Saturday, March 14, 2009

Raiders of the Lost R2

by Jon Mooallem

Star Wars was the first movie I ever saw (or at least, remember seeing), in the back seat of my parents' Volvo at a drive-in, some time in the fall of 1978. I was three, and it became a life-altering event. Throughout my childhood, I breathed Star Wars, through to the release of The Return of the Jedi, and I still have great affection for the early trilogy (and have tried to convince myself that the property was left untouched into the 1990s, and can therefore ignore all that came since).

That said, the part of me that would venture into a federally-managed desert that is also a crossing point for drugs, illegal immigrants, and other smugglers from Mexico to look for shards of painted foam from the Return of the Jedi set, is not the part that loves the Star Wars franchise - it's just the part of me that would be up for that kind of adventure regardless of the cultural touchstone it's attached to.

Mooallem journeyed into the Buttercup Valley region of The Imperial Sand Dunes with a trio of Star Wars obsessives to hunt down any remaining set pieces from the Sail Barge scenes in the third movie. His accounting of this trip, and the sub-culture of fans who seek out similar sets, is fascinating. It reflects strongly on our post-theologic world that so many hunt relics of different kinds, and really, build their lives around them. The journeyers in this article do not come back empty-handed, but I'm sure there are very few people that they interact with in their everyday lives that they can impress with their findings. Now, finding Bobba Fett - that would have been cool.

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