On the weekend of the 30th anniversary of the release of STAR WARS, I would be remiss in my duties as a film geek if I didn't write about the influence the Holy Trilogy (plus three) had on my life, my tastes, my concept of movies. Anybody who really cares about movies must see the importance of these, love them or hate them, and see what influence they have had and should have on the industry.
How do you know you're king? Themed bodyguards.
My first memory is being in my mother's arms in line for STAR WARS. It was the Yorkrigde Four, which would later be the site of my first real job. I remember the stores in the strip mall, the marquee, the lobby, and the Tuscan Raider. That Sand-person was the first real fright I had, one of my first conscious experiences being a movie thrill. I was about a year and a half old at the time, but much of it is clear. I remember screaming, crying, being terrified of the bellowing beast on the screen. Years later my mom told me that I was silent as soon as we left the theater, reaching back toward the door. When she took me back in I watched the rest of the movie wide-eyed. I only got truly upset when threatened with being taken away from the movie.
That sounds like a load of crap. I know it does. I can't help it, but it's true. Through the release of the first film, which was out for quite some time in the pre-home video days, my brother and I were taken to STAR WARS over and over again. Yorkridge, Perring Twin, Towson Twin, wherever it was at the time. EMPIRE came out, and the cycle began anew. Same for JEDI. My uncle got us bootlegs of each, and we wore them out. The toys, cereal, cheap costumes, everything that we could get, we wanted.
It wasn't even an obsession. It was just part of our lives. Like Mom, Dad, food, the dogs, the twisted lightening scar in our fence, or anything else we saw around us all the time, STAR WARS was a part of our lives from the very beginning. It was something we loved, sure, but we didn't know a world without it. Before I knew about the American Revolution, I knew about the Battle of Hoth. When I pictured Seminole, Florida, where my grandparents lived, it looked like Dagobah. I knew Yoda wasn't real. He sounded too much like Grover. It didn't mean I thought less of either of them, just that there was something more I didn't know about either of
Damn you, John Bolton!!!
Over the years, I realize how much I owe George Lucas. At age seven, I might not have been keen on watching BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, one of my all time favorites, had I not recognized Obi Wan. On the flip side, I sat through CORVETTE SUMMER. Oh well. I might not have had the imagination to go create my own sci-fi adventures with kids in the neighborhood. I might not have taken our video camera (and the bulky two-piece VCR that had to remain attached) and create my own adventures of Luke, Han and the gang. I wouldn't have watched every single special I could about how hey did all of the magical tricks they did. I don't know how many kindergarteners know what a blue screen is, but I was one. I could watch a movie, think about if it was a composite shot, miniatures, or something else, and not have it ruin the reality of the scene, but still make me wish I knew what they did to make me believe in what they were showing me.
I appreciated the whole universe Lucas had created. Characters with minimal screen time like Hammerhead of Boba Fett were absolutely fascinating. Where did they come from, and what other stories did they have? Through simple innovative design, he surrounded his traditional narrative with an element of expandable mystery that kept you interested far beyond the machinations of the Empire. The beat-up look of the rebellion's X-Wings compared to the slick clean tech of the Tie Fighter meant something. The Blockade Runner being dwarfed by the gargantuan Imperial Destroyer is possibly the single most effective effective establishing underdog exposition of being the underdog I have or will ever witness. There was implies depth to everything we saw, and while he told his story, he left so much to our fertile imaginations.
I don't know if George had everything in mind when he started making these movies. There's plenty of evidence that he didn't. Still, he went about it all with an instinct that hit all of the right notes. Jabba, a big, fat, consuming slug, looks like the embodiment of greed. The Millennium Falcon is that POS first car you brag about no matter how bad it's falling apart. He made sure that even in such a fantastic environment, we could all relate.
The lessons, universal as some of them are I would later discover, also make these
movies a big part of my life. Sometimes destiny pulls you away from what you want. Being a hero takes sacrifice. Don't kiss your sister. Most of the Eastern philosophy peppered throughout really came to blossom for me in college. I took some courses, thought "Duh" to a lot of the lessons, then realized I was subconsciously following the Jedi code instead of Buddha. It didn't matter where the ideas came from, so long as they made sense to me.
President Indiana Solo, CIA
There is one philosophy in particular that I want to highlight, because it embodies everything this column is all about, as well as my general motivation in moving forward at every step in life. "Do or do not. There is no try." The important thing to remember is the tense. Past tense, sure, you tried. This is for present and future. If you try to do something, you are initiating an endeavor with a clear concept, and likely acceptance, of failure. If you do something, failure is only a result upon accepting defeat. Do not would be the lack of doing something at all in the first place.
If you want to make a movie, do it. If you try to make a movie, there is much less weight on your shoulders to complete it, less yet complete it well. If you do not make a movie, well, you never started. Try is a result, and try is merely a kind word for fail, should you choose to accept defeat. Personally, I will accept my failures as lessons, my successes as the same, and not think of life as attempts. What is the point in only sort of living, maybe kinda giving making a difference a shot? If you want to half-ass your future, feel free to try.
There are a lot of influential films in my life, all of which I will discuss at some point probably. Most influenced me in style, humor, scares, cinematography, editing, music, or whatever else. I just can't think of what my life, or cinema for the past 30 years, would be like without STAR WARS. When people ask me about my top five, ten, twenty movies of all time, I don't mention any of the STAR WARS films. That would be like saying that if you were trapped on a desert island, and could only have three things, you'd want air, water, and food. That is, unless they're a moisture farmer. If you don't enjoy STAR WARS, I hope you've found something that inspires you like these did for me. Otherwise, sucks to be you.
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Patrick hails from Baltimore, MD, where playing by the rules is frowned upon. Only average things come from playing it safe.|
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