Saturday, May 28, 2011

My Vision of Star Wars

33 years ago I saw Star Wars at the now demolished Parkway Theater in Las Vegas. I was twelve years old and forgot my glasses. There was only room in the last two rows and I saw the whole movie as one blurry, color smudge. No matter how much I begged, my parents never took me back. That was my Star Wars experience.

Two years later my friend got a bootleg copy of the movie on Betamax and I finally got to see what all the fuss was about. I watch the movie like fifteen times. So many times, that my friend ended our friendship because all I wanted to do was watch the movie.

One year after that, Empire Strikes Back was released and this time I wore my glasses. Star Wars was good but Empire was so much better. It was dark and complex. There was so much more time and effort invested in the characters and almost all of the silliness had been taken out. Even Yoda was a bad ass.

Where Star Wars was more of a space opera, Empire Strikes Back was closer to 80's cyberpunk. Luke, like Hamlet was brooding and unsure; driven too much by his emotions to be a good Jedi. Hans was almost an anti-hero - selfish, egotistical, and a bit of a user - but it was only a shield to protect a vulnerable heart. And Leah was the perfect princess - Passionate, beautiful and an ass kicker.

Empire completely captivated me and I would have turned into the biggest Star Wars Geek had the series stop there .. but ..

In 1983, the year I graduated from high school, the last Star Wars movie - Return of the Jedi was released. You have to remember that this was the height  of American scifi/fantasy/horror movie making. E.T. was released in 1982. Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981. Alien in 1979 and Aliens in 1986. Ghost Busters in 1984 and Back to the Future in 1985.

I'm sorry if you were younger than 10 in 1980, because you missed it. This may be going a bridge too far but the 80's was the last great period of American Exceptionalism .  America hit this incredible height and then by 1990 it faltered. More like stumbled and fell.

Back to Star Wars ...

I was right there during the actual movie premiere experience of Star Wars and it's hard to fathom now my excitement for the last movie, Return of the Jedi - which was supposed to be Revenge of the Jedi. I remember purchasing tickets the moment the theater box office opened and then waiting in line with my friends - finally pushing our way in and sitting down in the middle of the middle row.. squarely facing the screen.

The lights faded .. and that classic Star Wars music started in .. with that classic Star Wars Chyron generated yellow script flowing past .. my body tingled ..The movie starts with C3PO and R2D2 at the front of a giant metal door - it was so exciting what could be behind that door .. The door opens and the two droids enter Jabba the Hutt's chambers. It's dark and it's hard to make out what the creature is .. finally light illuminates it .. and it turns out to be the stupidest D&D orc- holding a battle axe.

It never got any better. There were was the torturing of droids by placing hot irons on rubber feet. Lucas made R2D2 into a cocktail waitress. There was this monster in the desert that represented a vagina. Little Teddy Bear creatures named Ewoks. And Darth Vader turned out to be some old bald white guy. It was just sad.

Return of the Jedi wasn't a horrible movie - it was a bad movie and one of the greatest let downs ever in my movie watching experience. Even worse than Highlander II or Mission to Mars or even that one Star Trek movie where they go to meet God. The worst part is I really couldn't say anything cause all my friends were gooshing .. gaga .. wasn't that fantastic .. I hated them.

It was almost like Lucas purposely ruined his own dream.

Later on I discovered that Empire Strikes Backs was directed by Irvin Kershner, who made Eyes of Laura Mars - a great thriller. And that by the time Empire was in production Lucas was not as interested in the creative process and had relatively little influence ..

But the success of Empire led to the destruction of Return of the Jedi. Lucas I guess had to show he still had the balls to direct and you can see all of that now infamous Lucas Marketing Scourge all over the film.

Had it not been for Return of the Jedi, I would have been one of those Star Wars fans .. that dress up and go to all the conventions.

The next three movies after Jedi are really the first three movies. Who knows .. it would take too long to follow the logic. Anyway the three films after Jedi may be the saddest point in Scifi movie history.

If you have some time please watch Red Letter's Nine Part Star Wars Review ---> Star Wars

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