: 320 pages Published May, 2003
Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group - Academic and Professional;
ISBN: 0826452876 $10.47
Category(ies): Society, Politics & Philosophy , Music, Stage & Screen. Sold in UK by Amazon.co.uk and all good bookshops. Cost 8.46GBP

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