Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Star Wars: Part One (Everything changed)

I'm just going to come right out and say it.

No other movie, in the history of cinema, has impacted a single generation in the way Star Wars impacted the generation known as X.

Nothing that came before. Not Citizen Cane. Not Gone with the Wind. Not The Wizard of Oz.

And nothing that came after. Not Twilight. Not Lord of the Rings. Not Harry Potter.

Unless you were born, basically, between 1965 and 1980, this will be a very hard concept to explain. But, if you were born within that range of years, I could have stopped after the second sentence.

The words "Star Wars" may define this generation more than any other two words in our language, and now I'll attempt to explain why...

In 1977, the year I turned five, I had a life changing experience. I sat in a darkened movie theater for the first time, and saw words, that I could not yet read, scroll up the screen. And then my world went ballistic.

A huge space ship! Robots! A villain in black! A princess in white! A young hero! Crazy creatures! Laser guns! Laser swords! A wizard! A space cowboy, who shoots first, and his giant hairy companion! Battles and adventures and explosions! And the music -- I had NEVER heard anything like it (in all my five years)!

I'm not sure I exhaled for two hours.

If I had ever seen another movie before that point, I have no memory of it. My mind was a blank hard drive, and, in that dark theater in1977, Star Wars formatted it.

Let me get something else out of the way. The movie was, and always will be, called Star Wars. The subtitle Episode IV: A New Hope was added at the time of the movie's rerelease in 1981. The movie that changed my life was titled Star Wars.

Star Wars redefined the movie going experience for the entire planet. It changed the way movies are seen, the way movies are thought of, and the way movies are made. It's impact resonates right down to our day. Everything you love about adventure and science fiction, spectacle and blockbuster summer movies, has it's roots in that one movie.

But this isn't about the movie, it's about the impact that this story had on our generation.

Coming to earth in the soft afterglow of the Space Age, and before the dawn of the Information Age, we were susceptible to stories about heroes, and villains, who traveled through the stars, and strode large across the galaxy, and fought epic battles and visited alien worlds. We were primed for this story. And the heroes of this story were not little green men from Mars. They looked a lot like us.

They looked a lot like we looked in the 1970's.

It was a story of adventure, and mystery. It was a story of right and wrong. Of Good and Evil.

Star Wars changed everything.

It changed the way we played.

It changed the way we dressed.

It changed the way slept!

Never before had merchandising been such an integral part of a film's success. Everything said Star Wars. With the brilliance of the merchandizing forethought of George Lucas, we were able to bring the adventure, and all of our heroes, right into our homes, and relive the adventure again, and again.

But, most importantly, Star Wars changed the way we thought.

This movie was my first introduction to notions of fantastic love and epic adventure. To issues of right and wrong. To the concepts of good and evil. To heroism and villainy.

Before I knew of the gods of Olympus, or ancient Egypt, before I had ever heard of Adolph Hitler or Nazi Germany, before I found fictional heroes like Atticus Finch and Tom Sawyer, I knew Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Chewbacca and R2D2.

Everyone that came after, whether they had existed for thousands of years before, was measured, in my mind, by their counterpart in the Star Wars universe.

The archetypes, by which I understand the world, and the universe, were imprinted on me

No comments: