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.

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