'Star Wars' Producer Gary Kurtz Reflects
April 19, 2011 7:12 AM   Subscribe

'Star Wars' Producer Gary Kurtz Reflects When George Lucas and I began planning the first film, we had no idea what it would become; the kind of devotion it would attract... So what was it that made Star Wars so different, so special? I can give you one small example of the kind of care we took when putting the film together...
posted by modernnomad (132 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm in my early thirties, work in a hyper-geeky profession, and I still don't get the fuss over Star Wars.
posted by The Giant Squid at 7:21 AM on April 19, 2011 [12 favorites]


Heh, despite posting this, that was my first thought too The Giant Squid. Despite being 'of the right age' to associate Star Wars with my childhood, I never saw them until the re-releases in the late 90s. I enjoyed them, but I could never understand the devotion of those who saw them countless times. I assumed it was because there was no link with a 'childhood experience' or something, but then people see countless movies when they are kids are don't necessarily develop near-obsessive tendencies about them.
posted by modernnomad at 7:26 AM on April 19, 2011


I still don't get the fuss over Star Wars.

I seriously don't want to turn this into a SW vs ST thread, but: Had you watched Star Trek previously? That's how I was. I saw the movie on TV (maybe another reason it never struck me that much) and kind of thought "cool lasers, but couldn't they just be on horses with the same story?"

The article mentions how the movie SF of that era was gloomy and apocalyptic and SW was a breath of fresh, optimistic air. But ST was already optimistic. Maybe that's it? I wasn't coming from a movie culture, I was coming from a book and to a lesser extent TV culture. From that POV, SW is pretty crappy SF.
posted by DU at 7:28 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The more people talk about Star Wars, the happier I am that I've never seen it.
posted by joannemullen at 7:29 AM on April 19, 2011


...and I still don't get the fuss over Star Wars.

While I share your feelings about the fetish surrounding SW among younger geeks, I completely understand the effect the movie had on those of us who were there when it premiered.

Frankly, we had never seen anything like it. It so completely, and convincingly, created this exciting alternate universe, full of eye-candy, ear-candy and a rip-roaring good-vs-evil melodrama. All aimed squarely at young people. It was for us, and we owned the crap out of it.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:29 AM on April 19, 2011 [23 favorites]


Star Wars fans (of which I am sort of one) have become like Grateful Dead fans. No one else cares about the story behind this chord change in this live version of this song.
posted by Legomancer at 7:29 AM on April 19, 2011 [13 favorites]


Frankly, we had never seen anything like it.

The more I think about it, the more I think I'm more right in my second paragraph above. You could have seen stuff like this at the very least in your imagination reading SF and to some extent on TV. It isn't Star Trek per se it's the fact that you were probably a movie person.

I think I was closer to 15 than to 10 before I saw my first movie in an actual theater. I was definitely a book person. Star Wars is a milestone in movie history but not really a milestone in science fiction history, if you see the difference.
posted by DU at 7:33 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm in my early thirties, work in a hyper-geeky profession, and I still don't get the fuss over Star Wars.

I'm 41 now and I think I was at the perfect age for Star Wars when it first came out. The first fifteen minutes of that movie was probably the most mind-blowing thing I had ever seen.

When and where did you first see Star Wars? I ask because I saw The Matrix for the first time on a shitty TV via VHS and I just didn't get what the fuss was about. Perhaps I would have thought differently if I had seen it on a big screen.

I've always suspected if I saw Star Wars for the first time as a teenager or adult I would have hated it. I'm glad I was in first grade when I saw it.

I didn't care for the prequels (though I'm not bitter about them, nor do I feel like Lucas owed me anything or otherwise stole anything from my childhood or anything like that) and I'm not into the expanded universe (even saying that makes me want to throw things) but I'm glad I got to experience those first three movies when I did, back when you pretty much had to wait for the film to come out before you knew anything at all about it and back when you just talked about it with your friends and didn't get into arguments about it on some global network of obsessive fanboys.
posted by bondcliff at 7:34 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Had you watched Star Trek previously?

I did watch ST, TNG, Blake's Seven, Red Dwarf, and Doctor Who (up to the seventh doctor) with my mother.

Thinking it over, being exposed to it regularly from a young age probably made SF pretty dull and commonplace for me.

My mom also let me watch Twin Peaks with her. For that, she earns copious amounts of cred.
posted by The Giant Squid at 7:35 AM on April 19, 2011


Give me a break. Star Wars was a fine movie for 8-9 year old kids, but the devotion I see 35 year old men giving it is beyond ridiculous.
posted by tunewell at 7:36 AM on April 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


I guess the new MetaFilter "cool" is to not "get the fuss over Star Wars."
posted by MsVader at 7:37 AM on April 19, 2011 [48 favorites]


From the article:

In 1977 only a few thousand people knew about Star Wars when it first arrived in cinemas, but it spread like wildfire and soon there were queues everywhere. These days you would never see that because everybody gets into the first screening they want to get into, even if the movie is doing really well. Back then a film might open in just a few cinemas nationwide.

He seems to be ignoring the fact that this is still how independent films tend to open. Napoleon Dynamite, for example, opened in six theaters in the US upon its initial limited release, and even when it was given a wide release later that year it made less than 5% of what would end up being its total domestic gross. Mainstream Hollywood blockbusters are definitely more focused on the opening weekend than they were back in the 70s, but Star Wars wasn't originally supposed to be a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster either.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:38 AM on April 19, 2011


I was saying I didn't get the fuss over Star Wars before it was cool.
posted by DU at 7:40 AM on April 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Star Wars fans (of which I am sort of one) have become like Grateful Dead fans. No one else cares about the story behind this chord change in this live version of this song.

The chord change isn't really understood fully unless you also factor in the contributing effect of the lighting, but you have to remember to also consider the lighting design from the stage's POV not just the audiences...
posted by mikelieman at 7:41 AM on April 19, 2011


Legomancer:
Star Wars fans (of which I am sort of one) have become like Grateful Dead fans. No one else cares about the story behind this chord change in this live version of this song.


Yes. I am of the latter group. I can't stand SW, but I could listen to Phil, Bobby, Mickey, Bill and Jerry all day long.
posted by zombieApoc at 7:43 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm 41 now and I think I was at the perfect age for Star Wars when it first came out.

My wife adored Tron. Watched it dozens of times. Wanted to see Tron:Legacy for her birthday.

Last night, I watched the original Tron for the first time. I was struck by how godawful it was. Special-effects, rotoscoping, and CG-innovations aside, it was a total shit film.

She begrudgingly admitted it too.

Then again, I think Hudson Hawk is Bruce Willis' finest work, so what do I know?
posted by The Giant Squid at 7:45 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, I'm a late 20s woman who first saw Star Wars in 7th grade during the Special Edition re-releases in the 1990s, and I am a passionate Star Wars geek who can out-Star-Wars most other self-proclaimed geeks.

But I'm not sure the article says anything especially compelling as to why it's so amazing. I'm sure they took a lot of care in the filmmaking, but I'm not sure that just "allowing" George Lucas to "get on" with the work he was so good at ("directing", supposedly) is what made it so great. Let's face it, a lot of the acting is crap and the special effects, while impressive originally, now look cheesy. But the story is archetypical good vs evil, it's a story of redemption, the characters are well-written if not well-acted and are sympathetic in a lot of different ways, and they have a totally badass bad guy. The made-up parts of the universe -- lightsabers, blasters, the Force, travel at light speed, funky aliens, robots everywhere -- is exciting and appealing. It's a universe that opens up a lot of room for imagination and creativity (hence the number and popularity of post-RotJ books... which I read religiously up until they stared that New Jedi Order bullshit). You can say this about a lot of stories, sure -- Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, etc -- but for some people -- me included -- something about Star Wars just particularly resonated.

