Sunday, September 26, 2004

Around the Sun

Everyone who follows this blog knows that I try, at all times, to avoid talking about overtly nerdy things. Yes, all of us who have comic book blogs have nerd skeletons in our closets. Very occasionally, I have written about some more – ah – embarrassing subjects, such as my love of Mark Gruenwald’s Quasar or the second Secret Wars. (Man, aren’t working permalinks grand?)

Although I know you all love it when I talk about boring things of which you have no interest, and would much prefer it if I simply stuck to posting old Alf covers, I have decided I have something to say on a matter of great import to all of our lives.

Yes, I would like to talk to you today about Star Wars.

Like just about everyone of a “certain age”, I have a fondness for Star Wars. Of course, when I was younger I loved ‘em. Now that I’m older, I still love ‘em, I have just learned to have perspective on this, as with all things.

It’s OK to love something like this completely and without reservations. You just need to realize that you have an aesthetic blind spot when it comes to whatever it is. I love Quasar, but it would be extremely disingenuous of me to sit here and tell you that it was anything other than a good superhero comic book - which it is. It’s not a great undiscovered work of American literature, its just a superhero comic. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a great deal of affection for it, and there’s any number of other mediocre-to-horrible books that I also love in an unreserved fashion. I mean, seriously, who else will love Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7 if I don’t?

I have the same relationship to Star Wars. I love the fact that I can sit down with a Star Wars movie and be instantaneously transported back to my youth. I love the fact that I have a deep connection to something like that. But when the lights go up or the tape rewinds, the movie is over, and life goes on.

Ultimately, the original Star Wars is a much worse movie than its influence would imply. The effect that Star Wars, along with Jaws and the whole cult of the summer blockbuster, had on mainstream filmmaking was undoubtedly deleterious. Perhaps these changes would have happened without George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to nudge them into being. Something would probably have come along, simply because of the way the money was organized in Hollywood by the 80s. That’s a conversation for another time, however.

Ultimately, I love Star Wars for what it is, and I’m a lot happier that I don’t try to build up all sorts of shoddy critical scaffolding around what is, ultimately, a popcorn flick. You won't hear me talking about how Lucas was influenced by Joseph Cambpell or any of that bullshit. He wanted to make a modern-day movie serial, and I’ll be damned if he didn’t succeed admirably. The mythical junk he picked up to decorate the explosions and swordfighting was just that – junk that had been hanging around in one form or another for thousands of years. I don’t believe he ripped off Kirby’s Fourth World either, because it’s not like Kirby was the first person to ever invert the “prodigal son” myth.

My absolute favorite Star Wars movie is The Phantom Menace.

What is this, you say? Heresy! Anathema!

Allow me to explain.

The Phantom Menace is just the most gleefully enjoyable of all the Star Wars films. It’s basically fun, fun, fun from start to finish. It’s delightfully unpretentious. It is basically everything fun about going to the movies wrapped up in.

People always complain about how it’s a “kid’s movie”, because of Jar Jar and the Gun-Guns and the pod race. Well, you know, I’m sorry they made a giant sci-fi action-adventure extravaganza that was, you know, appropriate for the audience it was aimed at. Ultimately, all the dark and depressing horse manure that the fans want to see onscreen is more a reflection of the fact that they want the movies to resemble their homemade fan-fiction where Luke and Han have explicit hardcore sex on Chewbacca’s space-chess table in the Millenium Falcon.

“Oh, why can’t George Lucas just make the dark and gritty Star Wars movies that I want to watch, because I am in my thirties and I grew up with them and want them to reflect my older worldview? Why can’t the prequel trilogy be rated a hard R with lots of violence and cussing, just like how I imagine the characters to be when I’m playing with my action figures . . .”

Well, you know, The Phantom Menace was aimed at the exact same audience the original Star Wars was aimed at: small children. I have yet to hear a small child say they were disappointed with The Phantom Menace, anymore than you were likely to find a kid who was let-down by the original Star Wars back in ’77.

My least favorite Star Wars movie was always Empire Strikes Back. Why? It was the most boring of the original trilogy. Instead of the cute Ewoks or the mischievous Jawas, we got the repulsive Ugnauts. Instead of explosions and cool swordfights, we basically get a bunch of heavy exposition. Tell me that the last reel of Empire can even hold a candle to the last reel Jedi, and I will call you a fool.

The Phantom Menace makes me giggle with childish glee every time I watch it. The pod race, Darth Maul, Jar Jar’s antics – I never tire of any of it. And, of course, we cannot forget the greatest Star Wars character of them all . . .


So I’ll probably get the original trilogy on DVD now that it’s out, one of these days when I have some money. I’ll probably enjoy the hell out of it. Will I care that Lucas has gone in and retouched some of the scenes and added a few things? Hell, no. It’s a children’s movie, hardly Citizen Kane. As long as my inner eight-year-old squeals in delight, I’ll be happy.

No comments :