What Star Wars Means To Me
COW Library : TV & Movie Appreciation : Mike Cohen : What Star Wars Means To Me
With all this talk about another Star Wars Trilogy, spin off movies, live action tv and George Lucas retiring a terribly wealthy man, I've kept myself busy with rumors, speculation and criticisms as well as hopes for good movies.
But what exactly does Star Wars mean to me and why spend so much time thinking about movies?
In 1977 most of the world went to see Star Wars. This was before it was named Episode IV. I did not. My brother went. I stayed home. I was a strange child.
However over the next 3 years I read the picture book, saw the Holiday Special, the cast appearances on Donny and Marie, the Muppet Show, got many of the toys, an R2-D2 punching bag, t-shirts, lunchboxes and bed sheets.
Finally in 1980, AFTER seeing Empire, I finally saw Star Wars. This was before home video, so movies would be brought back to the theater years after their original release.
As much as I thought I loved Empire, I am pretty sure I invented the acronym OMG after seeing the original.
Some time thereafter SW started its run on HBO. I believe I watched it every time it was on during waking hours. The trench run never got old.
Friendships from 1st through 6th grade revolved around Star Wars. I stopped receiving action figures after my 10th birthday, but no worries, my friends' parents never got the memo. While I was lucky enough to have the primary vehicles and major characters, other kids in the neighborhood had the AT-AT and the Star Destroyer.
In these days you could run around the neighborhood with plastic laser guns and lightsabers and nobody called the police. Heck on Halloween I would wear my dad's Army uniform complete with dummy hand grenade, gas mask and die cast non-firing .38 revolver. Dress like that today and you get arrested. In 1982 you got a gold star!
But back to Luke and Leia.
In 7th grade Bar-Mitzvah class we had a guest speaker who used clips from Empire to show that Luke's Jedi training was similar to our Bar-Mitzvah training. Luke was becoming a man and learning the ancient tradition of the Jedi, while we were preparing to enter adulthood and learn to read from the ancient Torah scrolls. It was perhaps a stretch, but for the first time in 4 years, Hebrew school was meaningful to me.
By the way, I nailed my Haftorah (Korach in case anyone is wondering). I also rocked that white linen suit, don't you think?
Once high school arrived, although I would watch the original trilogy on occasion, such as when we got the coveted surround amplifier, or when I needed cheering up, life became about girls and sports and getting into college. My high school friends were not so interested in SW movies and that was ok.
There were two Ewok movies in the late 80's and the Star Tours ride at MGM Studios, so Star Wars never completely went away. Although most of the toys were in boxes in the basement, my Boba Fett figure stayed close by through high school and college - perhaps a reminder to never forget where I came from.
College was a different story. It was for some reason easier to find friends with similar interests and SW came back into my life.
Once the VHS letterbox set came out, it was like seeing the films for the first time. One evening we wired up the school's SVHS camera to our dorm's hifi system and watched Empire loud enough to make the neighbors complain.
Once out of college a few years, the Special Editions came out, and while not so special in use of CG, it was Star Wars back on the big screen. Watching movies as an adult that you thought you enjoyed as a child can be a new experience.
When I got married, in addition to the usual decorations on my car after the reception, my brother placed Luke and Leia action figures hanging from the rearview mirror.
Next came 1999 and the Phantom Menace. At the time it was friggin awesome because it was Star Wars on the big screen. Same for Clones and Sith. Only years later does hindsight tell you that there were some not so great parts of these movies. But Clones was actually quite enjoyable and Phantom and Sith were ok with perhaps 30 minutes removed from each. I know what Lucas was doing - pushing the limits of CGI and initiating the era of digital cinema. Heck I shoot XDCAM so I guess I have Lucas to thank. When I first started my job we were doing animation with Alias Wavefront - we certainly have George to thank for that!
(yes, that is a Darth Maul cookie jar. I have a box of C3-POs cereal in the back of my pantry too if you'd like to see that!)
In 2010, on my birthday, my wife and I attended Star Wars in concert, featuring live narration by Anthony Daniels and a huge screen, lasers and a crowd so pumped up you would think it was a Zeppelin reunion.
I am sure that a part of me became interested in filmmaking and media production thanks to my love of Star Wars and the other scifi films of the late 70's and 80's.
The circle is now complete. When I left childhood I was just a learner. Now I am the master.
So that is what Star Wars means to me.
May the Force Be With you.
Yeah, I said it.