Note: all of the above is not relevant for the prequels. Let us not speak of them.

So who wants to hear about why they put in the wampa scene in Empire Strikes Back? Or how many actors it actually took to play Darth Vader? Or how Ewoks came to be? I'VE GOT MORE, PEOPLE
posted by olinerd at 7:45 AM on April 19, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'm in my early thirties, work in a hyper-geeky profession, and I still don't get the fuss over Star Wars.

I loved, loved, loved the movie as a kid. I remember the first time I saw it, with my dad - my mind was blown.

I had seen star trek - which at that point was a 10 years old TV show. The ST movie didn't come out for another three years after Star Wars anyway. Other SF weren't very accessible to kids : 2001 ? Planet of the Apes ? Even Space:1999 wasn't that great.

A I identified so hard with Luke - a misfit, too big for his britches kid, who was in over his head in almost any situation.

I hated the prequels, and lots of the other stuff that came after. But that night, in 1978, when I was riding home from the movie in the front seat of my dads 67 Rambler - that was the first time I thought about the future and it. was. awesome.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:46 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


My wife adored Tron. Watched it dozens of times.

Yeah, I'm kind of afraid to re-watch Tron. It was the coolest thing ever back when it came out but I know if I watched it now I'd hate it. I'm thinking War Games might be the same way.
posted by bondcliff at 7:47 AM on April 19, 2011


Oh, and FWIW, I was raised a Trekkie and went to my first con when I was in second grade. Yet I've always been far more geeky about the Star Wars universe than about the Star Trek universe.
posted by olinerd at 7:48 AM on April 19, 2011


Well, at leat nobody's brought up LOTR, or we'd have to summon Randal Graves.
posted by jonmc at 7:50 AM on April 19, 2011


Don't be! The Full Tron Film is on YouTube in a single video, go for it!.
posted by cashman at 7:52 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I watched Star Trek, and saw Star Wars open when I was 9. The thing that made Star Wars special was the fact that they created a really believable universe. There was dirt, and broken down machines, and signs of lived-in-ness everywhere.
Compare that with the Star Trek reruns, where everything was clean and sterile, and not-quite-believable, even if you were willing to suspend your disbelief.
posted by bashos_frog at 7:55 AM on April 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


War Games is still pretty awesome.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:57 AM on April 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


Star Wars gave kids teams. You could have an entire neighborhood demarcated based on whether or not your block was Rebel Alliance or Jedis or Ewoks or Storm Troopers or Sith or whatever. I remember a lot of almost tribal identification going on, like how sports fans talk about their wistful days of growing up and becoming a fan of a given team.

That early identification sticks with you and becomes part of your personal mythology.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:57 AM on April 19, 2011


Star Wars fans (of which I am sort of one) have become like Grateful Dead fans.

Yes. Neither group can have a MeFi thread go more than three comments without someone being unable to conquer the urge to post "your favorite band/movie sucks."
posted by ibmcginty at 7:59 AM on April 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


Star Wars' magic has a lot to do with the ambience of it's origins. Anyone in their 40's can likely recall what they endured to see it. For me, it was travelling 30" into downtown DC, standing in line at an ancient theatre in the summer heat and understanding, for the first time, why a big screen mattered. And I still remember the entire prior day imagining what it would be like after my Dad told me we were going. It felt completely unreal.And the article makes a great point. The sound was incredible. I never really considered that, but I think it is true.
posted by docpops at 8:00 AM on April 19, 2011


There was NOTHING like Star Wars until it debuted in 1977. NOTHING.

The impact, for those of us there at the time, was and remains completely unrivaled. It's almost impossible to appreciate in retrospect.
posted by Aquaman at 8:04 AM on April 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


Anyone in their 40's can likely recall what they endured to see it.

I can't, because I never saw it on a big screen. I didn't see it until I was in my late 20s, and I didn't understand the fuss when it came out when I was in elementary school and still didn't understand the fuss when I actually finally saw it on the small screen, either. I guess that makes me an exception to the "anyone."

Adding: I do understand intellectually why it's an iconic movie, so I'm not just jumping in to threadshit. The movie's just never had any emotional impact on me of any kind beyond "Wow, that was yet another huge communal event for people my age that I was never a part of." (There were many of those.)
posted by blucevalo at 8:10 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


One thing that may help understand how awesome Star Wars was at the time is a working knowledge of what the rest of SF cinema was doing in the late '70s. For example.

It didn't hurt that Star Wars took a lot of cues from one of the classics (among many others).
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:10 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was NOTHING like Star Wars until it debuted in 1977.

In movie theaters. There were bookshelves full of the stuff from the 30s onward. In fact, there were at least two new waves of written SF after the space opera that Star Wars most resembles.
posted by DU at 8:11 AM on April 19, 2011


Though I am almost afraid to frame it this way, Star Wars, like so many other bits of culture, must be considered in the context in which it arrived. As others above have said, kids in the seventies did not have a lot of science fiction to choose from: most of what was out there was self-serious (2001, Silent Running) or silly (Planet of the Apes) or crappy (Logan's Run) or several of the above (Space: 1999, Starlost). Star Trek was actually passably good, but it had been off the air since before many of us were born. It was just a totally different and unprecedented experience for us nine-year-olds: it was like finding an escape from a cage we didn't know we had been in.

Consider music for a moment to get a different perspective: Bob Dylan was celebrated in his early career for his lyrics. The weeks before his first album was released, the biggest hits in the US had been "The Peppermint Twist" and "Duke of Earl." Jimi Hendrix's guitar playing made quite a splash; it sounds good now, but when you consider that when he began recording his first album, the limpid "Cherish" by the Association was on the top of the charts, it is staggering to realize how far ahead of the pack he was.

The view of Star Wars is now occulded not only by the many imitators that followed it, but by the decline of the critical opinion of George Lucas himself. It is hard to recollect or even conceive post-Jar Jar, post-Ewoks, post-breakfast cereals*, post-toys, that Star Wars was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Weird, I know, but you had to be there to get it.

* Heh.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:11 AM on April 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


Superego has collected some reflections by Irvin Kershner (not actually, but I think these are hilarious).
posted by cnanderson at 8:12 AM on April 19, 2011


Star Wars' popularity has no single easy to point at reason. The story arc has been done, the film editing was different, the sound was unique, but that's not enough to make something take over pop culture.

I think one of the reasons it worked so well for kids my age (~5 when the first flick came out, PERFECT age for Jedi when the toy market was where all the action was) was simply that he put a world on screen that seemed like it was just as interesting for what wasn't in the story as what was. You could act out the movie scenes with the toys, of which your cousin always had more (still totally jealous of all the crap she had!), but it was more fun to create your own. In a tangible way that books just don't work with siblings, cousins, neighborhood friends.
posted by DigDoug at 8:14 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


But I'm not sure the article says anything especially compelling as to why it's so amazing

The article says "So what was it that made Star Wars so different, so special? I can give you one small example of the kind of care we took when putting the film together." Then it goes on to explain the care they took in designing amazing sound effects.

Never-before-seen innovation and creativity in sound design. That's pretty special. If that example is indicative of the care they took with the rest of the movie, then yeah, this article explains why it is so amazing.
posted by 3FLryan at 8:14 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think age at theatrical release is the key. My brother saw it in the theatre, not a huge fan today but I recall how he was raving about it for weeks, months probably. Me, I was too young in 1977 and couldn't care less. When I was a teenager the 'alternative guys' would host a star wars allnighter every so often in their den with all the films and a huge TV. As I recall I was bored out of my skull, and god forbid I asked any questions like "why is Leah tied up in a metal bikini?" or the guys would lunge into long explanatory rants about every.single.detail.unfolding.on.screen. Between films the ever-ongoing debate about about which film was better would get pretty loud and the most fun I had was taking bets on who would win the argument.

