Friday, December 30, 2005

Brin(g) 'Em On -- I'd Prefer a Straight Fight to All of This Sneaking Around

I read David Brin's article on The Phantom Menace some years ago and was very disappointed to find that an author I respected greatly would work himself into such a frenzy despising something I so enjoyed.

My previous entry, for some reason, called that event back to mind, and made me wonder if perhaps Brin had continued to write on the subject as the other movies have arrived. Indeed, it turns out, he has. I am sorry to report that the results are no improvement.

What's most astonishing is the way that he and his commentators manage to completely spell out the coherent message of these films while insisting that the message is something completely different.

They complain that Episodes I-III lack real heroes, that the Jedi are elitists and out of touch, that for all the wisdom Yoda mouths, he never effectively gives real help or workable advice in the whole series. Brin goes on and on about the fact that common people, not Jedi, are responsible for the defeat of the Empire at the climax of the saga -- then he goes on to insist that this must be an oversight on Lucas' part. He rightly remarks that the "light and dark" sides of the Force are virtually indistinguishable, but fails to recognize that this provides the impetus behind the repeated references to a need for "bringing balance to the Force."

I'm entirely appreciative of the fact that lovers of good plotting and dialogue and acting have many valid bones to pick with SW I, II, III and VI -- and at least a few with IV and V. But for some reason, in their rush to hate the entire Star Wars universe, Brin and company find themselves driven to counter-rationalize its philosophy. It's not enough for them to hate it on the grounds of quality alone. They have to get inside George Lucas's head and through some form of telepathy discern which portions of the dialogue and plotting are purposeful illuminations of his ethos, and which ones are slapdash bits of hackery that the author failed to see as undermining his attempt to make a point.

I defy any of them to demonstrate a single slip in any of the six movies that's inconsistent with this simple theory: the Jedi are a stagnant if benign cult that has long outlived its purpose, and it takes a common person who has not been raised in their sterile order to reclaim the true worth of their philosophy. I defy them to point to any instance in the movies where doing right by those around you leads to a negative outcome, or where acting in the reverse ultimately brings something other than significantly bad consequences.

The most simplistic mistake you can make in interpreting literature is to assume that the protagonist is always in the right. In fact, it's almost impossible to tell a good story in which the protagonist does not have some flaw to overcome.

Why is it so difficult for Brin and his sort to see that at work in the Star Wars saga?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

So Be It, Jedi

Perhaps the most unsettling thing about Revenge of the Sith is the way it turns everybody uncool. Darth Vader isn't cool -- he's weak, petty, and manipulated. Padme isn't cool -- no more picking locks and smacking alien panthers down with a chain; she can't even find the strength to hold on to life so that she'll be there for her kids. The Jedi aren't cool -- they deliberately piss off Anakin and set him up for failure, even though they know there's a Sith Lord out there somewhere monkeying around with things. And Obi Wan Kenobi isn't cool -- he's bigoted against droids, perfectly willing to sacrifice clone troopers, too slow to recognize Anakin's vulnerability, and unable to recognize that the statement, "Only a Sith deals in absolutes," is itself an absolute.

When Obi Wan leaps up onto the bank of the lava river at the end of his duel with Anakin, he speaks two sentences that are very telling: "It's over, Anakin. I have the high ground."

Of course, we know it's not over -- there are still three movies to come. But at that point, Obi Wan has no idea that Yoda will fail to defeat the emperor -- no idea that the Republic has already fallen.

Likewise, Obi Wan only thinks that he has the high ground. Even as he admits that he's failed Anakin, even while he's telling him that he loved him like a brother, he is preparing to leave him to die a gruesome, horrifically painful death, alone and helpless -- and he makes sure to pick up the guy's light saber as he goes.

