“Promise me that you’ll never watch it again.”
Alec Guinness (to a young fan)
I had one of those kodak moments this week. I watched STAR WARS for the first time with my children. They were both completely absorbed by the film. They are pre-school, but already they have been immersed in the characters in the same way that I was to Mickey Mouse when I was a child. My son was clutching a Moff Tarkin figure as he watched (its a long story), he loves his Yoda t-shirt and has an R2 D2 that can project Princess Leia on his bedroom wall. They were aware of the characters long before they have even seen the films.
Back in the seventies, I was at a Spring Fayre at school when I was offered the opportunity to go and watch it with a family friend. I was having a good run on the tombola, I hadn’t managed to bag the coveted dusty pomade bottle yet, but decided to go to the pictures instead of reaching for another cloakroom ticket. The buzz around this new film wasn’t as as orchestrated as it is now, I recall some reports on the news about how much money the film had made, but little else to whet my appetite.
It was a life changing moment. Seriously. Cinema may not have started with STAR WARS Mr Malcolm, but my imagination was sprung to life by it, and I decided that my path was on the geek-side.
Why did the film have such a profound effect on our generation? Perhaps its because it provides a glimpse of another, fully formed universe. The story is relatively simple ‘rescue a princess from a castle’ and the characters are archetypes, but there was a depth in the worlds that were created by Lucas, with hints and suggestions of what lay beyond what was shown. From the moment that the huge Star Destroyer passes over the audience’s heads to the final destruction of the Death Star, the film is peppered with little details that give hints of exotic ‘other’ worlds and cultures beyond the Bolton Odeon.
At primary school my reputation was enhanced by my ability to fill in the blanks of the Star Wars world. Thanks to bubble-gum cards, comics and my overactive imagination, I was able to give a detailed history of the Sand People off the top of my head in such a convincing fashion that it has prepared me for in a life of management where I need to spin magic out of very little on a daily basis.
Watching the film now, I am aware of its flaws. Harrison Ford appears to be acting in a different film from everyone else, he uses the same camp voice as a Storm Trooper as he does as a peep-hole inspector in BLADE RUNNER and there are rather too many ‘cut to reaction’ shots, especially involving Darth Vader who is unable to offer any emotional insight to his character on account of the bucket on his head. Despite these minor irritants and the fact that no amount of CGI special editions are going to disguise those seventies hair cuts, the film has stood the test of time well.
Unlike my children, I went into the film without knowing anything about the mythology which has been wrung dry subsequently by the Lucasfilm machine. This is a great film. Seeing them watching it was a moment of nostalgia. They’re much younger, however it took me back to myself ‘back then’, without the Moff Tarkin figure, because it wasn’t made until the mid-nineties.
Join me – on the geek-side.