Had I seen it in 77, I would probably be the loudest arguer.
posted by dabitch at 8:16 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Going to see Star Wars was a reward from my Dad for something. I forget what I had done to deserve a reward, but I do remember not being bothered about the prize because I'd never heard of it. We went, and the cinema had a glitter ball that they turned on when the lights went down. And I was hooked from there on.

When Empire came out my entire school was abuzz. My teacher had been to see it before any of the kids, and everyone was firing questions at him. I begged and begged to go see it and my Dad, after a thin show of resistance, relented.

When Jedi came out I didn't go. As I recall I didn't even ask. At a friend's birthday party they hired the tape and put it on. We made a token effort of watching but would rather have been outside playing, which is ultimately what we did.

I didn't see the whole of Jedi until *years* later when the special editions came out. My lack of interest in RotJ is oe of the most confusing things about my past. I was so obsessed with the others, had seen nothing at all to put me off and yet couldn't care less about it. I didn't even know Ewoks existed so it wasn't that.
posted by vbfg at 8:20 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


or crappy (Logan's Run)

Oh man, I just saw Logan's Run for the first time last summer and I absolutely loved it! Now I hear that they want to do a remake, and lower the age at which one is supposed to be terminated (I guess 30 y.o. is not sexy enough for hollywood. It must be the new 70).
posted by bitteroldman at 8:24 AM on April 19, 2011


So what was it that made Star Wars so different, so special?

Hold on, lemme take a hit of this hash oil laced Thai weed and think about that for a second. Tsssssoooooooofffffff.....

snk

snk
posted by Splunge at 8:27 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Star Wars created a universe for kids imaginations to inhabit. That's why they liked it and got so mad at Lucas for messing with it.
posted by Avenger at 8:28 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Metafilter doesnt really care for Star Wars but loves Alien? I really do belong here!
posted by Brainy at 8:30 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone in their 40's can likely recall what they endured to see it. For me, it was travelling 30" into downtown DC

DA-DA-DUM
DA-DA-DUM

SITH-HENGE! Where the sith lords dwell...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:30 AM on April 19, 2011 [13 favorites]


bondcliff: "I ask because I saw The Matrix for the first time on a shitty TV via VHS and I just didn't get what the fuss was about. Perhaps I would have thought differently if I had seen it on a big screen."

I saw it on the big screen on opening day. It doesn't help.

I loved Star Wars as a kid, but it just doesn't hold up for me anymore. I will say that there are individual sequences and moments in the original trilogy that are really golden. They're at least worthwhile on the level of production design and effects work.
posted by brundlefly at 8:30 AM on April 19, 2011


bitteroldman: "Oh man, I just saw Logan's Run for the first time last summer and I absolutely loved it! Now I hear that they want to do a remake, and lower the age at which one is supposed to be terminated (I guess 30 y.o. is not sexy enough for hollywood. It must be the new 70)."

That's from the original book, termination age was 21. The movie moved it up to 30 so that they could cast young adults instead of teen-agers.
posted by octothorpe at 8:31 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Back before people realized that 30 year-olds could play teenagers and nobody would care.
posted by brundlefly at 8:33 AM on April 19, 2011


I think the producer in the FPP put his finger on why Star Wars was originally successful - the attention to the special effects created a sensual experience that was mindblowing for the time. This also explains why decades later, people who were originally knocked off their feet by the movie feel that it hasn't aged well. The sfx are now old hat, and the creaky storyline and cardboard characters make for a blase film.

It's interesting that the model for the Star Wars films was the Flash Gordon serials of the 30s. Twenty or thirty years from now Star Wars will be seen in the same way: mostly harmless, bubblegum movies
posted by storybored at 8:34 AM on April 19, 2011


Oh man, I just saw Logan's Run for the first time last summer and I absolutely loved it! Now I hear that they want to do a remake, and lower the age at which one is supposed to be terminated (I guess 30 y.o. is not sexy enough for hollywood. It must be the new 70).

For what it's worth, the original novel had Carousel at age 21. I suspect the film advancing the age to 30 was because of the casting of Michael York and Richard Jordan (both of whom were in their thirties during filming and might have passed as twentysomething, but not as teenagers.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:35 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


D'oh.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:36 AM on April 19, 2011


In movie theaters.

Duh, Colonel Pedantic. I think my intent was obvious from the context.

Having been a huge sci-fi reader for the decade before Star Wars arrived, to actually SEE the stuff I had read about, and not have it be a goofy costume and some clown makeup, was utterly mind-blowing.
posted by Aquaman at 8:37 AM on April 19, 2011


I FUCKING LOVE STAR WARS!!!!!!
posted by arveale at 8:37 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Give me a break. Star Wars was a fine movie for 8-9 year old kids, but the devotion I see 35 year old men giving it is beyond ridiculous.
It's not ridiculous. I'm 22, so I'm not quite at your target there, but Star Wars meant a lot to me. It was the first series that really drew me in as a 6yo kid, and the heart that Lucas et al. put in that first trilogy really helped me in my evolving understanding of stories and universes.

Sure, a lot of the context turns it into just another cheesy sci-fi film, but when I was 6 I didn't have that context and I loved every minute of it. Now, I still love the feeling I get from watching Star Wars—it makes me feel like a kid again (albeit somewhat removed from the original experience, since I'm not frequently sick or having to go to bed at 8pm).
posted by willhopkins at 8:37 AM on April 19, 2011


I think a big part of Star Wars, although one that doesn't get credited very often in discussions like these, is the music. Seriously, John Williams' music for the three movies is fucking amazing. Would Darth Vader have such an impact on screen, for example, without the Imperial March?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:37 AM on April 19, 2011 [20 favorites]


Never-before-seen innovation and creativity in sound design.

They found some young creative person and gave him free reign to innovate. That's not "never-before-seen," that's pretty much what every scrappy low-budget creative team has done, since well before these dudes.
posted by hermitosis at 8:39 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The score was pretty freaking good too, by the by. The leitmotivs and such... The "Luke becomes a Jedi Knight" motif in this moment of Binary Sunset still gives me the tingle to this day.

On preview, what monju just said.
posted by BeerFilter at 8:40 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Would Darth Vader have such an impact on screen, for example, without the Imperial March?

I am not sure if this is supposed to be a joke, but he did. The Imperial March does not appear until TESB.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:40 AM on April 19, 2011


The Imperial March does not appear until TESB.

Heh. Well, in my defense, TESB was the first movie I saw in the theater, so...
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:42 AM on April 19, 2011


I can get the idea that seeing it in a theatre first made a real impact. For me it was part of a crazy awesome summer during which my family got HBO and our first VCR. ('79? '80? I remember playing a lot of Atari that year as well...) Star Wars never had a chance with me next to the movies I watched to the point of obsession and memorization that year - Race For Your Life Charlie Brown, 9 To 5, and especially Xanadu. If eBay were flooded with awesome Kira & Sonny toys I'd be right there with y'all (and my total SW-geek wife).

Early in my career at ye olde large chain bookstore I was in the middle of a conversation with someone buying four or five of the SW novels and kind of lambasting me for not being a sci-fi fan. When I mentioned that I was a huge Douglas Adams supporter I literally had to listen to an hour-plus "NO NO NO 'HITCHHIKER'S' IS HUMOR WRITING AND NOT TRUE SCIENCE FICTION AND HERE ARE A SKAZILLION REASONS WHY" lecture. It's a mistake I only made once.
posted by mintcake! at 8:46 AM on April 19, 2011


I saw Star Wars as a kid during one of the re-releases in the 80's and totally loved it. It had robots, freaky looking aliens, huge spaceships, and mystical space kung fu. It was AWESOME.

