Episode X : The Force Within

Namira Hossain talks to two Star Wars fanatics to see how the popular movie franchise has shaped their lives

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away a little known American film-maker named George Lucas changed the landscape of sci-fi fantasy with the first installment of the Star Wars trilogy which later came to be known as A New Hope. Starring Mark Hamill as the protagonist Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as the indefatigable Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia and Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, this was the first introduction into the labyrinth of Lucas’s mind where he imagined unbelievable worlds and filled them with relatable characters as well as extremely detailed spaceships.

Mighty Punch Poster

Way ahead of its’ time, the stunning visuals, thrilling soundtrack and other worldly things such as lightsabers, the Force, the Death Star are all major reasons why this movie franchise was engraved into the public consciousness for decades to come. This happened in the year 1977 when Bangladeshi comic book writer Samir Asran Rahman was born.

‘My cousins and friends would watch it, Star Wars was always around,’ says Samir. Now at 39, he can look back and see how much the franchise influenced and shaped his destiny. ‘In my first college application, my essay was about how I wanted to build worlds like George Lucas,’ he says. Through his writings in his comics such as Shabash which features a superhero who battles a prehistoric king, references to Star Wars always seem to crop up as he wants to pay homage to the series.

It seems unlikely that a space saga would capture the heart of millions, but at its’ core Star Wars presents the human experience in a story about loves, losses, trials, betrayals, sacrifices, heroes, villains and triumphant moments. The trilogy followed Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero’s Journey’ where Luke Skywalker had been shaken from his natural state with the call to adventure brought by the wise old man in the shape of Obi-Wan Kenobi. In the series, Luke destroys the tyrannical rule of the Galactic Empire but at a great personal loss. Samir says that the Hero’s Journey cannot fail and that if one were to study myths, all of them have the same structures.

Saadi Rahman dressed as his favourite character Bobba Fett at the first Dhaka Comicon in 2012

The Founder of Mighty Punch Studios and creator of Shabash and Miss Shabash says that writing strong female characters comes naturally to him and that is also probably a result of watching characters such as Princess Leia, played by the late Carrie Fisher who single handedly kills her vile captor Jabba the Hut. ‘She was one of the first female characters that I was exposed to who was not a damsel in distress,’ says Samir. This once again shows how this series holds universal appeal that transcends gender by showcasing strong female role models. This continued with the characters of Rei in The Force Awakens (2015) and Jyn in Rogue One (2016). Now that Disney has taken over the franchise, they also announced that they will keep coming up with strong female characters as they will be releasing new movies every year ensuring that the series remains timeless.

But Star Wars did not only capture the minds of people through its’ heroes. It also gave the world perhaps one of the greatest villains it has ever seen in the looming shape of Darth Vader. Saadi Rahman, a self-proclaimed Star Wars fanatic, says, ‘everybody relates to him because he is broken.’ The prequels to the trilogy which came out some 20 years later not only introduced a whole new generation to the magic that is Star Wars but also explores Darth Vader’s back story after audiences already learnt that he was actually Luke Skywalker’s father in the iconic and much replicated scene.

‘He’s had almost every experience,’ says Rahman, ‘from losing his mother, being taken into Jedi training, being shunned by the Council and then losing the love of his life before losing all his limbs.’ All of these experiences shape him into becoming the Sith Lord that we know with the deep, mechanic voice who Force chokes people at will. Rogue One which is the latest installment in the franchise released in 2016, brings back the nostalgia factor in the shape of Darth Vader as audiences cheered during his scenes where he goes into a revengeful fit destroying everything in sight with his lightsaber.
Another reason Star Wars has maintained its relevance is also through its’ clever merchandising of toys and action figures. Saadi Rahman, who is also the founder of Dhaka Comicon and Saadi’s collectibles, says that it was the actions figures that captured his imagination even before the movies. Lego is also affiliated with the franchise, so now one can replicate spaceships such as the legendary Millennium Falcon amongst others. ‘It has influenced my life in every angle – be it romance, business, strategy. If you’re a fanatic like me, it’s nothing less than a lifestyle,’ he says.

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