The prequel trilogy ends with evil triumphant because the good guys have dropped the ball -- and what's most interesting is that the pattern inverts itself in the original trilogy. Luke's triumph in Return of the Jedi is not a part of the victory over the Empire. It's a personal triumph for him, turning his father back from the Dark Side. But it does not effect the outcome of the Battle of Endor. The good guys get lucky that a bunch of furry Ewoks help them out, and that Han Solo pulls a trick on the shield generator crew that only an idiot would fall for. The Emperor would have died when the Death Star blew up whether Darth Vader threw him down the generator shaft or not -- and the reason he was doomed to die is the same reason the Jedi fell in Episode III. He didn't keep his eye on the ball.

The message of the saga as a whole ends up being pretty simple: politics will come and go, and those with power will sooner or later grow overconfident and assure their own downfall -- so be good to the people around you, because that's what will ultimately make a difference.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

His Fate Will Be the Same as Ours

I just realized that this line can be read as one of the subtler pieces of foreshadowing in the whole Prequel Trilogy (not that the prequels are notable for the subtleness of their forshadowing in most cases).

Anakin (as Vader), Palpatine, and Obi Wan all meet their ends at the hand of the person they most wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Friday, June 3, 2005

I Thought I Detected Your Foul Stench the Moment I Came on Board

[SPOILER alert!]

A number of things toward the end of Return of the Sith irritated me on my first few viewings. One is the clownishness of certain moments in Palpatine's duel with Yoda -- the way he gets flipped backwards over his chair with his skirt up, the way he squeaks and squeals while dangling from the Senate hoverdisk.

Another is the "Frankenstein" moment when Darth Vader breaks loose from the medical table after his transformation -- not to mention the outrageous wimp-factor in his dialogue thereafter, and that ridiculous, "Nooooooooo" that he emits after being told Padme is dead. We waited 22 years to hear James Earl Jones speak as Vader again, and that is what we get?

But, as usual with the prequel films, when I asked myself if there might be method to Lucas' seeming ineptitude, a door opened wide for me. In this case, things clarified themselves after a conversation I had with a friend of mine. Bob complained that Lucas had done an interview recently in which he described Darth Vader as essentially a dupe and a schmuck in the original trilogy. This really aggravated Bob, who, like all of us, had always thought Vader to be the ultimate in cool villains. He felt cheated to hear Lucas badmouthing a figure who was of such primal importance to him.

And that, I think, is exactly the point of the way Vader and the Emperor are handled at the end of Episode III -- to tear down the notion that bad guys are in any way admirable. For almost 30 years, people have been seduced by the power and majesty of Darth Vader, and that seduction represents the fool that lives in all of us. Palpatine comes out on top in ROTS because the Jedi make a ton of big-time mistakes. Anakin turns to the dark side because the Jedi are not there for him in the way that he needs them to be. There is nothing praiseworthy, noble, or deserved about the triumph of evil at the end of the film: evil merely happens across one of those moments when good leaves the door unlocked.

Ultimately, the truth is this: villains are disgusting and pathetic. They win only when heroes fail, and when the public fails to recognize them for what they are.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

She's a Politician

Hahaha! I finally figured out why Obi Wan tells Yoda, "That boy is our last hope," in The Empire Strikes Back, despite the fact that he's known all along that Leia is Luke's twin sister. It's because she is a politician -- a senator --and he hates politicians. He can't conceive of teaching her the ways of the Force and turning her into a Jedi, because in his mind, she's already halfway to being a Sith.

Obi Wan's loathing of politicians had struck me as interesting but a bit strange ever since it was introduced in AOTC. Now I realize that it perfectly explains why his line to Yoda was, "That boy is our last hope," and not, "Well, he's a goner. I guess we'd better get to work on Leia."

It Deserves Our Gratitude

[SPOILER WARNING -- Episode III details in this post]

Now that the Star Wars saga is complete, we have seen that R2D2 is the only character who appears in all of the films without transformation. The fact that he knows the scoop on everything in the prequel trilogy makes him even more interesting in IV-VI. For instance:

Artoo's exciteability in IV takes on a whole new tone. When he says, "She's here, she's here, I've found her," he's talking about Leia as someone he's watched over for 20 years, and whose mother he was personally devoted to. When he gets spastic in the throne room at the end of the film, it reflects a whole lifetime of waiting for something good to happen.