These days, people dress up as zombies and go shuffling through the streets, take sides on vampire vs. werewolf sagas, dress up as anime characters and make music videos, etc.

It's all geeky, it's all ridiculous and it's all fun.
posted by yeloson at 8:52 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


More guesses as to why Star Wars got over so big among my age cohort:

- it followed a whiny kid
- whose fake family was cruelly murdered and oh god you can see the bones
- who joins up with an awesome granddad, a cool older brother, a cute (but tough!) girl, two pets/servants/slaves/whatever (who do what he wants even if they complain about it but also let him act out fatherhood stuff)
- the first things they do are lie to cops and go to a bar
- which is FULL OF MONSTERS (echoing the earlier Jawa sequence which was FULL OF ROBOTS, most with identifiably different designs and thus functions)
- and it all leads toward him confronting SCARY REAL DAD, not only getting a hot car (X-Wing) but having others acknowledge his skill with it by making him Red Leader, getting Cool Scars...
- at the end there are medals, and the friendly monster makes his scary friendly monster noise and Luke doesn't pee his pants, and he's with cool older brother guy who he thinks he talked into returning. WHO'S A WHINY JERK NOW?

...and people wonder why it hooked its claws so deeply into a generation's psyche? It's pure social-role ego fulfillment, and I don't mean that in a bad way, and also MONSTERS and ROBOTS.
posted by jtron at 8:52 AM on April 19, 2011 [37 favorites]


For all the haters: I'll see you in the Sarlacc pit.
posted by notion at 8:52 AM on April 19, 2011


Quel surprise. A comments section riddled with Star Wars bashing. I was among those in the line-ups when it hit the Somerset Theatre in Ottawa. When the lights when down and the screen opened with that instant action sequence and the thundering John Williams score, I was utterly blown away -- lost for two hours in everything a good movie was (and to my mind, still is) -- a complete entertainment escape. I still recall checking my watch only when Han and Luke were receiving their medals, and being stunned at how fast that much time appeared to have passed.

That, incidentlly, was just a few weeks after being at an Eddie Fisher concert and, during a chatty aside with the audience, he spoke about how he hoped his daughter would be able to enjoy the career success he had -- but wasn't sure because she had been working of late on a just-about-to-be-released "space movie or something" and he had his doubts.

(I can hear the chorus of "Eddie Who?"s from here.)

Nothing -- NOTHING -- since has ever truly re-captured the sense of awe and magic that flowed across the screen for that rapt audience -- and me -- in the Somerset Theatre that night.

No 3-D. No IMAX. So why was it thus? Simple -- it was unlike any sci-fl film to that point. (But wait! You say, What about 2001? Visually stunning -- absolutely -- but requiring a PhD in philosophy to give it any sense.)

Multiple nods to the old Buck Rogers / Flash Gordon serials, action that combined with a witty, frequently comical script that didn't feel it necessary to pause and explain to the audience what was happening, an utterly classic villain, an unbelievable musical score that gave each character his or her own theme, a perfect cast that ranged from upstart newbies to Sir Alec Guinness. And an obviously HUGE budget that breathed a stratospheric respect into a genre that, previously, for the most part didn't much care if the spaceships streaming through space trailed clouds of smoke that fell away because of the studio's location in a gravity-filled environment.

Suck it up youngsters. Some of us remember where we were and what we were doing when JFK was shot; and some of us also remember the power and the passion of having our Star Wars cherry popped.
posted by Mike D at 8:56 AM on April 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm not a huge Star Wars franchise fan at all.

But the original Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back? They were great and both hold up well, IMO, for what they intended to be: Two hours of fun that pushed certain buttons and wasn't too heavy. Visually, it was stunning (the Avatar of its day) with a whole imaginary world laid out before you like a feast

Return of the Jedi was a problem because I think Lucas started to buy into the the hype of how wonderful and deep it all was and got bogged down with trying to maintain that imaginary level. He forgot how to have fun and project wonder and excitement onto the screen. He didn't remember how to do that until the first 15 minutes of the Revenge of the Sith.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:00 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Star Wars, like Star Trek TOS, is one of those few examples in any genre where everything comes together perfectly. As such, it is not just a classic science fiction film, but a classic of American cinema. Consider: every other shot in this film is iconic. For someone to say, "I'm glad I've never seen Star Wars" is just ignorance. That's like saying, "I'm glad I've never seen the Godfather, or Singing in the Rain, or North by Northwest."
posted by jabah at 9:01 AM on April 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Star Wars turned me on to a long-time love for classic movies and serials. Some of them are cheesy, but so what? I enjoy them. I don't require the pretense that my tribal rituals are more highbrow than other people's to have fun.

(Also, the sexiness of Han Solo. "I love you." "I know.": the exchange that carbonated the hormones of a significant fraction of the girls of my age group. Yum.)
posted by immlass at 9:02 AM on April 19, 2011


Kind of a skimpy article... alas!
posted by Theta States at 9:02 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


A fellow MeFite (sorry, I can't remember who you are!) linked to this excellent article the other day on the unsung contributions of Marcia Lucas, George's first wife and editor of Star Wars, who helped give the film its heart.

This led me to Star Wars Memories, a collection of first hand descriptions of what it was like to see Star Wars when it first came out 1977. Good stuff.
posted by Missiles K. Monster at 9:03 AM on April 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


I also am too cool to ever have been a fan of Star Wars. You should see me rock the fedora.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:09 AM on April 19, 2011


The article says "So what was it that made Star Wars so different, so special? I can give you one small example of the kind of care we took when putting the film together." Then it goes on to explain the care they took in designing amazing sound effects.

But that's kind of my point. The sound effects, etc aren't what did it for me in 1997 after Jurassic Park and other "latest and greatest" movies came out. Maybe it was amazing in 1977, but despite getting to know the movies in an entirely different context, I still thought they were incredible -- and I think it's because of the story, the characters, and the universe.
posted by olinerd at 9:12 AM on April 19, 2011


I am the average gen-X Star Wars fan. I saw them in the theatre as a small kid, loved them immensely, was disappointed by the prequels, like to make fun of George Lucas. Then a funny thing happened. I had a kid. He's four now, and he loves Star Wars too (the prequels do not exist in our house). He likes to watch specific parts of them, which he will ask for (the "Spaceship part" is the attack on the Death Star, for example; and the "Chomping Part" is the scene in Jabba's palace that includes the Rancor).

It's basically restored the magic for me. When you can see the movie through the eyes of its target audience, it reminds you of what it was supposed to be-- fun entertainment. And they work so very well for that.

(I do have at least one big quibble for Lucas and ROTJ. Would it have killed them to make the DVD chapters split between the interminable Luke vs. the Emperor parts and the Endor/Death Star battle? My kid hates that part, and I don't blame him. It's overlong, momentum killing, and boring.)
posted by norm at 9:21 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure that msvader can really be objective in this matter.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:28 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I saw Star Wars in the theatre when I was six years old - the first movie I ever saw. While the first three movies have stood the test of time, I hate the "prequels".

My own son, now 8 years old, loves all things Star Wars, especially "The Clone Wars". He knows all the names of all the characters. Who the fuck is Commander Cody?

