“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”
Back when I was a mere lad of five my uncle took me to a local small town theater to watch what would prove to be the beginning of my love affair with film. I had seen plenty of Disney and, of course, cartoons and TV shows; but, I had yet to experience something so adult and, yet, so fantastically youthful. 1977’s space opera ‘Star Wars‘, as it was simply called then, has become an origin of worldwide dreams with a loyal, obsessive fanbase that’s second to none.
As I grew up, more of these films came. First ‘Empire’ and ‘Jedi’, then the seemingly unending series of novels, video games, the less momentous prequels, and now a new series of films and TV to continue the obsession for what is now a third generation of fans. But, none of those have impacted with the pure wonderstruck intensity of this
fourth first “episode”.
George Lucas as both developer and directer was still a young man. Having just come off of ‘American Graffitti’, a tale of reckless youth resisting adulthood, he brought that same ideology to ‘Star Wars‘. The acting may not be as polished. However, the jokes are fresher and funnier, Darth Vader was never more menacing, and mystery and wonder are present in every scene. The story rolls through each moment effortlessly and full of surprise. Our senses were overwhelmed by pioneering effects (all practical and shot with cameras using film). These long enduring, legendary characters, mythology, and designs all originated here.
I won’t needlessly review the plot. Everyone knows that stuff, or, at the very least, should. But, beyond the social and pop culture impact, ‘Star Wars‘ holds its rightful place in cinematic history. A simple story of tragedy, joy, love, suffering, life, death, victory, and defeat all presented through a far away galaxy brimming with advanced technology and a magical Force.
John Williams’ indelible, triumphant march that follows the immortal introduction, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”, glorious lightsaber duels, epic space battles, bizarre alien creatures, princesses, rogues, robots, space stations, an evil empire, and rebels to win the day. Even a ridiculously cheesy medal ceremony punctuating the finale–on the possibility that this might have been the one and only…as if.
Forget the so-called “special editions”. Nobody has ever thought of going back to ‘Citizen Kane’ and adding special effects or new music. The “flaws” are what make it special. Art reflects the artist(s) during and within the limitations of the period it was created. To return to what we did in our youth and reimagine it as we are today is pure ruinous folly. Han always shoots first, damn it!
No matter what the future holds, ‘Star Wars‘ will faithfully remain a desert island film for me. As both a reminder of youthful optimism and as an enduring, endlessly fun to watch classic. One of the boldest and best ever made.