Nov 2, 2010

Star Wars (1977)

"Luke, I am your father".

As though growing up hearing that phrase countless times wouldn't have some influence on my love for Star Wars.

Truth is, as much as I got the Luke Skywalker comparisons, quotes, and references, I didn't really get into Star Wars until they re-released it on VHS in the nineties. I was born in 1984. That was one year after the last film from the original trilogy was released, and although I use this as the reasoning as to why I was named Luke in the first place (my parents deny this), like so many kids after me I wasn't born yet to experience Star Wars the first time around.

Nowadays, Star Wars seems to have become a milestone in growing up. Inevitably the first showing of Star Wars to any kid becomes an event. And why wouldn't it be? It's a movie that's over 30 years old and you can still find full sections of toy stores dedicated to its merchandise.

I can't remember the first time I saw it, but we had the toys in our house before I knew exactly what they were. I was 12 when Star Wars was re-released and at the time it seemed there was no better age to cement the notion in my mind that I would be an awesome Jedi. Again, I believed this held twice as much weight because of my name.

There are a lot of reasons to like Star Wars. It's an epic story about the battle between good and evil, it's a universal adventure with amazing special effects, there's a cast of memorable and diverse characters, and on top of all of that there's the Force. Who wouldn't want to be able to move things with their minds?

I think the reason that the movie and saga have been so well received though is because Star Was is about an obscure kid who unwittingly (in the beginning anyway) ends up playing a key role in changing the galaxy. It sounds ridiculous when put into that scale, but the truth is we all dream of having our own legacy and this is one for the ages.

Even now that the franchise has been merchandised to hell and back, Star Wars still beams with originality. It's no wonder the toys sell so well, where else can you get a Wookie or an Ewok, or a lightsaber? The fact that there are so many facets to the series is another substantial strong point. It's gone to the point where you could research details on these fictional planets or characters back stories. Personally, I wouldn't, but it's impressive that the movies have spawned so much material.

Lucas argued that the special editions helped further complete what the original vision for the trilogy was, but read any review from a critic or fan who saw those first films. Star Wars was groundbreaking then because it did something that no other movie had done before in its technical execution. CGI is an incredible asset to modern filmmaking, but it's so overused now that there's something romantic about watching the original trilogy and knowing that they actually had models and puppets and scenes built. That fake world was actually real. Someone constructed those scenes and costumes and had to make them come to life in person. I get the same rush when watching old war movies, knowing that the scenes actually had to be filmed like that.

Ok, so the technology is pretty cool too.

What I also like about Star Wars is that even though it's a futuristic saga that employed so many new techniques at the time, the basis of the plot is incredibly traditional. The lines between good and evil are clearly drawn, you have an obvious hero and villain, and there's an elaborate and well established challenge to overcome. Even though there are twists along the way, mainly surrounding Luke's family members, there really is no doubt that in the end Luke Skywalker is going to save the day. It's just like a serial from the 1930's or 40's, or a fairytale that your parents would tell you as a kid. This one just had lasers for extra punch.


As a filmmaker/editor I find George Lucas an interesting person to study considering that he went from obscurity to widespread fame himself following a film school path. Ultimately I think it comes down to imagination. He had a big dream, and he put the time and effort into it to make it work. Star Wars wasn't immediately fast tracked by a studio, it took a lot of convincing and a lot of guts (think about how many lame sci-fi flicks are out there, and how Star Wars might seem if you only knew it as words on a page). Lucas put a lot of time into planning and writing and re-writing until he had what he wanted and then he pursued it. And it didn't hurt that he acquired merchandising rights before studios really took advantage of them. His personal story says just as much about determination.

In the end, despite the marketing, the remakes, the remasters, the overwhelming heap of Lucasfilm pop culture, it's in that first film, Star Wars: A New Hope, with it's great characters, epic scale, and awesome adventures that you're quickly convinced you're witnessing something unlike anything else that's out there - including Star Trek, which has its own list of merits. Should anyone even attempt to produce a movie in the hopes that it will reach the same level of success, a movie that will resonate for generations between critics and fans alike, a film that will define and advance an entire genre, or a movie that will continue to make millions upon millions of dollars in merchandising decades after it was released, what can you possibly say? May the force be with you.


Angry Charlie said...

Nice post. I like to hear how its had such an affect on you, being named Luke or not, as well as seeing the appreciation you have for it. I was never a huge fan of Star wars but have had the itch to check them out again.

Interesting tidbit for you - Lucas is planning on rereleasing the originals again, this time in 3D (shocking, I know). What may be a little more surprising though is that there's been talk about doing a third trilogy, that is, parts 7-9. If it happens, it wont happen until at least 2014, but its something interesting none the less.

Editing Luke said...

I'm not surprised that Lucas would revisit the trilogy or decide to add to the Star Wars franchise. Actually that could be pretty cool with all the cameos - the original cast is all getting up there, but it's cool to think of an old Luke and Leia and Han Solo. It would also give Lucas a chance to improve on the reputation of the 3 prequels, which weren't that bad but weren't as well received.