I'd like to take a moment from our regularly scheduled program to geek out on you. (If you think that IS the regularly scheduled program, then you can just keep your comments to yourself.)
When I was about five, I had a set of Underoos with R2D2 on them. No, they were not for boys. The original Star Wars movie (Episode IV: A New Hope) was released the month I turned two. One of my earliest memories is of going to the theater to see Episode V (The Empire Strikes Back). I was five. The film was scary. The movie theater had a ceiling that was old and dome-like, the supports made of wood. I remember leaning back in my seat to avoid the scary and thinking that the ceiling looked like the underside of huge spider. Not exactly the most comforting thought.
By the time Episode VI (Return of the Jedi) came out in 1983, I was in love with Luke Skywalker. That's right, NOT Han Solo. I was never big on "the rebel factor." (Ironic really, as Luke was technically a leader in the rebellion, but with all the force stuff he was mostly a straight arrow.) During the nineties, I wore my hair short and blonde a la Meg Ryan or Jenna Elfman. When it would grow out and need a cut, my older brother would assume Luke's whiny voice and say, "But Uncle Owen! I was going to go into Tashee Station to pick up some power converters!" Ah, Luke! You are my first love.
I was as shocked as the rest of the world in finding out that Luke and Leia were siblings. Particularly after his undisguised admiration in Episode IV, and that highly un-sisterly kiss she plants on him in Episode V. And why aren't Jedi allowed to marry anyway? Are they basically highly violent monks and nuns? The world may never know, though there are plenty of people who've asked the question. Yes, I've watched their YouTube videos.
When I was in college, if I was feeling a bit of insomnia, I put on Episode IV and was asleep in 20 minutes. Not that I don't love this movie, but that I have honestly seen it 100 times if I'd seen it once. But no matter how many times I see it, I always cry at the end of Episode VI when Darth Vadar decides he can't stand idly by while his son is tortured, and throws the Emperor to his death in a cloud of cackling and blue lightning.
I still remember the kid who told me, in about the third grade, that because the Star Wars movies were episodes 4, 5 and 6, that one day they would make episodes1-3. I had hoped beyond hope that he was right.
Now I think my own imagination was almost better. Like so many old-school Star Wars fans, I find myself asking, "Why did they even make these movies?" But then I only have to pause long enough to consider all of the merchandising my Jedi have talked me into (or I've talked them into?) in the last two years and the remainder of the movies, as well as The Clone Wars, starts to make a lot more sense.
These "new" Star Wars movies (which my Jedi never call them), are called
Episode I: Attack of the Horrible Child Actors
Episode II: The Worst Love Story In This Or Any Other Universe
Episode III: Revenge of the Incomprehensible Plot
The original trilogy is hokey. From special effects that look drawn on to props that look like duct-taped and spray-painted broom handles. Lucas must have maxed out his credit card at Radio Shack for some of this stuff. But it is the campiness that makes it a classic. Ridiculously implausible scenery is coupled with stilted dialogue common to the genre. (It must be noted that the mediocre screenplays of the first are Academy Award worthy compared to the second trilogy.) However, the beauty of the first films is the genuine and believable interaction of the tree main characters. Harry, Hermione and Ron owe a lot to Luke, Leia and Han. What smart and tough girl doesn't want to find herself in such a triumvirate? Only with a different hair-do.
In his more recent efforts, Lucas substitutes flashy graphics and technology for genuine human interaction. Of course it was obvious that the banthas were just dressed up elephants! But they were real, and it made the whole thing feel more real. I just don't think you will ever elicit any kind of positive response about Jar Jar Binks from anyone older than, say, seven.
After the fiasco of the first three episodes, start to finish, animation was the only thing left to Lucas. Still, I'm quite a big fan of The Clone Wars. When I'm less distracted by the animation married to reality (because it is ALL animation), and long, meandering plot lines are replaced by 23 minute stories, and the actors only have to be as good as their voices, it works pretty well.
It is embarrassing to say for just how long I could go on this vein.
Just after Episode I premiered, there was a Trivial Pursuit Star Wars game issued. My mom bought it, but my brothers and I found it no fun after just a game or two. (My sister looked at us like we were all nuts; the Star Wars love is but one in a very long list of Ways We Are Not Alike.) Why? It was too easy. There was hardly a question we couldn't answer, and an individual's turn might drag on for 10-15 minutes.
As I survey the many pop culture references that still abound regarding these films, I think that for better or worse they are here to stay. It might be possible that these movies, particularly the originals, are the most influential cultural phenomenon of my generation. And they are, hands down, the best thing to come out of the 70's.
There is a prize in this post today. To enter, you must put a Star Wars quote into your comment. For even more fun, leave the quotes uncredited and we can all guess who said what.
The Force will be with you. Always.