Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Thirty years of Star Wars

I've been meaning to blog for a few days about the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars.

Thirty years.


Star Wars is, hands down, the single most influential movie in my life. It also happens to remain my all-time favourite movie. My childhood memories are tightly woven into a backdrop of Star Wars movies, toys, books, bubble-gum cards and mythology. On this anniversary weekend, there have been plenty of articles in the media about how seminal Star Wars was, and how it changed the movie landscape forever. From an article in the weekend Citizen:
No wonder the U.S. Library of Congress' National Film Registry has named Star Wars "a culturally, historically, and aesthetically important" film, or that the American Film Institute placed it 15th on its list of the top 100 films in the 20th century. And then there's that ubiquitous line from the movie: "May the Force be with you." The AFI ranks the phrase as the eighth-greatest quote in American film history. In this light, it is no exaggeration to say, as film critic Stephen Greydanus puts it, "the Star Wars universe remains a cultural institution of immense proportions."

I clearly remember going to see it for the first time. We went with another family, and on the way to the theatre the four adults sat in the front and back seat of our wood-panelled Cutlass Ciera station wagon (it was, after all, 1977) and we kids rolled around like peas in a 10-gallon tub in the back. Return of the Jedi was the first movie my brother and I were allowed to attend without parental supervision; I remember my father dropping us off in front of the downtown cinema - in the days before the mall-based multi-plex - for an 8:30 am showing.

When we got our first VCR in the early 1980s, one of those giant ones with the square buttons you pushed down and held to make them stick and where the lid opened upwards to accept the cassette and the 'remote' was attached by a long cord and consisted of an analogue switch with two options 'pause' and 'play', Star Wars was the first movie we rented and later copied. I lost count of how many times I watched it through high school, but it was in excess of 120 times. (I may have mentioned I didn't get out much in the earliest years of high school, and by the time I had a pack of friends, they were the kind of good-natured geeks who loved nothing better than to watch Star Wars again and again right along with me after hours spent playing D&D.)

Growing up, my brother had tonnes of Star Wars action figures and playsets. We (note the plural possessive - they may have been gifts for him, but we played with them together) had the ice planet Hoth, the Death Star, and of course, a Millennium Falcon. I had a wicked crush on Luke Skywalker through the first two movies, but as I entered my teen years my tastes strayed from Luke's clean-cut innocence to the roguish worldliness of Han Solo... because in the end, no matter how good the girl, she always likes the bad boys the best.

All these years later, I will still queue up Star Wars in the DVD player if I have an open stretch of evening and feel for a little cinematic comfort food. I think it's safe to say that I would personally rank the movies in the descending order they came out, except that I liked Episode III more than Episode I. I'm a purist, though. The new series, the Anakin stories, are good movies in and of themselves, but they don't hold a candle to the original trilogy.

The Interwebs are full of Star Wars tributes and memes, but these two I couldn't help but share. Have you seen this this hilarious photo from Flickr? Apparently the US Postal Service decorated mailboxes to look like R2D2 in honour of the movie's 30th anniversary. The photo is clever, but the comments embedded into it are hilarious. (Note to self: figure out how they did that - very cool!)

And one last treasure to share with you: this clever little plot comparison between Star Wars and Harry Potter from Neat-o-rama. Perhaps this one appealled to me in particular because I'm deep in the heart of the Harry Potter books, currently in the thick of the Goblet of Fire, working my way through the series in anticipation of Deathly Hallows this summer. Funny to think that Harry Potter may be for this generation of kids what Star Wars was for me!

This post is getting unweildy and I still haven't examined how Star Wars influenced me spiritually, or how Beloved and I still compare and contrast what the movies meant to us growing up. I haven't had a chance to talk about the quotable Star Wars, and how the language of the movie introduced me to a world of rebel alliances and emperors and bounty hunters and cantinas and smugglers and ambassadors - words I learned for the first time through Star Wars and that coloured forever my understanding of them. I haven't gotten into how Star Wars made me curious about life on other worlds, and inspired a life-long love of astronomy and fascination with SETI... I could go on for two sets of trilogies!

What does Star Wars mean to you?