Saturday, May 5, 2012

Happy Belated Star Wars Day: Siskel and Ebert Defend Star Wars on Nightline Circa 1983

Melodious offal? Avatar? yes. Star Wars? Never and no.

The naysayers have always been with us, have they not? John Simon is largely forgotten. Siskel and Ebert remain immortal: The Force is strong with them.

Simon is evocative of those professional grumps and complainers who pride themselves on going against the grain for principle's sake. AO Scott of the NY Times is one of those proud outliers with his scathing review of The Avengers. Looking back a few years, David Denby of The New Yorker hated Batman: the Dark Knight. Perhaps, those of us who enjoy such films are "childish adults" lacking "adult mentalities?" If so, this ghetto nerd wears that label with pride.

Technological progress and change have long been a source of anxiety for both cultural critics and many in the mass public. When the first person drew a picture on a cave wall those many thousands of years ago, one of his tribe probably complained that it was not an "accurate" representation of reality. The first film makers were likely mocked as their moving pictures were just a "fad." True, Star Wars found popularity because of its technical sophistication and breakthrough technology. But, the Star Wars universe resonates with so many people because the movies--yes, even the much maligned prequels--are classic stories which speak to universal character archetypes and feelings common to the human condition and collective subconscious.

Just as Star Wars is an "old" story about the hero's journey, in a hundred, a thousand, or ten thousand years, somewhere, if we are lucky to have survived as a species, a young child will be watching some version of The Trilogies as he sits mystified by a tale of magical swords, princes and princesses, rogues, magic, and kindly teachers. Star Wars also teaches profound and important life lessons about human nature that transcend any one generation.

Yes, with the exception of Empire (and to a lesser degree, A New Hope), none of the Star Wars movies are "great" films. However, when viewed as a whole, the Star Wars trilogies are great examples of film and myth-making.

Star Wars Day is a chance to reminisce. Shared memory and experiences are among the primary reasons that Star Wars remains a cultural phenomenon. For geeks and ghetto nerds of a certain age it is a cultural reference point that transcends all other differences.

As I have shared here before, one of my fondest childhood memories was standing in line with my mother for 12 or so hours in a rainstorm as we waited to see Return of the Jedi. I do remember seeing Empire in the movies, I also remember staying up late and watching Star Wars on HBO. But that long day in the rain, my mother's patience, and the fun I had with all of the other kids whose parents were also equally kind (and suffering), is a wonderfully perfect moment of childhood innocence. 

Any Star Wars tales to share? PG, G, X-Rated, or R?


freebones said...

i have to say, i don't hate star wars, but i have never ever enjoyed it.

sledge said...

I liked the Star Wars saga. The good verses evil mantra is usually a winner whether you are talking movies, wars, or religions.

Although, as good as it was it was no Red Dawn. LOL!

You knew that was coming right?

chaunceydevega said...

@Free. Heathen. Why?

@Sledge. Yeah, high school students with AK's against T-80 series tanks and Hind gunships. But yes, John Millius did know how to script an American Reagan era Cold War wet dream.

Anonymous said...

Star Wars was never my thing, in fact, most science fiction is really male fantasy films with token women in them. Never could figure out what all the fuss was about. Never liked Batman films either... male supremacy and action films bore the living daylights out of me, and no, the hero's journey is more male more of the time. UGH.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite SW memories is catching a rare tv broadcast of ANH that included the deleted Jabba meets Han Solo scene with Jabba portrayed by a rotund but quite human actor. Good times.

Tom said...

" one of my fondest childhood memories was standing in line with my mother for 12 or so hours in a rainstorm as we waited to see Return of the Jedi. "

God I hate kids.