Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Revenge is Seldom, if Ever, the Sole Property of the Lord

If my tired brain is doing the math right, the turning of the calendar to April 27 means it's 22 days until "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" hits theaters.

Now, if you grew up when I grew up, and you like the things I like, undoubtedly the original "Star Wars" trilogy was a defining experience in your life.

And even if you've been disappointed in the two more recent "Star Wars" films, "The Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones," you're probably looking forward to Episode III, on the grounds that a (relatively) dark, violent film is probably just what the series needs after a pair of overly colorful, vaguely insipid, poorly acted fiascos.

If nothing else, the title of the movie alone should clue fans in that George Lucas is doing things a little different this time around.

The word "Revenge" has particular meaning and symbolism.

You see, like many kids my age, I was part of the "Star Wars Fan Club" back when I was a boy, and I remember the days and weeks leading up to the release of the third film, known to posterity as "Return of the Jedi."

But as the movie was in post-production, well before the release, the Fan Club was hyping the film, and one way was to include a patch with one issue of the Bantha Tracks newsletter. And that patch had the title of the film: "Revenge of the Jedi."

I probably still have that patch somewhere. My parents never throw anything out. And I remember fondly my 8-year-old-size jacket that my mother carefully sewed on a variety of patches, including that one. It might even be worth something, if I only knew where it was and how to remove a patch from a child's jacket.

Lucas eventually changed the title of the film, of course, and the generally accepted reason is that revenge is an un-Jedi-like emotion. The Jedi knights rely on discipline, and that means a certain detached persona, a certain lack of emotion. And if any particular emotion can embody the sheer concept of "emotion," it's revenge. Hate is a powerful force, and as "Star Wars" fans know, it corrupts and opens the door to the Dark Side of the Force.

And now, three movies later, halfway through Anakin Skywalker's life, descent into darkness and redemption, that word "Revenge" appears again.

And the fact that Lucas has chosen to attach that word to this film speaks volumes to me as a fan, and I have seen exactly one trailer. And like all trailers, "Sith's" looks good. Lucas may not get the best performances out of his actors (and we've all seen Natalie Portman do better; if you doubt Hayden Christensen can, rent "Shattered Glass"), but he gives good trailer.

It's hard to explain how much the "Star Wars" movies mean to me. One of the reasons I love movies, one of the reasons I've dreamed of adventure, dreamed of reaching for the stars, is "Star Wars."

The majesty, the grandeur, the sheer joy of a simple film touched an innocent boy. I knew someone who hates "Star Wars" because it changed movies forever, and for the worse. Spectacle as filmmaking was a sin, he thought. I disagree.

To me, the kind of film I love is one that entertains, one that uplifts, one that inspires.

Look, as a DVD reviewer, I'm well aware that "entertaining" does not equal "great" when it comes to movies. But I don't need a great movie to enjoy. And I don't always enjoy a great movie.

A wise(ass) Jewish college colleague of mine dubbed "Schindler's List" the feel-good movie of the year.

I went to see it in a theater. With my Catholic girlfriend. The entire movie was a parade of old Jewish women bursting into tears and leaving the theater. I bought the VHS tape when it came out. I never watched it. I bought the DVD when it came out, like the good Jew I am, and watched it just long enough to check the disc and ensure that someday, when I have children, I can use this film to help explain to them who we are, as a culture, and why we must never forget there are people out there who hate us.

But until then, I don't plan on watching it. I don't watch movies to be depressed. My life is depressing enough. I watch movies to be inspired, to have fun, to put my overtaxed brain on hold for a while.

And no movie has ever inspired me like "Star Wars." Maybe it was because I was an impressionable boy. But I don't think so. Because to this day, I cannot hear the opening bars of John Williams' classic theme without feeling a stirring in my heart, in my soul.

I'm not obsessed with these films the way some people are (read: I don't dress like Princess Leia, at least not in public), but that doesn't mean I don't love them. My "Star Wars" toys, as I've said, were the ones I loved more than any others, remember more fondly than any others. I own the original trilogy on DVD, and I even own the two crappy films in the current trilogy.

And I can't wait for "Revenge of the Sith." The title alone gives me hope this will be a movie I've been waiting for through four dreadful hours of Jar-Jar Binks.

I will give Lucas credit for one thing, though: He got an older actor, Christensen, to match the same wooden performance given by the child actor, Jake Lloyd, playing the role in the prior film. Ewan McGregor may never grow into Sir Alec Guiness, relatively speaking, but I can believe Jake Lloyd grew up to be Hayden Christensen.

And that innocent boy who loved "Star Wars" a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away has grown up into a jaded adult too often overwhelmed by the dreary mundaneness of the "real world," but somewhere inside me, there's still hope, there's still dreams, there's still someone who hears the strains of the "Star Wars" theme and still believes he can reach the stars. Every single time, it puts a smile on my face and a joy in my soul.

Bring on May 19th! I can't wait.

The official "Star Wars" site
The official "Star Wars" Fan Club, in its latest incarnation
This page has a picture of a patch like mine
"Shattered Glass," about an idiot who disgraced my profession
And "Schindler's List," for something completely different

And since I offered up a bonus link to Jessie Biel yesterday, in lieu of a witty kicker at the end of the post, how about Natalie Portman today?

Bonus link:
Bonus link No. 2: the Natalie Portman Empire (and you thought only Martha Stewart had an empire?)

1 Comment:

Stewie said...

Good call on the Lloyd suck acting to the Hayden suck acting.

Glad you finally saw Shattered Glass. And you are correct, Hayden did a much better job in that flick.