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GROB: Taking one last look at our fictional friends

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

I was just minding my own business, just watching Monday Night Football this week, when it spiraled out of my TV screen and into my brain like a Tom Brady pass.

It was a commercial — it was the final trailer for the new “Star Wars” movie, coming Dec. 20 to a theater near us. I was riveted. I later found it on YouTube and watched it again, a few times. I made my wife watch it, too.

I’ve been a fan of the “Star Wars” franchise since I was 9 years old and saw the very first movie at my local theater, with my mom. I liked it, so much so that I saw it three or four more times that summer. That was the first movie where people did that — went back to the theater to see it again multiple times.

Mom wasn’t expecting much. She was just going because I was a little kid and there was no one else to take me, but I think she liked it even more than I did. She insisted Dad take her to see it the following weekend for their night out.

Afterward, I asked Dad for his thoughts — when you’re 9, the opinion of your parent is very important — and Dad shrugged and said, “not too bad.” He then said it was like a John Wayne Western, except it was in space. Dad really liked John Wayne Westerns, so that sounded like high praise to me.

So here it is, more than 40 years later, and I was like a little kid again, watching this trailer over and over again. I even switched the football game off — of course, the Patriots were winning by four touchdowns at the time, so that’s not much of a sacrifice.

And speaking of making a sacrifice, there was a moment in the trailer that kind of broke my heart.

At one point, there’s a scene where the android C3PO appears to be getting his robot head rewired. If you’re unsure who C3PO is, he’s the gold-colored robotic character, a “protocol droid” with a British accent who is constantly making suggestions that are helpful but annoying, and constantly calculating odds that no one wants calculated.

Anyway, when another character asks him what’s up in the trailer, C3PO replies, “I’m just taking one last look. At my friends.”

And it occurs to me that this indicates that C3PO is going to be killed off in this movie — the last Star Wars movie centered on the Skywalker Saga.

So now, I’ve learned that I’m a 51-year-old man who’s seen a lot, but still doesn’t have the emotional maturity to handle the death of a fictional android.

By “killed off,” I mean it appears that his memory is about to be erased. So the droid will still be walking around, but he’ll have no memory of any of the adventures that we’ve been watching him plod around in since 1977.

From the trailer, it looks as though C3PO is sacrificing himself for the greater good, so he’ll get a hero’s death.

Keep in mind that I have no idea if that’s what’s really going to happen. I realize that trailers are meant to intrigue us into going to the movie. They put things in there to lure us into dropping our dollars and picking up a ticket, because we want to find out if what we think is really going on is really going on.

But I was all in before I ever saw the trailer. I would go see this movie, even if I thought it was going to be terrible. I need the story to be completed, even if I don’t like the way they’re going to complete it.

I also realize that the line, “I’m just taking one last look at my friends,” is allegorical. We are C3PO. We are urged to take one last look at our friends — the characters we’ve been watching for years.

We are being told this is the last time we’ll ever get to see these guys shoot each other up, buzz around in spaceships and fight with laser swords for our entertainment, so we better get our butts into the seats.

It’s the reason why old rock bands call every tour their “farewell tour.” They lead us to believe it’s the last time we’ll get to see them perform live. Some of them have had six or seven farewell tours. They aren’t fooling us anymore.

“Star Wars” typically kills off a main character in every movie, and part of the fun is guessing which one it’s going to be. I was sad when Han Solo died. I was sad when Luke Skywalker died — although he’ll be back as a “Force Ghost,” just like old Obi-wan Kenobi was, just like Master Yoda was.

There’s money to be made from merchandising, and dead characters don’t sell nearly as well as characters that come back as Force Ghosts.

Somehow, the beautiful and spunky Princess Leia is still alive, although she’s General Leia now. They’ve managed to do that despite the fact that Carrie Fisher, the actress who plays her, passed away after shooting the last movie. It’s amazing what The Force can do. I think they’ll probably have her character die in this one, just like C3PO.

The thing is, I’d always imagined that C3PO was the one telling us the story. There’s a scroll that runs across the screen at the start of every Star Wars movie, giving us a brief update and setting the stage for what’s to come. In my mind, I’ve always heard C3PO’s voice reading those words, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …”

If his memory is erased, that won’t be the case. That upsets me.

I know, I know — it’s just a movie. Real life will go on. I just need to accept what the writers and directors decide is best. If I don’t like it, I should write my own damn movie, and see if I could do better. I probably can’t.

So I’m preparing myself for a fictional world without good old, annoyingly helpful C3PO. It’s the last movie of this particular saga anyway, so I might as well toughen up, go to the theater and take one last look at my friends.

One condition, though — if they kill off R2D2, I’m walking out.

If they destroy the Millennium Falcon, I’ll never forgive them.

And don’t you dare kill off Chewie, you homicidal maniacs. I’ll come after you if you do.

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