Friday, May 25, 2007

Star Wars

In 1977 my father took me to see Star Wars. We hardly ever did anything together because he was so busy working at his drycleaning store. I was eight years old and had only a steady diet of old animated Walt Disney movies at the time. Little did we realize what was in store as we sat in that darkened theater. We saw a new myth presented in celluloid, one of faraway planets and insideous aliens and fantastic spaceships. We saw a modern science fiction pulp, one where the good guys battled the bad guys all over the galaxy. At the time, I thought R2-D2 was the best robot I'd ever seen. Maybe I was an impressionable kid, but I thought C3-PO, R2-D2 and all the other droids in the film were real robots.
Oh, to have that childlike wonder again!
My father, who wasnt really a science fiction fan, came out of the film totally impressed. I remember he told his parents about the special effects in the film, which were lightyears ahead of anything anyone did.
My dad liked Darth Vader. He liked the villain of the picture. He also liked Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi Knight. Years afterards, even until this day, whenever I face something difficult, my father instructs me, "Use the Force."
I saw The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi with my dad. It was the only set of films we liked watching together. Some dads take their kids to the ballpark and share that experience. My dad took me to see Star Wars.
Now that it's 30 years later, the magic of the original trilogy remains fresh. The three "prequel" films, though they have better special effects paled in comparison to the original films. The priorities of filmmaking changed, and the three "prequels" were all about merchandice and cash. I'd give anything to have Jar-Jar Binks purged from my memory forever.
George Lucas spliced and hacked and digitally manipulated the orignal films, adding new footage and enhancing it with computer effects. These newer versions didn't make it a better film. The classic movies were a bit dated and cheesy, but they still hold up. They are masterpieces worthy of preservation in a time capsule or vault for all time. When historians 1,000 years from now want to know about the 20th Century, they'll have three things to represent us: the automobile, television and Star Wars.
That's who we are. The film became a cultural event, iconic and stamped into our collective memories. Characters like Darth Vader, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Yoda all have something to say to us. The original Star Wars used humor and playful banter between characters in a way the "prequels" failed to do.
Star Wars also ushered in a new collectible craze. After I saw the first Star Wars, I collected the action figures. I had almost all of them, but over the years, these little plastic action figures from characers in the movies got lost or thrown away. I do have Boba Fett after all of these years, in nearly pristine condition. Turning that action figure over and over in my hand I realize how important Star Wars was and childhood, only for a brief moment, lives on and I'm aboard that X-Wing Fighter with Luke Skywalker as he destroys the Death Star one more time.
Happy 30th birthday, Star Wars!

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