CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - Moviegoers in the U.S. and much of the world can now see “Star Wars, Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker.” The final installment of the “Skywalker Saga” ends a story that spawned the most successful movie franchise of all time, with more than $9 billion in global box office receipts - and counting. The film’s release is bittersweet for those who look back and see "Star Wars" woven throughout their lives.
Born exactly one month after its theatrical debut in May of 1977, I grew up on a steady diet of “Star Wars” films like many other American kids of that era. Through toys and merchandise, I charted the journey of Luke Skywalker from desert farm boy to galactic hero.
One of many storylines that filled my imagination.
"It’s become this one enormous story, and you can take from it the thrill of the battle scenes, you can take from it the affection of the human characters for one another – the love indeed," said actor Anthony Daniels.
No Stars Wars movies were released from the mid-80s to the late 90s, depriving me of new space battles or love stories in my teenage years. Undaunted, I wrote my own "Star Wars" screenplays, which I sent to the man I admired - creator George Lucas himself. All were politely returned, unread.
Even so, my love for "Star Wars" never faded.
"Star Wars to me has been really important in sort of looking beyond just a hero and a villain to larger questions of culture and identity," said Blair Davis, DePaul University Cinema Studies Professor.
Media and cinema studies professor Blair Davis has a simple explanation for people’s fascination with "Star Wars" and devotion to the franchise.
"It is telling us stories about who we are and who we seek to become," Davis said.
While youthful dreams of collaborating on "Star Wars" projects never came true, they set me on a communications path and are a continuing part of my identity as a fan, and a reporter.
"You are certainly not alone in having "Star Wars" being so key into who you are, because so many of my students share the same story about what it means to them as fans and then becoming media scholars," Davis said.
It tells stories that are uniquely human despite all of the aliens on display. They are about family, about finding family, losing family."
Family is central to my "Star Wars" story today, where a love of the saga is passed on to my children. I see their imaginations fueled, as mine was and continues to be.
07:35"It is sort of the end of an era of one part of the saga, but I look forward to the fact that "Star Wars" will live on hopefully longer than I will, and certainly longer than George Lucas," Davis said.
Although George Lucas turned "Star Wars" over to Disney in 2012, he is still intimately connected to his creation. Although he never read my screenplays many years ago, I did have an opportunity to finally speak to him at a London "Star Wars" film premiere in 2005.
VOA's Kane Farabaugh: "What do you want them to take away, from the whole saga?"
"Well, ultimately what it is that caused you to turn to the dark side, and what the consequences are," said George Lucas, "Star Wars" Creator and Director.
While the Skywalker saga is ending, fans can take solace - at least three more "Star Wars" movies are planned for the coming decade with new characters and plotlines sure to emerge. For now, I doubt waiting in line with my children to see “Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker,” or this very report, will be the end of my continuing "Star Wars" journey.