His attitude toward Yoda in V is contextualized too. He's not just mad that this old crazy guy has come out of the swamp and started ransacking his master's stuff -- he knows exactly who Yoda is, and knows that the crazy-old-coot schtick is an act. He's trying to protect Luke from someone he sees as manipulative. He knows that this Jedi training stuff didn't go so well for Luke's father. So his worry when he's told to wait with the ship isn't just fear for himself -- it's concern about what Luke's getting into.

And here's a partial list of his pivotal accomplishments throughout the films:

- Saves the Queen's ship as it flees Naboo
- Alerts everyone of Obi-Wan's capture on Geonosis
- Saves Padme from getting burned up in the droid factory
- Provides critical support for Obi-Wan and Anakin to rescue Palpatine and kill Dooku (not necessarily all good results, but failure would have meant their deaths)
- Carries the Death Star plans
- Instigates the rescue of Leia from the Death Star
- Shuts down the garbage compactor
- Keeps Luke's ship flying long enough for Luke to destroy the Death Star
- Provides smokescreen cover for the escape from Bespin
- Repairs the Millennium Falcon's hyperdrive, allowing it to flee certain capture
- Conceals Luke's lightsaber until the critical moment on Jabba's sail barge

In pretty much every one of the films, there's some moment at which one or all of the principle charaters would be toast if it weren't for Artoo.

What a guy.

Another Happy Landing

Well, I've seen Revenge of the Sith three times now -- the 12:01 a.m. showing on the 19th, a matinee that day, and then again with the kids a week later.

My expectations were so high, and I had so much invested in my pet theories, that I actually didn't like it all that much on the first viewing. I was hoping to see more of Christopher Lee than we did, and really, really wanted a different role for Padme. But the movie closes with some of the most effective scenes of the whole series -- in fact, I was crying by time the final image came onscreen. I loved the next two viewings, and really want to see it again before it leaves the theaters.

Among many excellent accomplishments, the film succeeds in making Return of the Jedi a much better movie that it was before. My oldest daughter wanted to watch ROTJ as soon as she got home from ROTS. Since it was past her bedtime, I had to say no, but we watched Ep. VI the next day, and several lines floored me in the context of the completed prequel trilogy. When Darth Vader tells Luke, "Obi Wan once thought as you do," the meaning became completely different than it had been before.

If you haven't already seen it, go right away. Although I guess that if you haven't already seen it, you're probably not the kind of person likely to be reading this blog. : )

[SPOILER EXPLANATION -- Even if you've seen Ep. III, you might not want to read this without rewatching ROTJ. Before, Vader's line to Luke always struck me as a reference to having defeated his old master -- "Obi Wan once thought the good side more powerful, but I showed him." Now, having seen Anakin crying after he massacred the Separatists, I hear it as, "I recognize that Obi Wan truly wanted to help me when he confronted me on Mustafar." Similarly, the line, "It is too late for me, my son," is more powerful because it's obvious that Anakin has been telling himself this, over and over, ever since the moment he turned on Mace Windu.]

Saturday, April 16, 2005

You've Taken Your First Step Into A Larger World

My kids discovered Star Wars a couple of years ago, when the three oldest were 5-1/2, 5, and 4. I'd been hoping to keep them out of it until after Episode III debuted, so that they'd be able to watch the six films in sequential order. But that was probably pretty naive.

One day, a catalog came in the mail. When I arrived home, my 4-year-old son greeted me with it at the door.

"Daddy, daddy," he said, pointing to a Millennium Falcon toy, "do you know what this is?"

"Well," I replied, trying to play dumb, "it's a spaceship toy."

"Is this spaceship from a movie?"

"Yes," I said, warily.

