Saturday, May 26, 2007

In a galaxy far far away

30 years ago yesterday, a little film hit the theaters. I believe that it's the first film I ever saw in a theater, or at least the first one I remember.

Star Wars. Little bits of that first viewing remain forever etched in my mind. Luke's early training, vision obstructed. Leia's SOS (and those buns!). Obi Wan meets Darth Vader and suddenly disappears. The successful shot on the DeathStar (the force was totally with him!). I won't even go into the hours I spent after the second movie came up, sitting under a tree and willing myself to levitate.

When the movies were re-released 10 years ago, Trillian and I saw them again (wow, honey, we're old--that wasn't even the beginning of our relationship). Sure, I had seen them on video and TV several times in the intervening years, but something about watching them in the theater made me look at them differently. It was funny to pick out the historical and philosophical themes--imperialism (Roman and otherwise) and eastern philosophy. And I started to correct some of the misunderstandings bred by a four-year-0ld's view--amazing how those can get so entrenched. So now, layered upon the initial memory created at seeing Obi Wan die, came the understanding that, at that very moment, he reaches a transcendental state and simply ceases to exist. Vader doesn't actually kill him.

I can trace my maturity and critical skills based on my reaction to Star Wars films. I loved the Ewoks, hated Jar Jar Binks. As a kid, I would have been shocked that anyone would suggest Lucas' dialog is lacking or that he's not a good director. With the more recent episodes, however, I am fond of pointing these things out. Case in point, I have found Natalie Portman natural and believable in everything she's done, except for Amidala; the only explanation I can come up with for her amazingly painful and wooden "love" scene with Annakin is that she was following his script and direction.

Belated understanding and criticism aside, I will always have a soft spot for Star Wars and its successors. I will remember what it was like to root for Luke over Han in competition for Leia--and to be quite a bit grossed out over that later. I will still love the Ewoks and cry when they mourn their losses after the battle. And sometimes when I'm meditating, I'll also be wondering just how close I am to tapping into the force and levitating, even if only an inch.


bubandpie said...

It's precisely because I love episodes 4 through 6 so much that episodes 2 and 3 drive me nuts. The origins of Darth Vader is such a great concept and would have made for such great movies if only it had been done right - by someone who noticed that Vader is a cold, controlled villain, not someone who is overcome by rage or greed.

As for Amidala - I had always assumed that Luke and Leia's mother must have been an extraordinary woman to have so successfully hidden her children from Vader. So, yes, it was more than a little disappointing when she just decided to die because she had nothing to live for (not even her newborn twins).

alejna said...

I totally agree with you about Natalie Portman. I found her performance to be so bizarrely wooden in those prequels, and her character so watered-down. Could it really have been the same actress who gave such an amazing performance in "The Professional" at only 12 years old? I agree that Lucas is to blame.