Sunday, May 22, 2005
Confessions of a Star Wars Enthusiast
I've been a pretty big Star Wars fan since the first of the movies debuted in 1977. It was the second movie that I can remember my parent's taking me to see, but the first one that actually made any impression on me. The first movie my parents took me to was Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. This movie, while arguably just as important as Star Wars to the history of filmmaking, was too long and abstract for my five year old mind to appreciate. To the eyes of a child--and likely many adults as well--there is very little that actually happens in Kubrick's film: the entire evolution of humanity is artfully implied by series of images that unfold over what seems like a cinematic eternity. I probably fell asleep in the theatre, and might have given up on the whole science fiction genre right then and there if George Lukas hadn't dropped his spaghetti western cum space opera in the collective lap of my generation (and followed it up with an irresistible line of action figures, merchandise and sequel/prequels).
My relationship with Wookies and lightsabers has been a love affair ever since the rebel starship from the opening of A New Hope thundered across the movie screen in stomach shaking dolby sound. The romance, like most, has had its ups and downs. While A New Hope was the scintillating courtship, The Empire Strikes Back was all the thrills of an exotic honeymoon followed, a few years later, by the domestic comedy of Return of the Jedi. While The Phantom Menace of 1999 renewed the relationship (like a second honeymoon, on Naboo, if you will) it was actually two years earlier, in 1997, that Star Wars action figures started appearing again on store shelves after an almost fifteen year hiatus (these were like the gifts for the second wedding). The past five years have seen the release of the three Star Wars prequels, the last of which, Revenge of the Sith, was just released in theatres (in case you've been in a sensory deprivation tank for the past few weeks). We now have the complete story, as Lukas intended it to be known, of the fall from grace and subsequent redemption of Anakin Skywalker.
I must admit that I found this last installment in the franchise somewhat overwhelming. I will probably need to see it a couple more times to better appreciate the lavish details with which Lukas breaths life into his fantastical universe. While I appreciated the eye candy, I grew a bit weary of the seemingly endless lightsaber duels which flash and clash throughout Revenge of the Sith, and I can see why less charitable critics have likened the movie to a colossal video game that runs itself. I would also be inclined to agree with critics who have noted that the acting in many scenes is deplorable, due, perhaps, in part, to the utter lack of concern that Lukas seems to pay to the art of script writing.
Yes, the movie is perhaps overburdened with special effects (would you expect anything less?), and understocked with some of the basic ingredients of good cinema, like decent acting (though there are some notable exceptions), but if that's all you went to Revenge of the Sith to see, then you could have stayed home and rented Casablanca, thus sparing yourself the line up. But the reason fans like myself are drawn to see Lukas' Star Wars films--and see them again and again if at all possible--is not, I think, just for the special effects (though they help), is not (I hope) for the thin acting and character development, is not even, as many people have suggested, to recapture that magical feeling the first films evoked in our youth (though that is certainly an element); no, I would argue that the reason we love the Star Wars films so much is because of the mythos, the story.
We finally have all that we are ever going to know of Lukas' mythos. It is a story that he wrote the body of even before the very first Star Wars movie had been produced, and he has been very careful to keep the salient details of the unfolding story a secret right up until the release of each film--no small feat considering the number of rabid Star Wars enthusiasts who would sell their grandmas' fine china if they could use the funds thus gleaned to gain access to some hitherto hidden facet of the Star Wars saga. But with Revenge of the Sith Lukas has unloaded the last installment, revealed all that he is going to reveal (one hopes), and fans can now sit back and watch as their carded action figures slowly discolour in their protective mylar cases. Now that all the Ewoks are out of Lukas' closet, so to speak, I would like, in the next blog or two, to investigate some of the aspects of the Star Wars story that have long puzzled me, and to elucidate these questions in light of information supplied by Lukas' latest offering, The Revenge of the Sith. Spoiler warnings will be forthcoming for those who have not yet seen the movie, and want to experience Lukas' storytelling magic without my pedantic, pseudo-Jungian Fakiegrind gloss.