‘Star Wars’ enduring force gives us a cultural touchstone
What is it that gives “Star Wars” such broad appeal?
I remember seeing the original movie in elementary school as part of a pizza and ice cream party intended to reward us for something or other.
I was so inspired that I immediately wrote a wholly unoriginal play called “Cat Wars” and somehow convinced my classmates to join the performance, with myself in the role of Obi Wan.
There were even two sequels, which diverged considerably from the films and were enshrined at the Carbondale Elementary School library. Hopefully they’re not lurking somewhere in a closet at the Third Street Center waiting for someone to blackmail me with them.
In any case, the original trilogy resonated with my third-grade self as it had with my father, who was a teenager when the first movie came out and eventually passed down his toy Millennium Falcon. When I took an informal survey to determine the most ubiquitous film across all age groups, “Star Wars” was second only to “The Wizard of Oz.”
I have to wonder why.
Don’t get me wrong – “Star Wars” was a winning combination for its time. The effects were groundbreaking and have held up better than the computer generated stuff in the remastered versions (Han shot first, by the way). The score was spectacular, the cinematography solid and the acting decent. Lucas’s setting is epic without having to show everything, and somehow grounded by its very mysticism.
Still, as a bit of movie snob, I’d argue that “Blade Runner” has many of the same qualities (right down to the lead), plus better writing and a deeper message. So why is one a multibillion-dollar icon complete with an expanded universe and decades of merchandising, and the other is just a cult classic?
Personally, I think it’s because success breeds success.
When we got bored pretending to be Jedi, my third-grade classmates and I moved on to Harry Potter. Although there were several series before and after I liked better, it was an entirely different experience to be swept up in the hype along with everyone else.
“Star Wars” delivers the same thing.
Except perhaps for that one friend who has read all the novels in the expanded universe, most of us can quote “Star Wars” or don a costume with the reasonable expectation that everyone around us will get it.
Even folks who haven’t seen the films usually know enough to fake it, lest their friends punish them with a mandatory marathon.
(Incidentally, those who aren’t quite willing to ignore the prequels should Google “machete order.” Bonus points if you manage to squeeze in the “Star Wars Christmas Special”)
For all their faults, the prequels came just in time to keep up the momentum, allowing the series to become a cross generational phenomenon.
It’s like a joke we’re all in on — endlessly referenced and parodied.
I fully expect that “The Force Awakens” will break box office records this weekend. I’m optimistic that, with the bar set low by the prequels, most of us will be pleasantly surprised. However it turns out, it’s fun to see people of all ages, genders and walks of life get swept up in the spirit.
Isn’t that what movies are all about?
Will Grandbois can be found at the local supermarket, pretending to open automatic doors with the Force. He can also be reached at 970-384-9105 or email@example.com.
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