We recently purchased the new Lego Star Wars game for Wii. It's pretty cool and immersive, but it's not as engaging as the original Lego Star Wars games, as I have no idea what the story is all about.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:31 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Haters gonna hate.
posted by grubi at 9:35 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Logan's Run is the best movie to watch on the eve of your 30th birthday, bar none. Even better with a group of friends and copious booze.
posted by chowflap at 9:39 AM on April 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm not going to defend Star Wars fandom, but I love it, I love it all; I can quote significant portions of the crappy prequels even though I think they are crap.

It's easier to understand if you Star Wars as more than just a series of ultimately middling movies.

It was this multi-layered extravaganza that permeated every portion of a young person's life between 1977 and 1986, and then even after that. It was a full immersive experience on levels between the movie theater and the television, between pajamas and Halloween costumes, between the glass I drank out of at dinner and the lunch pail I brought to school. It bonded nerds to jocks, little kids to big kids, brown kids with white kids. It was a common thread and cultural experience, but unlike a disaster, it was a common experience that we all wanted, that we all needed, that we all invited.

That rationalization is very personal to me. I'm not sure I really like it when I see other attempts to pick apart and explain why Star Wars was such a phenomenon. I am free to admit that my love of Star Wars is irrational, ultimately. I think that the only reason anybody would want to find the key to it is so they can mass-market it, which I am solidly against.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:40 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


They found some young creative person and gave him free reign to innovate. That's not "never-before-seen," that's pretty much what every scrappy low-budget creative team has done, since well before these dudes.

Well, according to the article the sound design was never before [heard], and I believe them because I'll be damned if those aren't some of the most iconic sound effects in the history of cinema (light saber activation, R2D2 beeps, lasers, TIE Fighter flybys, etc.). Maybe the method was used previously but the results certainly weren't matched.
posted by 3FLryan at 9:43 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The sound effects, etc aren't what did it for me in 1997 after Jurassic Park and other "latest and greatest" movies came out

To each his own. Personally I still get a sense of wonder when I hear a TIE Fighter flyby.
posted by 3FLryan at 9:46 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]




Note: Gary Kurtz produced the only two Star Wars movies which are more or less held up as quality out of the 6-film series.
posted by hippybear at 9:52 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The story is mythic; young man of uncertain parentage is befriended by a powerful wizard and uses his father's sword to save the kingdom. It's a fun movie, not terribly violent, with a strong sense of good vs. evil. I still remember the 1st time I watched it w/ my son. At the time it came out, we seemed to be ready for the sort of uncynical message it portrayed. And the effects were ground-breaking.
posted by theora55 at 9:54 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen Joseph Campbell mentioned in this thread yet, so I'll just add: a lot of the appeal of the story is that it was based heavily on Campbell's The Hero's Journey archetypal myth. Campbell had a gift for pulling out of various myths the elements that make them so compelling for people, such that we see variations on certain themes throughout history in different cultures.

The hero goes off to find his father, etc. There's more to it but Lucas even invited Campbell to his ranch to watch the original trilogy, so there was an explicit acknowledgement there.
posted by marble at 9:55 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


For me it was a combination of a lot of things already rehashed here: I was at the perfect age for my imagination to be captured when Empire Strikes back and Return of the Jedi came out... and Star Wars was re-released in theaters in the early 80s, so I did get to see all three on the big screen, with big sound. Archetypical characters. Cool costumes and creatures. Blasters and spaceships and Imperial walkers and speeder bike chases and an overall design aesthetic that felt internally consistent and believable. A bonus for me was that it was also valuable social currency to be able to talk about Star Wars with other kids my age, because I didn't always have much else in common with them. It was definitely a communal phenomenon.

All of this was at a gut, fundamental level, though; it was just an exciting, fun to watch and interesting to look at trilogy of movies, and the trivia back then was all about the names of background characters and vehicles. This was before the never-ending stream of "behind the scenes" books and DVD extras, and the internet with its endless nitpicking and over-explanation of every little thing in the background of every scene. I mean, in the early 80's all it took to be a Star Wars geek was knowing that Boba Fett's ship was called Slave I. By the 1990's, you weren't a Star Wars geek unless you knew that Slave I's design was based on a street lamp. By the 2000's, you weren't a Star Wars geek unless you knew that actually Slave I was originally based on a radar dish but George Lucas saw the sketch from an oblique angle and assumed it was an oval and that's why the model builders thought it was inspired by a street lamp blah blah blah.... Talk about sucking the fun out of what used to just be a weird-looking spaceship with an odd name!

Before I ask you to get off my lawn let me also say: as far as spaceship special effects are concerned give me stop-motion shots of well-built miniatures over CGI any day.
posted by usonian at 9:59 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The thing that made Star Wars special was the fact that they created a really believable universe. There was dirt, and broken down machines, and signs of lived-in-ness everywhere.

Yes. This, exactly. I spent a fair chunk of my childhood imagination-time living in the Star Wars universe. It was the kind of place where you could imagine showing up as an ordinary person, buying some rattletrap spaceship, and zipping off into the great beyond to have great adventures outrunning the cops, dodging asteroids, and blowing things up with laser guns. You didn't have to be anyone special to own a spaceship or a robot or a laser gun in the Star Wars universe; everyone had them, they were just part of the scenery.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:01 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Early in my career at ye olde large chain bookstore I was in the middle of a conversation with someone buying four or five of the SW novels and kind of lambasting me for not being a sci-fi fan. When I mentioned that I was a huge Douglas Adams supporter I literally had to listen to an hour-plus "NO NO NO 'HITCHHIKER'S' IS HUMOR WRITING AND NOT TRUE SCIENCE FICTION AND HERE ARE A SKAZILLION REASONS WHY" lecture.

This is hilarious, since Star Wars is clearly not science fiction, but a sub-genre of fantasy, given that it has: 1) wizards 2) magic swords 3) people who are the embodiment of evil. You could set the whole thing in Medieval England and the story wouldn't change at all. This is not true of, say, Solaris.
posted by IjonTichy at 10:20 AM on April 19, 2011


My .02 (which is what this thing is for) - the nostalgia is not for the movie; it's for one's childhood sense of wonder. It's hard to explain to modern people audiences but when Star Wars first came along, there had never really been anything like it before.

The sense i feel when watching those movies is not "isn't this cool" but "I remember when I first saw this, that it seemed like the world was so full of possibilities."

Also - it's a lingua franca, like many movies. A shared experience for starting conversations, naming things and bumping memes ("There is do, or do not. There is no try."). The value is not intrinsic but in context.

So - it's a Gen X+geek+love of melodrama thing. The farther you are outside of that Venn diagram, the less likely you are to embrace it.
posted by lon_star at 10:30 AM on April 19, 2011


IjonTichy: you couldn't do it as a romance of a sad knight who confronts an apparition of his dead wife at a fey lake while on a distant mission for his King?
posted by jtron at 10:34 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Then again, I think Hudson Hawk is Bruce Willis' finest work, so what do I know?

Hudson Hawk only works if you assume that most of what happens after the drugged cappuccino is a dream sequence.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:35 AM on April 19, 2011


I liked Hudson Hawk....
posted by mikelieman at 10:39 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Being 10 years old in 1977 helps in the admiration. And as a sf fan even at the time, it was thrilling to see such a wonderfully fleshed out universe on the big screen, an effort that still impresses.

The lasting legacy was that it made sci fi/fantasy cinema respectable and appealing to wider audiences. And raised the bar for technical productions. I tend to think few post Star Wars sci fi/fantasy classics would have ever made the screen had it not been for Star Wars paving the way. There were very few efforts before that approached the technical superiority or mass appeal of Star Wars. Movies like 2001 and Planet of the Apes were well done, but were too cerebral or dark. Post apocalyptic sci fi was a dominant theme, as it is today. Star Wars, on the other hand, worked like a serial or a western, with lots of eye candy, imagination, and competent moviemaking to back it up.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:45 AM on April 19, 2011


IjonTichy: you couldn't do it as a romance of a sad knight who confronts an apparition of his dead wife at a fey lake while on a distant mission for his King?