"Do we have this movie?"


"Can we watch it?"

"I'll have to talk to your mother about that," I said, remembering the bloody arm on the floor in the bar scene.

"She said to talk to you about it."

It became pretty obvious that there was no putting this off. So the next Saturday (Saturday at that time being my day to watch the kids while Katie worked), I gathered all the kids around and put my VHS of Star Wars into the player. My expectation was that the girls would quickly lose interest, but that Joey would remain fixated by all the blaster fights and spaceships.

The 20th Century Fox fanfare sounded, and then the fateful words appeared onscreen, prompting my nonreading children to ask, "What does that say?"

So I read the blue lettering quickly, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . ." and worked to keep my pronunciation clear -- as a full-blooded Star Wars geek, I tend to get choked up at that first symphonic strike accompanying the appearance of the Star Wars logo.

"Star Wars," I read,

"Episode IV: A New Hope

It is a period of civil war.
Rebel spaceships, striking
from a hidden base, have won
their first victory against
the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel
spies managed to steal secret
plans to the Empire's
ultimate weapon, the DEATH
STAR, an armored space
station with enough power to
destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire's
sinister agents, Princess

A sharp intake of breath from both girls.

"There's a princess in this movie?"

"You didn't tell us there was a princess in this movie!"

Contrary to my expectations, Joey ended up playing with trains through most of the film. His attention was captured only during the blaster fights and spaceship scenes -- which of course are not the majority of the movie. The girls, on the other hand, remained glued in place throughout, only occasionally interrupting to say, "When are they going to show the princess again?"

Friday, April 1, 2005

Don't You Call Me a Mindless Philosopher

I took the Entertainment Weekly Star Wars quiz this week. Well, I didn't so much take it as read it.

The Padwan level was absurdly easy -- even someone who hates Star Wars could probably get a passing score. I think the middle level was "Jedi Knight," and it did require the knowledge one might expect of a casual fan or a nonfan with a good memory. But it was a blow-off for anyone who's watched the films repeatedly and regularly.

Then the quiz jumped to "Jedi Master" and into the realm of the ridiculous. Hardly any of the questions addressed the films themselves. Instead, they focused on trivia about the actors and crew members. I had certainly never heard that there is a rumor that Anakin Skywalker was named after some director whom I had also never heard of.

I almost suspect that the magazine's editors didn't really want to provide a test that would please fans of the series. I could very well imagine them dreaming up the questions, saying, "Okay, we want to make sure that the first two levels make our readers feel clever about knowing most of the answers, while the third level makes them think, 'Only a total spaz would know that.'" Thus, the average reader would come away feeling both intelligent and superior.

I just felt glad that someone had loaned me the issue, instead of me buying it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

You're Not Actually Going INTO an Asteroid Field, Are You?

My favorite scene in all of the Star Wars films is the Asteroid Field sequence in The Empire Strikes Back. It's an absolutely perfect scene, in every respect that counts. The dialogue is snappy, the effects are terrific, and the music is so perfectly matched to the action that you can see the images when listening to the soundtrack, or hear the music even with the sound turned off on your television.

Most importantly, it's a scene with tremendous meaning, because it marks the beginning of the true courtship between Han Solo and Princess Leia. For all the exploding TIE fighters and whirling gargantuan space-rocks, the entire scene is about these two people and their relationship. It is here that Leia recognizes her feelings for Han -- earlier in the movie, she denies them, and later, she fights against them, but to no avail. Han's daring and skill overwhelm her.

When the last Imperial fighter explodes, the Millennium Falcon comes out of the asteroid canyon, and Han takes the ship through a sweeping, showboating loop to enter the cave. The love theme plays as he executes this perfect maneuver, and while I'm not a big admirer of Freudian interpretation in literature, it's hard to miss the significance of the Falcon gliding down the cavern's smooth bore. The courtship may be entirely chaste, but at the end of this scene, their love has been consummated.

