Sunday, September 1, 2013

Family Movie Night: Star Wars

Title: Star Wars
Director: George Lucas
Original Release: 1977
Choice: Mine
My Overall Rating: 5 stars out of 5
via Wookieepedia

Star Wars has been the center of my pop culture universe from the first time I saw the original film on the big screen.   I was four years old in 1977.  I am willing to admit, 36 years on, that certain elements of the movie do not hold up so well now.  The visual effects have all since been eclipsed, of course, though I think the explosions are still pretty impressive.  The acting is generally underwhelming and the editing at times comically poor.  However, there is one area in which the original Star Wars trilogy stands alone in the history of cinema.  No other movie uses music and sound so effectively.  As far as I'm concerned, it's not even close.  R2's bleeps and bloops, Vader's breath and Chewbacca's roar are every bit as iconic as images of the Millenium Falcon or Imperial Stormtroopers.  The most crucial sound effect of all was John Williams's incomparable musical score.

It's nearly impossible to avoid superlatives when discussing the music of Star Wars.  The horn blast that opens the film is, in my humble opinion, one of the two greatest musical moments in all of film (I'll share the other one in a few weeks).  The dead silence of the "long time ago" screen explodes into blaring fanfare as the title comes into view.  I have watched Star Wars movies dozens of times and that moment, shared by all of them, never gets old. 



Star Wars is the perfect movie for demonstrating leit motif, a musical theme used to represent a character, setting or idea.  Luke has his theme.  Leia has hers.  Even the droids get one.  Any fan worth his or her salt can hum a few bars of the Cantina band's tune.  Interestingly, Han Solo does not have a theme.  Oh well.  He nearly managed to steal the show without one.

Only Walt Disney has been nominated for more Academy Awards than John Williams.  For the world's most decorated composer, the first Star Wars film score was the greatest triumph.  Williams won his third Best Score Oscar for the movie in addition to a Golden Globe, three Grammys, a BAFTA and a Saturn.  In total, Williams has won five Best Score Oscars.  At age 81, he shows few signs of slowing down, either, with three Academy Award nominations in just the past two years.

Multi-generational considerations:
  • In one DVD release, Lucas included the original theatrical versions of the first three Star Wars movies along with the ones with all of his later, completely unnecessary edits.  I'm very glad I snatched them up when I had the chance as the originals are the only versions of the films my daughter has ever watched.
  • Our Girl was impressed by how many of the lines I knew by heart and at one point while we were watching, I looked over and saw that she was working on memorizing them herself!  Rolling her eyes, My Wife said, "You must be so proud."  Like you wouldn't believe, dear.
If you're dying to know more about my Star Wars obsession, please visit the following posts:
I'm hoping to tackle the novels soon, too.  They're on the to-read stack, just waiting for me.

35 comments:

  1. I think the whole thing holds up. When young children today can sit down and fall in love with it just the way we did, you know it's not lacking.

    I could go on, but I don't have time.

    Most of the books are garbage. The original Zahn trilogy is more than worth it, but there's not much else worth reading.

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    1. Don't get me wrong. I still love it even for all of the obvious flaws. At its heart, it's still a wonderful story. That more than makes up for whatever deficiencies one might find.

      Yeah, I have to admit I don't know how far I'll get with the books. But I'm willing to try. Exploring the comics has been a lot of fun.

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  2. We've got those DVDs (with the original cuts), too... and my son rolls his eyes when he happens upon scenes from the special editions.

    Are you planning on reading Splinter of the Mind's Eye, too? I haven't looked at it since 1978, but I recall it fondly.

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    1. Good for your son! You're definitely raising that boy right.

      Splinter is on the stack. I'm hoping to get to it before too long.

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  3. Son bought me a box set that has the original movies and the special editions. He couldn't find just the originals so he bought the whole set because he was afraid he would never be able to find then again.
    We only watch the original set.
    I remember when my son who was very Star Wars crazy he was 4 ? we stood in line to watch the third movie, I think, and when we sat down to watch the movie he fell asleep and we couldn't wake him. The movie was loud but he slept through it.

    I was in England visiting the same son who was at Cambridge for school and we toured around and ended up in York one day. The "first" new movie was out so one evening we went to see it. I spent a nice evening with my son who fell asleep in the above story.

    Sorry this is so long.
    But I love Star Wars, such wonderful memories for me.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. No apologies necessary. I completely understand.

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  4. The original brings wonderful memories to me. And I loved the music too.

