Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy Star Wars Day

"Star Wars" was released on May 25, 1977, a gob-smacking thirty-five years ago. I was in the second grade when I saw it. My "Nana"-- a family friend who became a sort of grandmother for me-- scooted me out the door of her trailer with one of her own grandkids, and dropped us off at the local cinema. An old, inveterate redneck, Nana herself had absolutely no interest in science fiction. I, on the other hand, was blown away by the story that played out on the giant screen, and by the awesome screen presence of Darth Vader, who somehow made wheezing both cool and sinister.

Over the next year or so, I saw the movie a total of three or four times, the final time coming after the movie's 1978 re-release (Lucas was savvy about the marketing even back then; the re-release established a cash-milking pattern that has continued to this day, and his studio effects shop has become indispensable for other filmmakers making effects-heavy films). My father began to worry that my Darth Vader obsession was the result of the movies' evil influence, but this didn't stop me from eagerly watching the sequels several times as well, usually in the company of friends, but sometimes with family, too.

That trilogy appeared smack in the middle of my childhood-- from the second grade to early high school: 1977 to 1983. I'd be lying if I said that it didn't affect my worldview; when a Georgetown professor later asked me how I became interested in religious issues, I told him (to his disappointment, I think) that "Star Wars" had much to do with it. He wrote me a recommendation for grad school all the same.

Hard to believe that it's been thirty-five years. The original "Star Wars" hasn't held up in terms of the acting or the special effects, but the sound design remains amazing, and the story is still a swords-and-sorcery classic. It will always occupy a special room in my head, and perhaps another such room in my heart.

ADDENDUM: I had no idea, until just now, that "Star Wars" had been re-released so many times. See here.



Elisson said...

That movie came out the year the Missus and I got hitched - we saw it sometime very close to our wedding day - so I was too old to see it with a little kid's wonderment-filled eyes.

But even as an adult, I loved it. Star Wars was simultaneously a hat-tip to all of the old Space Opera movie conventions while at the same time a glorious reinvention of all those ancient tropes. Little kids could never appreciate the myriad subtleties Lucas crammed into that movie... and who could forget the drama of that opening scene, the unrolling of the Backstory Scroll, the immense Star Cruiser looming above! How big is trhat fucking thing, anyway!?!! It went on and on...

...and Darth Vader's ominous appearance, the quintessential Bad Guy. Until Lucas decided that there had to be a Nice Guy buried somewhere underneath. But that first movie was well before any "Luke, I am your father" confusion. Good guy. Bad guy. Wise elder. Cocky mercenary (Han shot first!) Beautiful lady in peril.

It's easy to forget just how good it was. I blame the Ewoks and jar Jar fucking Binks.

John from Daejeon said...

Would you have gotten that recommendation had you said that "elron" was the reason?

It's amazing how his religion is mocked, yet equally nebulous ones are followed by billions (with some of the more delusional even strapping on bombs, or swords in the past, to hasten their acceptance into the imaginary Valhallas of their all powerful, yet, just-as-unproven, gods).

Kevin Kim said...

"Would you have gotten that recommendation had you said that 'elron' was the reason?"

Hard to say. It was for admission to Catholic University's grad school program, and I was attending that program not to be indoctrinated in Catholic theology but to feed my interest in interreligious dialogue and other issues related to religious diversity. CU is pretty open about whom it admits to its R&RE (Religion and Religious Education) program.

"It's amazing how his religion is mocked, yet equally nebulous ones are followed by billions..."

And so it goes with human history and psychology.

Am looking forward to that new film, "The Master," which is purportedly about ol' L. Ron.