Friday, July 07, 2006

Film Fave #15: Star Wars

"You've taken your first step into a larger world." Obi-Wan Kenobi

There were people in our village who did not go to the movies -- and as a six-year-old, neither did I. The reasoning I frequently heard was, "If the Lord were to return, would you want Him to find you in a theatre?" My parents never used that line, but it was common enough to fall on my ears. I figured the chances of the Lord returning and finding me in a theatre were considerably slimmer than finding me on the toilet (which I considered the more embarrassing situation). Besides, I was told He saw me no matter where I was, so what was the dif?

And so the tiny cinema in the middle of our village represented forbidden fruit. Like Miriam Toews' Nomi, I too asked if I could go see The Swiss Family Robinson with my friends. My mother denied my request, along with enough of my following entreaties for me to get the picture: I wasn't going to see any movies in the town theatre.

Six years later, I stood in front of my father and asked the question again. This time we were in Denver, where my father was working on his doctorate. A friend in the apartment below ours was going to see Star Wars with his father, and I was asked if I wanted to tag along. I didn't know what Star Wars was, but if it was anything like Star Trek, I was in. All I had to do was persuade my father.

He hesitated. I cajoled. He told me to stifle. I did, and slunk off to my bedroom. In the morning, I again broached the subject. He said he'd prayed about it, and felt alright about giving me permission.

I'm slow to hit "post" on this scenario -- who wants to be the holopschi-eating peasant to whom the moving picture show is verboten? Furthermore, my silent justification wasn't nearly so straight-forward or nuanced: I wanted to see the movie, and I wasn't beyond employing a little manipulative sophistry when I had to. In hindsight, as I watch my daughters approach puberty, my father's hesitation doesn't seem altogether absurd. In my case, I'm not as concerned about movie content as I am about internet access. This is how a father worries.

Just before I stepped into my friend's car, my father took me aside and said, "Sometimes, just before the movie starts, the theatre shows an advertisement for another movie in another theatre. If they start showing anything that bothers you, don't worry about it. If you have to, you can just close your eyes and wait for it to be over."

The preview was for A Bridge Too Far. The movie took two years to make, and starred a hundred big names I didn't recognize. Soldiers, jeeps and explosions. It looked incredible.

And then the 20th Century Fox anthem played.

Spectacle aside, what did we get? A kid who lives with his uncle and farms sand. Doesn't do anything cool, just wants to get the hell out of Dodge. Gets told his father was a legendary warrior, then embarks on a crazy rescue mission with a swashbuckling pirate and a giant ape. He rescues the princess, blows up the evil fortress and saves the day.

And there was no "spectacle aside". These were special effects nobody -- nobody -- had seen before. Do you think my 12-year-old male adolescent small-town holopschi-eating Mennonite head didn't split open like a freakin' walnut?

"That's no moon -- that's a space station."

So, no: I don't tire of this movie. And there have been stretches in my generally trial-free life when this movie has been, next to the Bible and the one single subject common to the thoughts of all men, the subject I've spent the most time mulling over. I'm not in that headspace anymore, mind you. Five movies later, the verdict is in -- it's the Grade Nine burn-out's attempt at The Lord Of The Rings. The series as a whole is so hobbled with flaws that questions are legitimately raised about the quality of the movie that kicked it into motion.

And that's fine -- that there were only two movies worth watching in the entire series doesn't much bother me. This is the movie that stood on the other side of the threshold and welcomed me into a larger world. And its playful sense of perspective was one of its deepest charms. Luke, Han, Chewy and Leia can sprint all over the Death Star -- this is business as usual. But when they finally come back to their spaceship, they're at a precipice that looks down onto it. This seemingly casual attention to detail brought an unusual depth and dimension to Space Opera, and created precisely the sort of persuasive world a 12-year-old boy could get very excited about.

And when my kids are watching it, I'm usually beside them.

Synchronicitous update: Drawn! links to Ralph McQuarrie's new site (McQ being the guy who deserves the most credit for "inventing" Star Wars).

Film Fave #14


DarkoV said...

Any movie that has the looking-down-a-precipice scenes, especially when one is in one's formative years, is worth pining over.
Me? When I catch glimpses of Star Wars these days, I can't help but think of MST 3000, with all of the glued together detritus characters. In fact, MST 3000 comes orbitting my direction at least 2-3 times a day. I imagine Tom Servo or Crow sitting in my office with me and all negative and frightening edge-of-the-abyss thoughts disappear.

My dream?

MST 3000 returns and they watch Star Wars. Darth Vader on the verbal barby.

WP, great start to your Big List of TEN plus FIVE.

Scott said...

"If the Lord were to return, would you want Him to find you in a theatre?"

Wow, what a completely odious thing to say! I of course would never speak for Jesus (I'm a rare and special flower that way) but I like to think if he were to come back and find a room full of people from so many walks of life, sitting together in the dark and sharing the same dream, he'd be pleased.

Unless they're watching "Passion of the Christ." I think that would freak him out.

Scott said...

Your lovely story makes me curious, though -- what did your dad say when you came home, raving about space stations and robots? Did he regret letting you go?
Or was he pleased that you enjoyed yourself?

My dad tried to convince me on the drive home that his car could go faster than the lightspeeder. My head knew he was wrong, of course, but my heart soared.

Whisky Prajer said...

DV - MST3000 roasts Star Wars? I'd be in for that. If they started with the heinous Episode I they'd have no end of skewering material to work with.

Scott - if my dad had regrets, he never gave voice to them (something I try to bear in mind whenever I face some of my daughters' obsessions). Two years later, when we'd moved to Winnipeg, he took me to see the movie again. When I asked him what he thought he said, "I kept waiting for a slow moment when I could use the washroom, but one never came."

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry I didn't comment on this post last year when you wrote it. It's a lovely story and a lovely piece of writing to boot. Equal to any of the stories in your book, and that's saying a lot.

And I love your father's washroom comment. How awesome!