Saturday, September 17, 2011

George Lucas (Insert Your Opinion Here) My Childhood

Harry Knowles, whose reviews I generally avoid for their lack of perspective, provides quite a bit on the new Star Wars Blu-rays over at his website.

The discussion among fans has basically reduced the films, particulary the original trilogy, to the sum of its parts. As George Lucas has dissected the films, amputated them and grafted on new parts, a large group of fans have done the same. These films have been broken down and analyzed to the breaking point. People forget why they loved them in the first place - or they identify what they loved, and consequently, their childhood - with the parts Lucas excises.

Harry does a very good job of reminding us that the films are more than the sum of their parts, and so is his enjoyment of them. It got me to thinking about what Star Wars has given me. I am a Star Wars baby. The impact that film has had on my generation is hard to quantify; what other work of art in the last 30 years inspires this kind of debate or attention? It could be said it's much ado about nothing. They're just movies, and sometimes we forget that. But for today, I'd like to remember why Star Wars is so compelling to me, and why I own the movies on Blu-ray despite my own concerns with the endless and needless changes George Lucas makes to his movies.

Star Wars is entirely responsible for my lifelong love of astronomy and science. I live and die for NASA. Every day they announce something that blows my mind, like this. Space is fucking cool.

I think I would have always been a writer, but Star Wars galvanized my imagination at an early age. I was writing and drawing these truly awful 'homages' of SW and other sci-fi stuff pretty early. I remember writing some kind of dystopian sci-fi thing in a motel when my mom, brother and I went to visit my grandpartents in Rock Island, IL. This was 1985, so I was eight. Today, I am a full time fiction writer - independent, like George Lucas - and currently writing my own space adventure.

On that trip in '85, we famously stopped at the Toys R Us there in Moline. Famously because this was the one and only time Aaron and I saw what turned out to be the last edition of the original Kenner Star Wars toys (The Power of the Force post-movie line, with the coins).

I lived for Star Wars toys. We didn't have them all, but we had quite a few. It's hard to imagine how we maintained any sense of paitence when these things came out like 10 at a time once a year. Today, Hasbro releases close to 100 Star Wars figures a year, and that is simply not enough for some people. Star Wars made possible what many consider the Golden Age of boys toys (1985 would have been its zenith; that year also saw the best of GI Joe, Transformers and He-Man on those same shelves at Toys R Us) and it made me a fan of toys in general. I love dumb plastic shit.

My SW collection is pretty extensive. I have a complete collection of the original figures, including the Vinyl Cape Jawa (here's just a piece):

Star Wars also led me like a lot of others to the writing of Joseph Campbell, who has greatly influenced my outlook on the world.  Campbell is essential to my development as a writer, and as a person; he is a guide to ways of dealing with a world polarized between its past and future.

I fell in love with film making and went to film school at the University of Iowa, because of Star Wars.  Sometimes people will tell me after reading a story of mine, or the novel, that "I could see it in my head.  It was like a movie."  This is a huge compliment to me and ultimately due to a love of film, trying to harness the power, speed and visual impact of film in words.

And most of all, Star Wars gave me memories.  The drive-in.  The Blue Light Specials at K-Mart.  Shopping downtown for figures when there were stores downtown.  The 'wall' at JC Penny of toys.  The Christmas catalogs from Pennys and Sears.  Winter Bibles.

The films gave me a lot, none of which the changes Lucas makes can take away.

1 comment:

Benjamin said...