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May 17, 2002

"Ba ba ba ba-pa-bum."

We saw Episode II when it arrived in theaters. Not to go would have been pop culture suicide, willfully ignoring the source of the myriad references and comparisons that will be made over the next three years. Not to mention that it will be important to be able to say "I was there" when the mythos machine, sometime in the next twenty years, catches up with Lucas' current work. Besides, seeing the movie is like voting: participation gives you the right to complain.

And complain we did, the half-dozen of us who attended the 10:00 a.m. Sunday show. Sure, it wasn't as slow as Episode I and the supremely annoying characters got smaller roles, but we were still disappointed. The movie's a little too slick; the digital effects, which are pretty, are hollow and too heavy-handed. The plot details and the alliances between characters have become so complicated, I want a cheat-sheet to skim before the lights go down.

Perhaps we've gotten too old for Star Wars, a strange thing to say when I'm still a few years shy of 30. But we Gen-Xers, who grew up with Star Wars, are no longer the target audience. No, these new Episodes are for the 10 and 12 year-olds who duel each other with invisible light sabers just outside the theater door. Lucas has said so.

And this is why we walk home from the cinema disappointed. Because we are not 10 years old, making our own sound effects while our parents hurry us off to the car. Instead, we are 30-ish, with jobs and responsibilities and obligations. The long, lazy summer days and the freedom to play are slippery now; we snatch after them only to see them dissolve in our hands when the cellphone rings or the palm beeps or lunch is over. There are appointments to keep, deadlines to meet, and people depending on us.

We've lost our sense of wonder and discovery. It's harder to separate ourselves from reality, to let our minds wander. We're no longer able to enjoy a simple "fighting the (emerging) evil empire" plot, overlooking the deeper meanings and nuanced performances that aren't there. When we were children and saw the original Star Wars movies, our imaginations filled in the missing parts. Now, our imaginations can't be bothered. They are too busy suffocating under the mundane realities, the routines and the responsibilities. We don't fill in the blanks, perhaps because we're out of practice, perhaps because we are convinced there must be a right answer and we don't want to get it wrong.

Still, as each new Star Wars comes to the theaters, we'll get caught up in the hype, the anticipation. We recall our experiences of the original movies, when our lives were safe and the world was clearly outlined, when someone else worried for us and there was always time for whatever we wanted, and we hope this new movie will give us feelings we remember: "wow" and "whee" and "me too" and lots of exclamation points. We want our childhood back. But the lights come up as the credits fade, and our ordinary lives are still here. We're grown up, but we're not as fearless or as invincible as we dreamed we would be. Our adventures are the sorts of things that slow us down on the way to Starbucks in the morning. And no one looks as good in a gold bikini as Carrie Fisher did.