Well, Solaris is about many things, but one of them is the limits of knowledge; in particular, how science's limitations are determined by human nature. I'm not sure how a sad knight and a fey lake could convey that. Maybe if it were a really, really fey lake.
posted by IjonTichy at 10:48 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I haven't seen Joseph Campbell mentioned in this thread yet...
One link in A Thousand Baited Hooks' comment has some mention of Campbell, and some other classic works. One click in from there has an interesting chart.
I remember seeing either the 1st or 2nd one with a woman who was telling me what was going to happen. 'It's the classic hero myth.', she said.
To me at the time (25 yrs old), it seemed like a great combination of a lot of classic movies/stories I had seen before.
posted by MtDewd at 10:50 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


So these two bicycle mechanics made the first airplane, and someone on Metafilter says it must be a generational thing to be so impressed by that accomplishment. And then someone points out that they really didn't fly very far, so what's the big deal? And then someone chimes in with the fact that there were balloons and kites and other flying machines going back a century, so the Wright brothers aren't all that, and someone finishes with noting that they flew on a jetliner every week, so who cares about a dinky Wright Flyer?
posted by happyroach at 10:55 AM on April 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


If you don't like Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, you should get off my lawn.
If you like the prequels, you should get off my lawn.
If you like the Expanded Universe, you should get out of your mother's basement and get a life.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:02 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


(and stay off my lawn while you're at it.)
posted by entropicamericana at 11:02 AM on April 19, 2011


For the record, Hudson Hawk IS Bruce Willis's best work. Period.

Haters.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 11:09 AM on April 19, 2011


In 1977 only a few thousand people knew about Star Wars when it first arrived in cinemas, but it spread like wildfire and soon there were queues everywhere.

What?

There was a limited TV campaign in the summer of '76 (so limited, I only saw the commercial once.) But there was HUGE anticipation among (a) SF Fans (several issues of Starlog featured it before it premiered) and (b) youngsters who were watching a lot of TV during that summer and caught the commercial or knew someone who did. By the premiere, there were a few thousand fans in my (mid-sized city) area alone. There were lines (nobody said 'queues') from jump, but never so much that you'd miss a showing (at least in my area.)

The trick is that it was allowed to stay in theaters much longer than most movies would be today. The kids in my neighborhood formed a 'Star Wars Club' and we'd pool our pennies until we had enough for tickets for everyone, and then rope a couple parents into driving us all down to the theater. We managed to do that twelve times, and not every week, so you can see what kind of staying power it had.

There was even a program (like a sports program) available early on in the theater that we memorized and quizzed each other on. To say that this was a small film at the start might reflect the expectations of Hollywood in general, but the studio clearly knew they were on to something.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:09 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Haters gonna hate.

Knees gonna jerk.
posted by normy at 11:11 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Haters gonna hate.

Vader's gonna (in)vade. (Cloud City)
posted by SpiffyRob at 11:29 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The initial scene, of the apparently endless star destroyer flying overhead--that did my head in. Until that scene, no movie in my 8-year-old life had had anything like that sense of scale.
posted by everichon at 12:13 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Haters gonna hate.

From the 2212 edition of the Holographic Dictionary (University of the Oort Cloud):

internet noun, archaic
a short-lived communications system from the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, originally constructed as a military network but eventually causing the complete devolution of human society into the Antagonistic Barbarism or HGH phase, as calculated in the Spoilsport Formula (Saying Nay: both you and what you cherish suck (1989) by Muntz, Nelson, and Caulfield, Holden):

A + FT + LoI = HGH

where A is anonymity, FT is free time, LoI is Lack of Imagination, and HGH is Haters Gonna Hate.

Luckily for humankind, there was a strong correlative connection between Antagonistic Barbarism and Sedentary Denial, so virtually the entire Hater population of the internet died off in the great Putz Putsch of 2024 because they ran out of breath trying to get away from the Laser Tanks of Great Justice.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:49 PM on April 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


There were lines (nobody said 'queues') from jumpposted by ChurchHatesTucker

This article is for the Guardian which is a UK newspaper, that's why he says "queues."
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:50 PM on April 19, 2011


I think for many people the thing that Star Wars brought to the screen was something that many of the contemporary science fiction films of the time did not: Spectacle.

There are some great genre films to come out during the 1970's, but they tended to be somewhat ponderous. Star Wars was the equivalent of stepping up a gear - and then putting your foot down in a car full of dynamite into a fireworks factory.
posted by panboi at 1:09 PM on April 19, 2011


Haters gonna hate.


Sith Lords gonna sith.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:23 PM on April 19, 2011


I think for many people the thing that Star Wars brought to the screen was something that many of the contemporary science fiction films of the time did not: Spectacle.

I think this is why, despite the obvious fact that they're fun movies, I'm starting to resent Star Wars. 'cause right now we have a surplus of spectacle, and not much else.
posted by IjonTichy at 1:24 PM on April 19, 2011


I was raised watching reruns of King Of The Rocket Men, Flash Gordon and other shows on British TV in the late-1970s/early-1980s so the "Republic Serial" concept of Star Wars was already in my blood. By the time I got around to actually watching the first film (iirc it would have been on TV in the early 1980s whilst on holiday in Devon) I already had a grounding in what to expect - the opening title crawl and so on. It was pretty much made for me.

Thinking about my media consumption as a very young child it's surprising how much of it was from that era. I watched Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin and the serials above. The cartoons I watched were classic WB cartoons from the 1950s. Very little of the TV I watched at that age was of it's time. I remember watching the mad as balls Wattoo Wattoo as a contemporary cartoon but yeah, that's just struck me how really odd that most of what I watched was way out of date. Even Thunderbirds was nigh on 15 years old when I started watching it.

Sorry about that. Just having a "kids these days" moment.

(my favourite Hudson Hawk moment?

Hudson Hawk: You're supposed to be all cracked up at the bottom of the hill!
Tommy Five-Tone: Air bags! Can you fucking believe it?
Anna: You're supposed to be blown up into fiery chunks of flesh!
Tommy Five-Tone: Sprinkler system set up in the back! Can you fucking believe it?
*pause*
Hudson Hawk: Yeah! That's probably what happened!

The sheer fucking balls of that movie. Awesome...)

posted by longbaugh at 1:26 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty much olinerd's long lost twin in that ii came to SW in 7th grade with the release of the special editions. Despite the fact that my username was my familial nickname (grokked from cultural osmosis more than anything else), I was raised a Trekkie--still am, really; don't see the fandoms as incompatible.

What did it for me were the magical elements. Jedi and the force and lightsabers, and the bright, jewel-like colors of all of it. At 13 I was already a genre fan, was reading mccaffrey and pohl. But the only series that I had encountered that so perfectly nailed the notions of specialness and magic was Mercedes lackeys valdemar. And lightsabers are way less embarrassing than magical horses.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:29 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Star Wars was definitely a step up for 70s sci-fi in terms of:

A. action
B. spectacle
C. fun

Seriously. Look at the other sci-fi of the decade and no matter how "good" it may be, it's either kinda slow, kinda cheap, or way too serious. So a fun comic book movie (essentially cowboys and Indians in outer space) wanders into the zeitgeist and voila!

But it didn't work for me. I was 18 at the time and frankly, too mature for it (in my mind at least), and more to the point, quite happy with the state of cinema at the time. I loved my Godfathers and Chinatowns and Taxi Drivers (ie: precisely the kind of stuff that Star Wars significant box office earnings would put on ice).

