By popular request, I’m opening up a Star Wars thread. It’s funny — the Star Wars movies, especially since the Special Editions and the prequels, are among the most discussed movies of all time. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are the most discussed movies of all time. But that’s what I’m asked to open a thread for.
I’m sure what will be said in this thread has all been said before. Not that I don’t think we can’t potentially devise interesting variations on familiar perspectives. But these conversations do tend to devolve into checklists of opinions on a stock set of issues. Is Star Wars or Empire Strikes Back the best of the series? Is Darth Maul cooler or less cool than Boba Fett? Are the prequels horrible, or completely horrible? Would you rather be handcuffed to Jar Jar or thrown into the Sarlaac pit?
My answers to these sorts of questions tend to land me squarely between two fervent camps, thereby making me an enemy to both. But I’m not an enemy. I’m an island to myself.
For starters, I don’t hate the prequels. They aren’t the equals of the original trilogy either, but hey, they’re fast and colorful. Jar Jar Binks mostly doesn’t annoy me. I like the Ewoks. Darth Maul and Boba Fett are equally cool. Star Wars is the best movie, Empire Strikes Back is the best chapter of the full saga, and Return of the Jedi is the most exciting. I’m critical of Lucas’s recent decisions, but I still accord him respect for his early work, and if he’s lost his edge over the decades, well, most directors do. Buddy Buddy ain’t no Sunset Boulevard, but Billy Wilder is still a great director. Sidney Lumet remade Gloria, but that’s still his name on Dog Day Afternoon.
I do take an extreme side with the special editions: They’re grossly inferior to the theatrical releases. It’s more than the idiocy of Greedo shooting first — a great scene made stupid, for even stupider reasons — it’s mucking with millions of childhoods and burying the memories. If you want to do a Special Edition, do it like Spielberg did with E.T. and sell both versions together.
But when all is said and done, those memories are fixed for life. I saw all three movies in the theater. I still remember the first time I saw Darth Vader’s bent-wing TIE Fighter spiral out of control and my astonishment that he got away. I remember how I marvelled, slackjawed and unblinking, at how those landspeeders wove between the trees in the forests of Endor. I remember seeing Darth Vader lift a man by the neck and being unable to imagine a more terrible display of evil. I remember gazing into his fearsome black eye sockets as the Emperor tortured Luke and how in that moment I could see the buried good in his soul as surely as Luke did.
I saw them at an age when things like movies could be perfect. The Star Wars trilogy was perfect. It still is. Don’t whine to me about Ewoks. Especially don’t whine to me about Ewoks if you weren’t there in 1983, sitting in the darkened theater right when I was, at those same impressionable years when one could be wholly receptive to a grand, fantastic adventure through worlds we could only wish to inhabit.
I miss those days. I don’t think I’d want to return to them, though. I’d never know the joy of Casablanca, the power of Schindler’s List, or the wit of The Player if I hadn’t grown up. But I wish I could visit them now and again. I wish I could immerse myself in something grand like that and not have the occasional rough edge push me back. I love The Lord of the Rings movies, in some ways more than Star Wars, but I wish “Lean forward!” were a line first heard in childhood so it doesn’t strike me as such a silly line now. There isn’t a single second of the original trilogy, pre-SE, that I hadn’t taken into myself to stay before the filters maturity brings showed up between my senses and my soul.
So those stock questions I listed earlier? You know, I just don’t care what the answers are. I got those memories.