Sunday, November 30, 2008

Feature of the Month: It Had To Be Star Wars

It had to be STAR WARS. It jus had to be. I’ve been sitting here for the past month, wracking my brain trying to find every high falutin trio of films (Both official and not) that I can write about, but try as I might nothing I wrote seemed honest or genuine. Of course I should have known better. This past month I’ve been running from the obvious but flee no more shall I.

I’m not going to bother going into the story of STAR WARS or the historical impact that the franchise has had on the film industry. If you don’t know that by now you should probably look into moving out of your cave. No instead I’m going to examine WHY it had to be STAR WARS.

I’m sure I will get into this more and more in future posts but at the end of the day the reason that I am sitting here in front of my computer right now, the reason that I have dedicated my life to studying, watching and now writing about and making movies is because I had strep throat when I was 10 years old. Sure the genesis of this idea probably started a long time before that but it never became real, never became tangible and apparent until the day I stayed home from school, eating nothing but pudding because anything else caused unbearable agony. Having nothing better to do I popped my parent’s well worn, video copy of STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE into the VCR and watched Luke, Han and Leia fight the evil Empire for the hundredth time. Obviously this wouldn’t be very good story worthy if something life altering hadn’t happened. The Death Star blew up Alderaan for the umpteenth time but this time I couldn’t help but think how cool that was. I couldn’t help but think how much I’d love to create things out of nothing more than my imagination and do with them as I wish. Thus some 19 years ago a little nerdling was born.

The reason I mention this and the reason that I realized I HAD to write about STAR WARS is because there are hundreds, thousands, perhaps maybe even millions of stories just like mine.

The original STAR WARS trilogy is THE story of good and evil. It had been told thousands of times before that and has and will be told thousands of times since then but at that point perhaps no piece of fiction had ever better encapsulated the ideas of good vs. evil more than George Lucas’ effects filled extravaganza. But is that really why STAR WARS became what it is? It didn’t hurt but I can’t help but think that was only one small brush stroke that played into a much larger tapestry.

At the end of the day no matter how you slice it, throw in all the Wookies, Ewoks and Yodas you want STAR WARS is at it’s heart a cribbing of every major ideological and philosophical belief this world has ever known. It’s well documented that Lucas structured his story after Joseph Campbell’s brilliant HERO OF A THOUSAND FACES and as such there is very little if anything “original” brought to the galaxy spanning saga of the plucky, noble rebellion versus the sinister, evil, all encompassing empire. Nothing new that is except dreams.

Ray Harryhausen, Merian C. Cooper, Gene Roddenberry, all of them were geniuses, dreamers without peer, who helped ignite the imaginations of millions of people world wide. The only problems they faced were limits. Budgetary limits, technological limits, limits of what could be conceived and executed in their day and age. Limits that George Lucas decided should no longer exist.

With the original STAR WARS and its subsequent sequels George Lucas almost single handedly changed what people thought was possible. What people could dream and see was no longer men in rubber suits and pie tins hanging from fishing wire. It was no longer clay moved painstakingly one inch at a time. Our dreams and our visions were no longer limited by what was only in the center of the frame and thus the audience’s consciousness. No, suddenly our imaginations were given purchase not just in shots, not just in rooms, but in sweeping vistas, entire worlds and unfathomable galaxies. After 2000+ years on the planet mankind could finally put each and every single thought, image, nightmare, vision and dream in his head in front of the world to see.

I’ll be the first to admit that in recent years it hasn’t always been the easiest thing to be a STAR WARS fan. The franchise has taken so many hits that it’s almost become downright embarrassing to stand up for my childhood love at this point. But stand up for it I will, until the day I die.

Every Jar-Jar Binks, Hayden Christiansen or CLONE WARS can’t take away from what the original trilogy did to every dreamer on earth all those years ago. Having not been born until 1979 I can’t even begin to fathom what it was like to live in a world pre STAR WARS as a movie fan, much less a movie maker. Sitting in my Dad’s well worn recliner I instantly knew that NOTHING was impossible. I knew that if I could conceive it, if I could dream it up it could happen. If that isn’t worth a lifetime of adoration then I don’t know what is.

It’s funny because as I sit here writing this it dawns on me that those optimistic, the sky is the limit notions didn’t just apply to my creative endeavors. While I know my parents and my positive upbringing have a lot to do with it as well I can’t help but think that realizing absolutely nothing is beyond my limits or my reach at such a formative age helped form me into the man I am today, and we all know I’m not the only one.

If you were at the right age, if you were of the right mind set STAR WARS touched you in incalculable ways. Over the 6+ hours you spent in front of the screen watching ideas spew forth from George Lucas’s head it was impossible not to stand in awe of not only what you were watching but what it meant. Young minds were given a forceful shove through a door that once opened could never ever be closed again. No longer did minds have to be filtered by notions of “that’s silly” or “that’s undoable”. No instead the question of “What can we do” was immediately and irrevocably replaced by “What can’t we do?”

For the past several weeks now I’ve been working on an article in which I wished to express my excitement, enthusiasm and little boy giddiness for J.J. Abrams upcoming remigining of STAR TREK. However as I’ve sat here and worked on this piece it’s dawned on me what has gotten me so jazzed, something that I can sum up in one sentence, not paragraph upon paragraph: They’ve pulled a STAR WARS on STAR TREK.

Watch the trailer (Like I have dozens and dozens of times) and you’ll see what I mean. For the first time in the history of the STAR TREK franchise they are holding nothing back. Nothing is too big; nothing is to complex or extravagant. Gene Roddenberry’s vision is no longer limited by what nose-piece can go on what actor or how hard can the cast shake to one side and still make it look believable. The reason I’m more excited about STAR TREK than not only anything coming out next year but anything I’ve seen in a while is because nothing is being held back from the imaginations of those making it.

I have some pretty lofty goals for my career and my life path. However none of them gives me greater drive than the idea that I too might be able to one day create something that sparks the imaginations and minds of people the world over. Will something I write have the same impact as STAR WARS? No, most likely not, but if I can just for one second make some kid, home sick from school, realize for one fleeting moment that his mind, his imagination is a priceless tool that can make anything possible then I will done something good, something noble, something that can never be ripped away from the consciousness of the globe that will forever be changed by MY imagination.

Since STAR WARS came out we’ve seen Middle Earth brought to life. Spider-Man has swung through the skyscrapers of New York, Alan Moore’s “unfilmable” graphic novel WATCHMEN is being brought to life and around the globe children everywhere are creating worlds the likes of which we’ve never seen or dreamed of. Stories that will affect millions of people are being conjured in the wide open planes of dreams throughout the earth all because one guy from Modesto, CA. decided to tell a universal story, unlike any other about a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. How could I not honor that?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A man after my own heart. I agree, I think the reason why Star Wars was the film series that made me want to major in film was because of how well it was able to encompass the Samurai/Western/Fantasy/Science Fiction genres that hasn't been duplicated with the same success ever since.

Its probably the most mainstream film in cinematic history but it always has and will have a special resonance to me personally as well.