As for the higher sense of cultural import that the series would come to have, I honestly wasn't really aware of it until at least 1990 when I started noticing younger friends (people who would've been 8 or 9 in 1977) cherishing it as the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. So yeah, in general, if you're young enough when first introduced to the first two films in particular, I think it may absolutely speak to you in such a way that you'll carry it with you for life. But the older you get on first contact, the more meh it gets.

My favorite movies from 1977 that I actually saw that year?

Stuff like Sorcerer, Annie Hall, Jabberwocky, Cross of Iron, Close Encounters, Black Sunday. And I still prefer them all to any Star Wars stuff that's ever come my way.
posted by philip-random at 1:37 PM on April 19, 2011


On a related note, I just watched the re-release of THX 1138 the other day and it's pretty damn good. There's a lot of included Lucas commentary to ponder, especially the part where he fully admits he can't write worth a damn. Also, with a little extra CGI, I believe that movie easily could be called Life In The Empire: A Documentary.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:43 PM on April 19, 2011


The Imperial March does not appear until TESB.

Holy crap, you're right! I had to go back and find the opening sequence of IV on youtube before I could believe you. It plays in my memory of the scene. (of all the things for Lucas not to fix on re-release...)
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:06 PM on April 19, 2011


I don't actually remember seeing Star Wars in the theatre, was about 6 or so at the time.

But Empire? My God my mind was blown. I remember where we saw it, the long line, cramped theatre with it red seats with no cup holders. I had no idea movies like that could exist (the bad guys one!)

Still, even at that early age, I wasn't happy about the one black character betraying them. That was a big boo.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:46 PM on April 19, 2011


philip-random: cherishing it as the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. ...I think it may absolutely speak to you in such a way that you'll carry it with you for life.

Good call. In the words of someone who's experiencing that from the inside, though, it sounds something more like, "it's pure magic." The only things that I can really equate to what Star Wars meant (and means, vicariously with the younger me, just as you mention) to me are metal, sex, and Christmas. Oh, and weed. Certainly, weed. Um, and not in that order, of course..

And since I have so many nieces and nephews, Christmas is recently and currently getting a pleasant reprise in the "this is magic" category. I don't know if the original Star Wars films will ever reach any of them; I still hope that at I'll get a chance to introduce at least one of them to Led Zeppelin and, um, change their life. ...humble goal, I know.
posted by herbplarfegan at 2:52 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't recall whether I saw Star Wars in 1977 (when I was 3) or at the re-release in 1978, or both. In either case, I grew up with the original trilogy being one of the cornerstones of my childhood.

I have memories of standing in line for Empire at the former Belle Meade Theatre, and the line wrapped around the building twice. Once to get your ticket, and another time to get in the door.

One of the things that I see in the original movies that I find lacking in the prequels, is the chemistry between the main cast. The prequels just don't have the fun banter.
posted by Fleebnork at 3:06 PM on April 19, 2011


One of the things that I see in the original movies that I find lacking in the prequels, is the chemistry between the main cast.

Ewan Mcgregor has presence but he doesn't have anyone to work with on his level.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:44 PM on April 19, 2011


I lived in rural Tennessee when the movie came out. We had a black and white TV with only 3 channels. The only movies I saw were Disney flicks at the drive in. I only got to see Star Wars because my Boy Scout troop loaded us all in vans and drove us to the theater an hour away.

This movie changed my life. I became a geek that night and have never looked back. The effects might be cheesy now, but they blew my mind. Hell, I can even remember one of the previews that night (Close Encounters of the Third Kind).
posted by UseyurBrain at 3:58 PM on April 19, 2011


I still don't get the fuss over Star Wars.

This is not the thread you are looking for. Move along. Move along....

I can see why Star Wars does not appeal to some, yet all of its merits that have been mentioned above are completely valid. Star Wars was not just an awesome movie, it was a MOTION PICTURE EVENT. Any backstory to creating this wonderful universe is interesting stuff. Star Wars means a lot to me.

I grew up in a family of Star Wars fans; watching the trilogy on VHS and finding it frustrating because seeing it on a TV just didn't seem right. I would ask my parents: "What was it like to see it on the big screen? What was it like when the Death Star blew up? Did Darth Vader seem scarier? Were the battles amazing?"

Playing make-believe became an exercise in craft. I was part of a generational gap; too young for Star Wars toys after the first films were released and too old for the resurgence of merchandise that followed the release of the Special Editions and prequels. I had to build my own Lego TIE fighters and X-Wings from visual cues. I substituted my Peter Venkman Ghostbuster figure for Luke Skywalker. If there was nothing good on TV, I'd pop in Star Wars, set up my Legos and build away. This happened on a regular basis.

The affect of Star Wars went beyond spectacle as it provided a sheltering escape when my parents' marriage was disintegrating. I can relate to the notion of 'people wanting to live onscreen.' Tensions were always high, and to make matters worse the separation and divorce process went on for about 3 years. It was a grueling and bitter process for my parents. And it was painful for me to be exposed to the arguments, the fights, the false-hope of reconciliation; all between the ages of 11 and 13. Too combat this, I would watch Star Wars. Religiously. Still yearning for a day when I could see it on the big screen.

I can still distinctly recall the very moment I saw the trailer for Star Wars Special Edition. It floored me. I had been waiting all my young life to see the movies the way they were meant to be seen. The premiere of the re-release of Star Wars in 1997 somehow coincided with my dad moving out of our house for good. For months, Dad and Mom had not been speaking to each other except for matters pertaining to us kids and had been living in separate rooms under the same roof. It was awkward and alienating.

When the premiere date drew close, I asked my dad if it would be OK if we could all go see Star Wars together, as a family. He seemed reluctant, but agreed and said we should get tickets early. He mentioned it to my mom and, thankfully, she agreed too. Holding those theater tickets in my hand that said 'Star Wars' on them was exhilarating in itself. I was finally going to see the movies on the big screen.

The day of the movie, the mood in our house seemed lighter. My dad had finished moving out the last of his things and we ate dinner together as a family for the first time in months. The drive to the theater was strange, as my parents openly reminisced about their experiences seeing the movies back when they originally came out. They were actually speaking to one another, and politely! There was laughter and excitement. My siblings and I all knew that Dad would be leaving that night, yet for a brief moment, things felt normal.

At the theater there was a huge line of fans waiting to get in. People dressed as Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan, etc. Just waiting in line was entertaining enough. Inside the theater there was a remote controlled, full-scale R2-D2 roaming up and down the aisles. Stopping and beeping at people; doing his robotic 'coo' at fans who came to pet him. I've never been in a movie theater before or since that was abuzz with so much anticipation and joy. Strangers were openly talking to one another; debating the differences between Y-wings vs. X-wings, what changes would be made in the re-release and did Han shoot first?

The tension between my parents diminished that night. We were all just too excited about what we were going to see. When the lights dimmed and the 20th Century Fox fanfare started to play, the entire auditorium erupted in applause. With the room illuminated by the yellow hue of the crawling title, I looked over at my mom, dad, brother and sister; their faces, much like mine, were smiling with awe. We were a family, having a great time together.

At the end, everybody knew the Death Star was going to blow up, but we all cheered when it happened anyway. We sat in our seats through the end credits, just to hear the music. R2-D2 was at the theater exit to beep us goodbye. Things felt good on the car ride home. We all compared notes on what was different about this version vs. the original. I thanked both of my parents for taking us and said that I couldn't wait to see the Empire Strikes Back with them. As we pulled into the garage, reality slowly began to creep back upon me. My siblings, being younger than I, were dozing off and needed to be put to bed. I stayed up to help my dad tidy up the remnants of his belongings. It was time for him to leave.