In many respects, the asteroid field sequence is the turning point of the film. From this point forward, Han and Leia are a team, whose union will carry them through all of the horrors that will follow, regardless of Leia's misgivings.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

At Last, We Shall Have Our Revenge

I guess I shouldn't have gone to see Robots on a day when I'd already watched The Incredibles on DVD. It's a visual masterpiece, but the story suffers in comparison.

On the other hand, it did allow me to see the new Episode III trailer for the first time, so in that regard, it was $30 well spent. (Two kids' tickets, my admission price, large popcorn & drink.)

There wasn't any clear support for my spoiler theory, but the trailer makes one thing pretty obvious -- even if there aren't any major twists or revelations, this movie is going to pack a heck of a punch.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

I Am Your Father


All right, if you're still reading, then clearly, you don't mind finding out a startling twist about Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith. Of course, you're also likely to be mad at me, since I don't actually know if my spoiler is real or not. In all probability, in fact, I'm completely wrong.

Okay, so if you're still reading now, here's what this post is about: Obi Wan Kenobi is Princess Leia's father. It's the only thing that makes sense.

Allow me to make my case.

Let's start with music. When Leia first appears in A New Hope, Obi Wan's theme music plays. Not that big a deal, really, since we know she's recording a message to him. More important is the fact that when Obi Wan is struck down by Darth Vader, Leia's theme plays. John Williams is on record as saying it just seemed like the right music to put there, but in my world, the Star Wars music is fraught with meaning, and I'd like this to mean something.

Next, let's move to Empire, and the moment when Luke takes off for Bespin. The ghostly Obi Wan says, "That boy is our only hope." Yoda's response: "No. There is another." Now, who knows what George Lucas had in mind when ESB was in production. Maybe Luke and Leia were already twins in his fertile imagination, maybe not. Maybe Han Solo was the other to whom Yoda referred. But the story we have is the story we have, and that story ends up with Luke and Leia as twins, suggesting that Leia is the other to whom Yoda refers. In that case, wouldn't Obi Wan have to be somewhat addled to say Luke was their last hope? He knows that Leia is a leader in the rebel alliance. If he also knows that she's Luke's sister, then he should certainly consider her a source of hope as well.

Logic leads us to the simple conclusion that as of ESB, Obi Wan does not know Leia is also a Skywalker. Perhaps, as a ghostly entity of The Force, he ought to, but he clearly doesn't. Which leads to the question, Why not?

Obi Wan has known who Luke is for Luke's entire life. In all likelihood, Luke is the main reason Obi Wan settled on Tatooine to begin with. So why wouldn't he know about Leia? A reasonable answer would be that Yoda kept it hidden from him.

Obviously, neither Vader nor Obi Wan was present at the birth. Kind of hard to miss that second twin coming out. But just as obviously, both of them knew about Luke. No one would consider the Lars farmstead a subtle hiding place for the child, which means it's entirely possible Vader knew Luke was there all along. Clearly, Ben Kenobi did. So Luke's existence was an open fact, while Leia's remained a guarded secret. The motivation for hiding her from Vader is hardly worth discussing -- she was an ace in the hole. But why keep the knowledge from Obi Wan?

Here, we turn back to the prequel trilogy, and again, I'll bring up music. Have you noticed how weepy and sad the awkwardly named Love Theme From Attack of the Clones is? It's a tremendously somber piece of music, considering that Anakin's relationship with Padme is one of the few bright spots in his life. The nature of the music alone suggests that this romance is bad news. Even more telling is the very end of the End Title music. After a number of variations on the Love Theme, the score gives us a few moment's of Anakin's theme from Episode I. Then, that dreamy childhood leitmotiff segues into the Love Theme, which in turn blends into the unmistakeable Darth Vader theme. Once again, this could just be John Williams futzing around. But I can't interpret it in any other way than as an open statement that Anakin's romance with Padme directly facilitates his transformation into Darth Vader. Anakin --> romance --> Vader.

