|Posted on October 14, 2011 at 11:40 PM|
About a month ago, I succumbed to the overwhelming Force pressure and bought the latest release of the Star Wars saga on Blu-ray. And while I haven’t gotten around to watching all six films – yet! – I did take a quick perusal of some key scenes for my lightning review of the complete saga.
So, until either of these eventualities A) George re-re-re-releases it on Blu-ray 3D or B) when George re-re-re-re-releases it on Blu-ray with 4K resolution occur, this is the best that we are going to see and hear of the Star Wars films. The great news is that they look and sound amazing.
And now that I have the Star Wars saga on what is likely to be the best version for several years to come, and that Lauryn is getting older (she’ll be 5 in November), it is time to start thinking about *when* she will be ready to take her first step into a larger world, and begin her apprentice journey to Star Wars fan-dom.
With that thought in mind, the other night at dinner I asked her what she knew about Star Wars. She has spent some time playing with her older cousin, Holden, who *loves* Star Wars. His room is done up in classic trilogy style, he runs around swinging lightsabers, and he plays the Star Wars Lego videogames like they are crack in binary form. So I asked her what she knows about Star Wars and she said, “It has Indiana Jones in it. And stormtroopers. And a big furry guy. And R2D2. And Yoda. When I play with Holden I get to be Yoda.”
While I firmly believe that Star Wars is still an amazing set of films, I don’t think that it can have anywhere near the impact on a modern generation of viewers that they did for my contemporaries for a variety of reasons.
(Quick sidebar: Did any of you see The How I Met Your Mother recently where Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) explains why anyone born before 1973 HATES Ewoks and anyone born after loves them? It’s brilliant! Here’s a You Tube video of his thorough presentation on the subject of Ewoks. Ultimately, it was because if you are born before ’73, you were past 10 years of age when Jedi came out, and thus too old to be suckered in to the Lucas cuteness toy marketing machine.)
First, having the ability to view the films back-to-back-to-back with no waiting in-between kills any of the suspense and drama and build-up that “original” viewers experienced. This dramatic build and excruciating delayed gratification made these films far more epic than they could have ever been on their own. Having to wait three years between Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope, if you must) and Empire and then *another* three years of just hand-wringing, cliff-hanger-ness (“Is Vader really Luke’s father?” “What will happen to Han?” “Who is this Emperor?” “Did Luke blow his Jedi training?") until Jedi came out? It was torturous and cruel and delicious and a brutally wonderful bit of anticipation all at the same time. Not even to mention the 16 year gap until Episode I came out. So, from start to finish I had to wait like 28 years, whereas modern viewers need only wait the length of time it takes to change out a disc, or – in our case with the Kaleidescape – the 8 seconds it takes for a Blu-ray to start playing. I’ve written about the effects of how having things constantly available makes us less interested in them, and I’m afraid that this is going to be true with Star Wars.
Second, people viewing now go in knowing there are six films. The story arc has a definite beginning and a definite end, and is told in two trilogy sets. We now know that it is really not about Luke, but rather the rise, fall and redemption of Vader. When I walked out of Star Wars in the theater in 1977, there was none of this Episode IV nonsense. It was just Star Wars. I left thinking that I’d just seen an amazing movie, but not knowing that there would be more to come. Sure it was weird and unclosure-ey for Vader to just go spinning off into space, but the Rebels won, folks got medals, swelling John Williams score, and…scene! When Empire arrived, it was like receiving the ultimate present that I didn’t even know that I had been wanting. George looked deep into the cerebellum of American youth and knew that we all wanted more. And then he gave us the best, darkest, deepest movie of the bunch. Then, after Jedi, when the story REALLY seemed finished, and Lucas seemed to be content to go on and pursue non-Star Wars projects, sure we wanted more, but after years of waiting just figured that three oddly numbered films was all we were gonna get. Now, you know right up front that there are six.
Third, the communal experience cannot be replicated nor can it be underestimated. Standing in line for hours with people that are every bit as excited as you are? That was a *huge* part of my Star Wars experience. The costumes, the light saber fighting, the people reciting dialog. It was great to be there and to be a part of it. And then going into a cinema with hundreds of others that have been waiting for the same thing as long as you have? That hung on every line? That cheered every heroic moment and held their breath during every battle? And it makes me totally get while people would wait 8 hours in a line to get a new Apple product. You’re sharing an experience and being a part of something that others feel as strongly about as you. It’s powerful and it’s special. Star Wars was about community, and watching it with a couple of other people in a living room – no matter how awesome the playback system is – will just *never* be the same thing. And, sadly, when you get a bunch of people together now to watch any film, it often turns into a Mystery Science Theater snark-commentary-fest. I remember watching the trilogy re-release when Luke kissed Leia someone shouted out, “Eww! That’s your sister!” It got a big laugh. And spoiled a moment.
Fourth, the spoilers. Even if you can keep the “I am your father!” part secret, the expanded Star Wars universe is now EVERYWHERE. And between the video games and the Clone Wars cartoons and the books and comics and its general embedded-ness into our zeitgeist, there is no escaping Star Wars and having some delicious reveals spoiled. My daughter already knows that Yoda is a small green guy. That was a huge discovery for 13 year old me in 1983. For years I’d heard tales of the Master Jedi Warrior that had trained so many Jedi Fighters. To see him as a small green Muppet was shocking. And awesome. Obviously starting at Episode I blows the whole Yoda reveal – if it wasn’t blown already -- and the fact that Ben Kenobi isn’t just some random cave dwelling, desert crazy. But even if you start at Episode IV, the modern cuts of the films spoil themselves. George – in some desire to show that he can insert digital stuff into our analog memories -- has “given away” Jabba. That was a great reveal in the original edits, making us wonder for two films who this powerful, intergalactic gangster was. That is now ruined outside of the Cantina in what is really a throwaway scene.
For a couple of reasons, I’ve pretty much settled on starting Lauryn out with the films in the order that I viewed them. First, the original films are less “brutal” for a young viewer. It will be awhile before I feel like Lauryn is ready for the youngling slaughter of Episode III. Second, I'd like to hold off on introducing her to the damaging world of Jar-Jar too soon. I just don't think I could handle her saying, "Daddy, me-sa want-sa snackytime!" And also she loves princesses, so I’m hoping that Princess Leia will be her gateway into identifying with this galaxy far, far away. I’m also going to try and dole them out; maybe one a month on a family, big deal movie night or something. At this age, she likes to watch things over-and-over, so maybe she’ll get a couple of viewings of each one under her belt before moving on. I’m also thinking about waiting until she’s 7. Cause, that’s how old I was.
So, my question to you, dear readers, is, “What is the proper way to introduce a Star Wars virgin to the films?” Do you start with the obvious Episode I – VI order, or do you keep it in the original IV – VI and then prequel trilogy order? How have those of you with children introduced your kids to the films? Did you make them wait at least a week to build some suspense and tension? Were you able to keep the secrets secret? When is the right age to introduce your kids to the films? And, ultimately, does Star Wars mean as much to 21st century kids as it did to 20th century ones? Let me know in the comments section...
Here’s and uh-MAY-zing Public Service Announcement on talking to your kids about the Star Wars films. In case you needed any extra reason to watch it, it’s where the quote from this blog title came from…