(1983) dir. Richard Marquand
Richard Marquand? Director of a Star Wars movie? Sure, for the hardcore, that’s probably one of the initiation things. But seriously, ????
Writing about any of the Star Wars movies always feels a little weird for me. I mean, as a kid, they were the most incredible things in the world to me. And frankly, my passion for them (at the time) far outstretched most other kids I knew. As an adult, and as a film student, and as time has marched along, I’ve come to realize how pervassive these films are, far more pervassive than I could have ever imagined, and that people have adopted them on such massively infintessimal levels that I am just flat-out amazed.
I mean, the world has changed, sure. Way more than we could have conceived as children or young adults, though not in the ways that we might have anticipated. Who would have thought how completely pervassive Star Wars would be 30 years after? I mean, here I am, sitting with my son, who is almost 8 years old, watching a film that he chose and connects to (perhaps through Wii Lego Star Wars more than anything), the age that I was (8) when in 1977, I first got introduced to the coming legend. It’s mind-boggling.
It’s also full of ironies and weirdness.
Felix’s favorite part of the film he likes to refer to as “the teddy bear war” which is where the ewoks fight off the stormtroopers with their old school technology (No lasers, lightsabres or robots for these miniature models of lost humanity. No, they employ rocks, logs, nets, and their bows and arrows. Surely there is a full analysis here of how the ultimate battle of the series comes down to non-technology and “human spirit” over evil and advanced weaponry. — It’s easy to digress.)
So, I was 8 years old when Star Wars (1977) came out, prime age, seriously prime age (my son’s age now almost). I was 11 years old when Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (or as we simply knew it then: The Empire Strikes Back), pretty fucking prime. But by the time that Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi came out, I was 14, a cusp age for the whole thing, still willing and interested, but moving on to other things and more cynical. And the film itself was a bit of an anti-climax.
Arguably, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) was the best of the series, and in leaving the cinema in 1980 (which I still remember vividly), thinking that we’d have to wait 3 years for a sequel, I was disheartened to the max. The cliff-hanger stuff worked exactly the way that George Lucas had wanted it. But to cliffhang for 3 years? Dude.
The Return of the Jedi, again, as we knew it in the old days before all the chaptering began in earnest, was a disappointment. The ewoks were cute but seemed like a marketing grab. I mean, by this time, they’d been making action figures for 6 years and could certainly see the value in overpopulating the films with characters that all viewers would need to own some semblance of. Jeez, even at 14, I noticed that.
But hell, my old feelings aren’t the current feelings. Though they highly influence my current feelings, and frankly, my writing about films is all about “my” feelings. But I am appreciating my childrens’ feelings as well. Felix likes the “teddy bear war”. And though I find the ewoks cloying, I appreciate that they appeal to others. And to tell the truth, to sit on the couch and watch this film with my son, who genuinely likes and appreciates something that I adored as a kid his own age… it’s freaking beautiful and freaking weird.
It’s beautiful to have such a connection, absolutely, even if I’m removed from it. I’m absolutely aware of my own childhood feelings (Felix wears my original Star Wars t-shirts that I wore as a child). But also, I recognize the radical difference of these films in the present sense. So complicated one doesn’t even think to try to fully encapsulate the whole reality in one thought but here’s a stab: video games, DVD/video, post-modernist absorbtion (Felix was amused at jokes in Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series of books that referenced the films),… I mean, these films are as much if not more of our cultural identity than The Wizard of Oz!!! Which may have been the primary such thing for most of the 20th century.
It’s bigger than many comprehensible concepts.
But it’s still a movie. One that I watched on a Saturday afternoon with my almost-8-year old son who has a fever.
My impressions this time: Harrison Ford was the man. Han Solo delivered his lines with aplomb. Carrie Fisher pulled off the sexy outfits. She had a great voice. Mark Hammill should have never worked in cinema, only televison, and his face looks strangely plastic. And discussing how they handled Yoda, a puppet, with Felix. Strange on many levels.
But I hate the digital additions made in the re-releases. The films should be the films that they were, I believe. Flawed or wonderful, the tampering only dilutes the reality. If they can transcend time and experience, let them do that as the things they are, because the rest of the world is changing. Adding little digital asides (or worse) is criminal in a sense.
You know, there is too much said about these films to say anything original. But yet I still have this very personal connection to them. I won’t belabor the point other than to say what an overall anti-climax this film was in its day, and how it holds up a tad better than that overall. One’s experience with this film or this series is unique to each individual, no matter how un-unique it is in the world’s truly broadened, widened self.
Memories vs. today.
Today includes the memories. And it changes it. The experience of the Star Wars films is something unlike many, many other things. And their power and success, diminish beneath their own mythology (their own mythology and the mythology of their pervassive success and cultural influence.) Strange. Bizarre. Yet not unpleasant.