Now, of all places, I'll go to the recent article about Star Wars in Vanity Fair. In a mixture of quotes and paraphrasing that render's George Lucas's actual words indeterminate, the article flat out says that Anakin turns to the Dark Side in a Faustian bargain to gain the return of a dead loved one. The article makes it clear that this is Anakin's mother -- or someone else whom he has lost.

If Anakin turns to the Dark Side because he wants his mother back, I can hardly see how the romance facilitates his corruption. On the other hand, if the romance is central to his downfall, then it must be Padme whom he loses and hopes to gain back.

Here's where things get really interesting. A careful watching of Attack of the Clones suggests that Padme is far more interested in Obi Wan Kenobi than in Anakin Skywalker. It is Obi Wan whom she greets so warmly in Chancellor Palpatine's chambers. When Anakin sulks over Padme barely recognizing him, Obi Wan says, "She was glad to see us." My emphasis would be on the "us" there. With his Force-heightened senses, Kenobi ought to know very well whether Padme was specifically glad to see Annakin, so it probably means something that he says "us" and not "you." When Padme is packing for her return to Naboo, she defends Obi Wan's critical attitude toward Anakin, saying that that is what mentors are for. At every turn, she expresses her discomfort at Anakin's attentions, and whenever given the opportunity to talk about Master Kenobi, she reveals her high regard for him. It is Padme, not Anakin, who insists upon going to rescue the man who is "like a father" to him.

So why does Padme end up falling for Anakin at all? My answer is that she does not. Unless the Jedi are just a bunch of prigs or prudes, they must have a reason for prohibiting attachment, and that reason seems pretty straightforward to me: when a Jedi is highly emotional, his emotions can extend to others through The Force. What Padme feels in AOTC is not her own love for Anakin, but his desire for her to love him.

The acting in AOTC has been widely ridiculed, but if you watch the film with the presumption that Padme is not actually acting upon her own wishes, but upon Anakin's, then Natalie Portman's performance suddenly makes complete sense. Why is she flat and lifeless when passion seems called for? Because the passion is not Padme's. Anakin relentlessly manipulates her the entire time they are on Naboo, both with his open words and, subconsciously perhaps, with The Force. He would do anything for her love, even use the plight of his mother to play upon her sympathies, and move her from her familiar territory to his own.

In point of fact, we actually see the two of them in shadow-puppet form just before Anakin rides off to find his mother. Padme walks stiffly out of the homestead and out of camera view, and only then does her shadow puppet speak the words Anakin wishes her to, while his own shadow assumes the likeness of Darth Vader.

So, what do you think Padme's reaction is likely to be when she finds out why Jedi are forbidden to love? And who do you think is most likely to tell her about that?

How about "She's going to be really, really pissed," and "Obi Wan Kenobi."

Picture Senator Amidala and Master Obi Wan on a ship bound for some important negotiation. Away from Anakin, she confesses that she once had a laughable, juvenile crush on Obi Wan. He tells her that he knew it all along, and explains why, as a Jedi, he could not respond to it. If he were to fall in love with her, he could never be certain her emotions were her own -- they might simply be projections. Realization dawns on Padme. She understands at last why her feelings for Anakin are so powerful while in his presence, but so muted when he is gone. She is alone with Obi Wan. He knows nothing of her marriage to Anakin. She is unaware that she has just conceived a child, but she is suddenly very aware of what her true feelings are, and what she wants.

We already know that Luke and Leia are fraternal twins, since paternal twins must always be identical. The twist is that they are fraternal twins with different fathers. Leia is hidden from Vader because she was easy to hide from him -- she has no blood link to Anakin Skywalker. She is hidden from Ben Kenobi because, in all likelihood, Padme seduces Kenobi to get back at Anakin, and then does not want to burden Obi Wan with having irresponsibly fathered a child. Or perhaps she is hidden from Kenobi because Padme, or Yoda, or Bail Organa, knows that Kenobi would want to do the right thing and stay with his child, which would tend to make both of them easier targets for Vader.