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  5. I'm not much of a Star Wars fan, but I do remember liking The Empire Strikes Back. I fear the day when the first JJ Abrams Star Wars movie is released because that man made me like Star Trek a lot, and I'm not sure I'm ready to be a Star Wars fan.

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    1. Empire is definitely better. The first movie is top 10 all-time for me but ESB is top 3 - for sentimentality, probably #1. All of the deficiencies I mentioned for the first are significantly improved and frankly, it's just a better story. You get to meet Yoda - 'nuff said, really. The first is a classic, the second is why the franchise has endured.

      I, too, am nervous about what Abrams is up to. I enjoyed the new Trek movies but have some serious issues regrading his continuity decisions. I think it's definitely a good thing that someone other than Lucas is directing but perhaps the fact that Papa George is still alive will keep Abrams from going too crazy.

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    2. Why would it? 'Papa George' biffed it with the prequels. I have zero hope for the next installments ...

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    3. I accepted a long time ago that nothing will ever compete with my love for the original three. Just as no job could compete with my love for sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee in my hand. That's just how it is.

      But I'll definitely go see them. I'm hoping for pleasantly surprised.

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    4. Going back to MJ's original comment in this thread, I would love it if the new ones were good enough to win over new converts. The prequels fell short of that. Kids liked them but they weren't the generation defining experience the originals were for some of us.

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    5. You are wrong that the prequels didn't win converts. I saw my second son transformed by Attack of the Clones, his first Star Wars movie. And the kids (girls, too) at their school used to run around playing Jedi Knight. That was based on the prequels, not the originals. All of the Star Wars converts at my kids' school came from the prequels, and there are a LOT of them, more than there were Star Wars fans at my school when I was a kid.

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    6. Anyway, I think it's your own bias against the prequels that's preventing you from seeing the deep impact the prequels had on the kids of this generation.

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    7. I would dearly love to feel the same affection for the prequel trilogy that I do for the originals but I don't. Episode 3 is my favorite among them for tying the whole story together but it's still not quite the same.

      If I am wrong on the lack of converts, I am delighted.

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  6. I have the scores from all six Star Wars movies on my iPod and I can always tell what part of the movie it's from when a new song comes up...Williams is such a genius. He keeps the same general theme in every part, but you can still hear the difference between the victory celebrations between Episode I and Episode III; or the battles between Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul, and Obi-Wan and Anakin.

    Love Star Wars...

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  7. I loved this movie when I was little. While it is not as good as I remembered from an adult perspective it is filled with some classical Greek themes. I think if not over analyzed it is fun to watch.

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    1. I think the strength of the basic story is key. As I'm sure you know, Joseph Campbell admired Star Wars greatly for the mythological allusions. All of the effects have been outmoded. What impresses me is not so much the tech involved as much as how music and sound are used to serve story.

      But you're probably right, over-thinking Star Wars in 2013 is surely missing the point.

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  8. Another winner. Battin' it outta the park.

    I watched an early trailer without Williams' score and it was so odd. Devoid of more than just sound, if that makes sense, which I think for you it will.

    I love the 'Jedi' theme playing when Vader turns on the Emperor in favor of assisting his son in ROTJ. It's actually one of my favorite scenes in the franchise precisely because of that perfectly-executed strain.

    I wish so bad I had the mental energy to come up with a quick and dirty Han Solo theme to link but I'm drawin' a blank, at the mo.

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    1. Lucas struck gold with that score commission and has admitted as much in numerous interviews. I think I've seen the same trailer you mention and it really does feel empty.

      Han Solo Theme - I'm not sure why at all but "Sunshine of Your Love" comes to mind.

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    2. Good one, Cyg! Marley original or Clapton cover?

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    3. Ah, of course. He is the Space Cowboy AND the Gangster of Love. For all we know, Chewie calls him Maurice.

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    4. Next time I hear that song, I will hear the whistle after "Maurice" in R2-D2's tones.

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    5. So say we all!

      Wait, different franchise...

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    6. I placed our Han Solo bobble head on top of the DVDs as I was ordering them this weekend after The Big Move and, I swear, I heard the whistle.

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    7. Ordering them... as in organizing them? Oooo, how do you do it? Alphabetical? Genre? Key grip awesomeness?

      I used to do that. Now it's just wherever I can find space on the shelf.

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    8. Not alphabetical. Totally intuitive. It has to do with the intangibles. Even the Miyazakis got split up: some in little one's basket (Ponyo, Kiki, Spirited, etc.) and the 'Adult Miyazakis' (Nausica (sp?,) Mononoke.)

      Put it this way, Star Trek is next to Freaks and Geeks on the shelf. Makes sense, yes? :)

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