I asked him why he had to go. Wasn't seeing Star Wars fun? You and mom got along fine then? Isn't there something you can do? My dad, not known for crying, let it all out. His knees buckling to the floor. He said he was sorry, but there was nothing that he could do. This display of raw emotion on the part of my father was something I had never seen before. He put his arms around me and held me. Both of us crying on the floor of our kitchen. We said our goodbyes and he left.

Divorce sucks. It especially sucks as an adolescent watching it all unfold. Knowing that something is wrong, but not fully understanding why. Seeing Star Wars on the big screen was the last time that I ever did anything with my mother, father, brother and sister all together. It was the last time I felt like a had a unified family and it was Star Wars that brought us together for that one final magical night.

Star Wars got me through a very difficult time in my life and I am ever so thankful that someone created such a lush and fantastic universe that provided a refuge for me during one of the most emotionally painful and confusing times in my life. Learning anything about the process behind its creation is always something I find to be interesting. So thanks for the post!

May the force be with you all!
posted by inqb8tr at 4:45 PM on April 19, 2011 [30 favorites]


One of the things that I see in the original movies that I find lacking in the prequels, is the chemistry between the main cast. The prequels just don't have the fun banter.

That's one thing that really bugged me about The Phantom Menace. In the original trilogy, having a lightsaber battle meant having a conversation. It was a debate where the ripostes were verbal and physical. In TPM, it was just a fight scene. A cool fight scene, with great choreography and awesome weapons, but it didn't build the characters at all. Darth Maul didn't even get any lines to say how much cooler he was than the Jedi, and how they would ultimately fail. Just interchangeable lasersword kungfu.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 5:25 PM on April 19, 2011


Lucas's original concept was to create something in the vein of old Republic serials and saturday matinee cliffhangers.

Fair enough, but what he didnt figure into the equation is that Republic serials and saturday matinee cliffhangers are wooden, boring and pretty fucking unwatchable.

Or maybe he did figure that much, because that's eventually exactly what he accomplished.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 5:33 PM on April 19, 2011


OT films still rock tho.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 5:33 PM on April 19, 2011


inqb8tr, "Thanks for sharing" is such a badly overworked cliché it's almost used more often as a snark than an honest expression of appreciation.

But really... thanks -- a lot -- for sharing.
posted by Mike D at 6:10 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Republic serials and saturday matinee cliffhangers are wooden, boring and pretty fucking unwatchable

You take that back.
posted by longbaugh at 6:14 PM on April 19, 2011


bondcliff writes "Yeah, I'm kind of afraid to re-watch Tron. It was the coolest thing ever back when it came out but I know if I watched it now I'd hate it. I'm thinking War Games might be the same way."

War Games has aged much better than Tron, especially if you either remember the terror of nuclear annihilation being possible at any time or can shift yourself into that space. It is horrifically terrifying from that vantage and Dr. Falken's defeatist acceptance makes it worse.
posted by Mitheral at 7:01 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was eleven, and saw it at Loew's 86th Street Cinema in NYC, maybe two weeks after release. A hot summer. What hit me the most? First, the phrase "A long time ago...." made my head spin with possibilities, like maybe it could happen again!!! Then that first shot of the Destroyer. I remember the t.v. commercial vividly. And I remember thinking that this was a universe where hippies made it to space, which seemed cosmically just. And every element of the world on the screen was just so fuckin COOL, yet treated with offhand diffidence by the characters living there...all the other movies in the franchise were a waste of time for me, just attempts to squeeze more lucre from the moneytree. But that first one, oh yeah....
posted by ergomatic at 7:25 PM on April 19, 2011


I was in high school. A snobby little wanna be art-student who only went to truly *significant films* or extremely obscure European stuff. The local rep was wonderful, since I could convince myself that cheesy old Hammer horror or 1930's monster movies were acceptable, because not mainstream.

And friends insisted -- INSISTED! -- that we go see this stupid space opera. And dragged me in.

And of course I was gobsmacked by joy. All the more so because I really didn't expect it.

In retrospect there was lots and lots of silly escapist nonsense around in the 70s: I didn't like horror, but there was lots of that, there was James Bond, which I also hated, and I hated the astoundingly stupid disaster movie genre (The Poseidon Adventure?) so I think that I just hadn't been in the market for the silly stuff that was out there. Star Wars - the bloody real thing, not Lucas' later desperate attempts to extrude more money from the tube -- was a different kind of silly stuff. And it was so much fun, and still is.
posted by jrochest at 8:30 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


> The sheer fucking balls of that movie. Awesome...)

Hudson Hawk is terrible, but it's interesting terrible.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:57 PM on April 19, 2011




For all the haters: I'll see you in the Sarlacc pit.

I've always liked version of the video better.

But yeah haters gotta hate and all that jazz. I for one am just glad that I am not dead inside.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:31 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oops forgot the link. I meant that I've always like this version better.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:06 AM on April 20, 2011


For all the haters: I'll see you in the Sarlacc pit.


As long as it's the original Sarlacc, and not that weird CGI Little Shop of Horrors thing from the Special Edition, you're on.
posted by norm at 2:48 PM on April 20, 2011


Anybody else think that when Han tells the Rebel deck officer, "Then I'll see you in HELL!" in Empire was unnecessarily harsh? I mean, geez.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:48 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Republic serials and saturday matinee cliffhangers are wooden, boring and pretty fucking unwatchable

The original Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon serials are on Netflix streaming and they are wooden but I find them pretty watchable and not even remotely boring. Each episode is only 20 minutes and they're almost all action. The cool thing is watching for stuff that Lucas stole for Star Wars, the Rancor fight and the garbage compactor scene are both slight variants of scenes in Flash.
posted by octothorpe at 10:01 AM on April 21, 2011


I watched the original Tron for the first time. I was struck by how godawful it was. Special-effects, rotoscoping, and CG-innovations aside

And the Wendy Carlos score,

it was a total shit film.

And what did the Romans ever do for us?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:20 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


A couple of notes here:

1. The story from @inqb8tr caused me to get something terribly itchy caught in my eyes, primarily because I can tell a very similar one.

2. I'm amazed and astounded that nobody has mentioned the toys! My God, man. How can you not think that the unbearable, unprecedented onslaught of the toys had an incredible impact on my cohort's passion for these films?

3. I'm hanging at 37 (for another couple of months) and have an 8-mo old boy. He won't see the prequels on my watch. And he already has a Star Wars onesie.

4. I never "got" Star Trek. (My mom loved it.)

5. I'm a fan of Star Wars, but I'd never say that I'm a Star Wars "geek". I love the original trilogy with a passion, know every line from every film, have seen them easily hundreds of times each, read the novelizations dozens of times as a teenager, have a 2" Millennium Falcon on my desk at work, etc. But it's not a religion or anything. I don't get the people that have Star Wars-themed weddings and stuff like that. I've never said, "May the Force be with you," to anyone.

6. But I can't imagine a day passing without at least one Star Wars reference creeping into it any more than I can imagine a day without at least one Beatles reference. It's a cultural cornerstone.

7. To say, "I've never seen any of the Star Wars films," is a little like saying, "I've never listened to music."
posted by GatorDavid at 4:33 AM on April 22, 2011


I'm amazed and astounded that nobody has mentioned the toys! My God, man. How can you not think that the unbearable, unprecedented onslaught of the toys had an incredible impact on my cohort's passion for these films?

That came slightly later (the following year for most of us.) I'd seen the film a dozen times before I got my first action figure.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:57 AM on April 22, 2011


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