So there you have it. In two months, we'll find out if it's complete hogwash, or a feat of deduction worthy of Sherlock Holmes.

Sorry if I spoiled anything for you.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Look at the Size of That Thing!

If you haven't already checked out, go over to my blogroll and click on it. Star Trek fans may chafe at the inexorable logic that shows how thoroughly the Empire could defeat the Federation, but anyone who likes Star Wars ought to get a kick out of the site.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

I'm Ready for Anything.

In two months, my favorite movie of 2005 will arrive in theaters. It most likely won't be the best movie of 2005, although I believe there is at least some chance that it will astonish one or two skeptical critics.

Let me explain that I was 10 years old when the first Star Wars movie premiered, and had already developed a voracious appetite for science fiction. As a budding artist, I found the visuals spellbinding. Furthermore, I am naturally susceptible to passionate music, having been exposed from infancy to the music of Russian composers like Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Rachmaninov.

So I was sort of tailor-made to become a die-hard Star Wars fan.

Yet we all grow up, and there came a point in my life when I nearly lost my adoration of these films. During and just after college, I gravitated toward more cerebral science fiction (Gene Wolfe, Kim Stanley Robinson, Octavia Butler), and had not seen any of the SW films since high school. The low point came when my sister and I happened across a cable showing of Star Wars, just as the attack on the Death Star commenced. We both found ourselves startled at the crudity of the effects (this was pre-Special Edition), and actually ended up laughing at Obi-Wan's disembodied voice saying, "Luke! Trust in your feelings!"

Another few years passed. I assumed that I had largely outgrown Star Wars. I moved from my first job to my second, met my wife, experienced a number of dizzying peaks and crushing disappointments, and settled into a long-running like/hate relationship with the various Star Trek television shows.

Then word came that George Lucas had decided to revisit the Star Wars Trilogy for its twentieth anniversary. The commercials and previews rekindled my interest, although I rolled my eyes at a coworker who stood in line overnight for tickets, and who bought one for every showing on the first day.

Curiously, I can't now remember very much about the first showing of that first Special Edition. I remember standing around talking about it afterwards. I recall finding the reinserted Jabba the Hut scene disappointingly poor in its effects. But I think I remember about as much from seeing the movie in 1977 as 1997. (We arrived late in 1977, and entered the theater to the image of R2-D2 in the haunting bowels of the Jawa sandcrawler.)

What I do remember from 1997 is the showing of The Empire Strikes Back that changed my life. It was my third viewing of ESB:SE -- I saw it on opening day, saw it again in that narrow window of opportunity you could catch all three films in the megaplex back-to-back, and then saw it in the dollar theater, after SW had already left and I didn't have the opportunity to watch my "favorite" on the big screen again.

That was the night when I realized that ESB is a better movie than Star Wars, when I realized that the asteroid field sequence is about the most perfect sequence ever captured on film, for someone who believes in romance, in struggle against adversity, in music, and in art. I had not loved The Empire Strikes Back as a kid, but I found that I could love it without reservation as an adult.

So now here I am, having spent inordinate amounts of time over the last eight years thinking about and talking about Star Wars, awaiting ever-more-anxiously the debut of Revenge of the Sith. If the hints and implications in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones are not merely figments of my own imagination, the new movie will be full of revelations, including several that I don't think most people expect. (A hypothetically spoiler-filled explanation is forthcoming.)

Hopefully, George Lucas and John Williams will at least bat their averages this May. If they do, nothing else will touch Episode III this year. At least, not for me.

You Can Fool Around With Your Friends Later

Welcome to my Star Wars blog. I'll be posting my thoughts about the six Star Wars films here from time to time. Feel free to leave comments correcting my dialogue quotes -- I have four kids, so I don't always have time to go to the DVDs and search out a line to get it perfect.