Friday, June 03, 2005

The Inevitable "Growing Up Star Wars" Post

I don't want to talk about Revenge of the Sith, which I saw two weeks ago. Suffice to say that I think this whole "Prequel Trilogy" idea was rather ill-advised. But I thought it might be fun to do a little post about how I related to the films growing up, because my story seems to be somewhat different from many people my age, or at least people that I interract with on the internet.

The story starts out pretty much the same. Let's see, 1977, so I was in third grade, and this commercial comes on TV for this new movie, Star Wars (and isn't that title just so perfect? Two words, tells you everything you need to know), and I got extremely excited, told my parents in no uncertain terms that I wanted to go see this movie. Weeks went by, finally it opened in our town. My friends and I had been drawing these huge battles between spaceships and robots and futuristic tanks on lunar surfaces, and I have a vague memory of riding to the theater, and my mom or dad asking me "are you excited to be going to this movie?," and I said something like "Yes! Finally I get to watch a movie about the things I've been drawing!" (Stop me if this is getting too cute) So we get to the theater, and the movie is sold out! This is pretty amazing, never happened before, but we came back the next night, saw the movie, and I absolutely loved it. As we were leaving the theater, I distinctly remember my mom saying "so what did you think?" And I replied "I liked Sinbad better."

Sinbad was Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, which had come out a month or so earlier, and which I had been equally excited about. I'm not sure what that comment meant. Maybe I was just slightly more excited by the mythological stuff than futuristic space stuff at that moment, maybe after all that build up I couldn't help feeling just slightly let down when my mind was only figuratively blown, when I didn't walk out of the theater transformed. But this is, I guess, where the story diverges from so many others, because I know alot of people did leave the theater transformed. To me, Star Wars was a cool movie, but so was Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, Godzilla vs. Megalon, The Spy Who Loved Me, Young Frankenstein...and I never really thought Star Wars was any more interesting than the rest of them. I only saw it once in the summer of '77. In fact, when I got back to school the next year, and all these kids were talking about having gone to see it 5, 12, 20 times, I was like "you can do that?" The idea that you could go see a movie more than once was completely new to me. I never asked my parents, but I can't imagine they would have approved (I did end up seeing it 2 or 3 more times in the summers of 78 and 79).

If Star Wars held a higher place in my youth than those other movies, it was because of the ancillary marketing: all those action figures and toys to play with. I had an 8 Track tape of the soundtrack, the first album in my collection, which I listened to constantly, and I also had Meco's disco version of the soundtrack (which was cooler than the original because it had sound effects from the movie mixed in). I had a giant graphic novel adaptation, which I read over and over. It had a reproduction of the movie poster on the inside back cover, which I memorized, and puzzled over why the actors playing smaller parts, like James Earl Jones, Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing were billed higher than Luke, Han and Leia. I didn't regularly buy the Marvel spin-off comics, but I do remember having two really cool issues: one was a sort of mini-prequel about Luke and Biggs back on Tatooine bullseyeing womp-rats in Beggars Canyon (or however that line goes), the other a 7 Samurai ripoff about Han and Chewie teaming up with a giant green bunny and some other characters to protect some space villagers from space bandits. I bought and read some of those Star Wars poster books, with all kinds of cool information like that Obi Wan scared the Sand People away by imitating the sound the somethingsomething dragon. So, in that respect, Star Wars does cast a pretty big shadow over my youth, for a while. But after Battlestar Gallactica premeired, I pretty much tossed Star Wars aside. The Vipers and Cylon Raiders were much cooler toys than the X-Wingers and TIE Fighters.

I know alot of people were disapointed by Return of the Jedi. To me, by that time, I was a cool teenager, and I already thought of Star Wars as a kids movie anyway. I'd been watching Mad Max, The Road Warrior, Escape From New York, Heavy Metal, Conan the Barbarian, The Sword and the Sorcerer, horror movies like Creepshow...those were badass movies, in my mind at the time. Star Wars was so "nice" that I thought of it in about the same way I thought of 101 Dalmations or The Wizard of Oz. It wasn't until after college, when I was living in a town with a great video store, and I started renting alot of those movies that I loved so much as a kid or a teenager, and found that, in the harsh light of adulthood, most of them just sucked. But Star Wars was great. Star Wars, Empire, and to some extent Jedi, held up remarkably well. They are just great films. Heavy Metal...not so much.


Blogger Unknown said...

Nice stuff, says Hellboy.

6/05/2005 10:23 PM  
Blogger Chris Oliver said...

Good to hear from you, Garett.

6/17/2005 8:31 AM  

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