The Joys of Modern Life: 23; `Star Wars'

AMERICANS ARE such lucky bastards. I've spent most of my adult life envying their huge cups of coffee, low-priced electrical equipment and 24-hour showbiz news cable channels, but I have never envied them more than I did on 17 November. Because that day, anyone in America who could take the day off work, be in line by 10.45am and pay $7 for entry to an Arab-bashing Denzel Washington film called The Siege, got to be among the first in the world to find out whether Ewan McGregor really knows what to do with a lightsabre.

The rest of us had to work much harder to see the new Star Wars trailer - waiting hours for it to download, watching it on a piddling screen, not being able to hear a word of Yoda's wisdom. But it was worth it. This is no simple movie trailer. After three years of secrecy, improbable casting rumours (at one point it was almost looking as if Brookside's Sinbad would be playing Obi-Wan Kenobi), leaked plots and silly, obviously made-up character names (even if Qui-Gon-Jinn turned out to be true), this felt like the first peek of flesh in the longest striptease of all time. So far, the verdict has been unanimous - va-va-voom!

I'd like to say that waiting for the new Star Wars film to appear makes me feel like a little boy again, but it's much better than that. The only way I made it to the pictures in those days was by tagging along with my big sister, which meant that I saw a ton of disco-flavoured musicals, but very little sci-fi. So, I improvised. Before seeing Star Wars, I'd familiarised myself with the plot by arranging the official trading cards scene-by-scene along the garage floor. The Death Star shoot-out didn't exactly leave me breathless, but I got the gist.

Like most kids, I loved Star Wars' shameless strip-mining of every space cliche in the book - robot sidekicks, hairy aliens, heavy-breathing villains - but it wasn't until years later that I came to appreciate its finer points. The sexy-but-incestuous sparks between Leia and Luke; the notion that an old geezer with an Oxbridge accent could take down an evil empire with what amounts to an elongated lava lamp; the scene showing an Imperial Stormtrooper banging his head on the ceiling; the fact that although he was making the coolest film of all time, George Lucas was the kind of man who made Steven Spielberg look like a hepcat.

More than anything, I love Star Wars for proving a fundamental truth about popular culture: adults know nothing. The studio almost ditched it, Harrison Ford thought he was above it ("You can type this shit, George," he told Lucas, "but you can't say it"), and it is to the detriment of this country's film industry that Lucas's sullen British crew openly referred to ape-like Chewbacca as "the dog".

It was left to the scruffy little idiots of my generation to see the magic in Star Wars. Which is why I get so angry when Ewan McGregor - a scruffy little idiot if ever there was one - starts complaining about how tedious it was to play Obi-Wan Kenobi. Ewan, you need reminding of something: you're such a lucky bastard.

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