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Star Wars culture
The saga may end, but the Force will always be with us

Lucas agonistes

GEORGE LUCAS STANDS in my mind as a prime example of the ravages of success on an artist. His early directorial record ó THX-1138, American Graffiti, and Star Wars ó was a pretty stunning three-for-three by my account. That last one, of course, was such an overwhelmingly massive event that it obliterated Lucasís ability to carry on as auteur. He did not direct again until his re-emergence with The Phantom Menace, which seemed to established him as a Darth Vader of directors: presumably still pure of heart deep down, but immobilized beneath scar tissue and endless gruesome machinery. Of course, like most people my age (Iím contemporaneous with the first film), I treat the original trilogy as religion and the new work as fodder for passionate, angry debate, and Iíve read plenty of interviews with Lucas over the past 25 years; a constant refrain is his stated desire to return to the experimental filmmaking of his youth, echoed by another refrain ó his fear that no one would accept such films from him. Mr. Lucas, should you read this, I implore you: do it! Please! Make experimental films! Youíre free! Cast off your Vader mask, throw the Emperor down the well, and imbue us, your progeny, with a new hope!

ó Andrew Bujalski

MY OLDER BROTHER didnít believe Darth Vader. Who could blame him, really? After all, Vader had just lied to Lando, encased Han in frozen carbonite, and lopped off Lukeís hand. So when the Dark Lord uttered the most famous phrase in sci-fi history ("I am your father"), you could forgive my then-11-year-old brother, and thousands like him, for taking it with all the grains of salt in the Kessel Mines.

But he wasnít lying, and next week weíll finally see this corroborated on a galactic scale. There likely wonít be many such moments of "no-effiní-way" when Revenge of the Sith lands on May 19, but the experience will be just as momentous. I donít need to tell you itís the last Star Wars movie youíll ever see. You probably also know that George Lucas is planning a Star Wars television series, and perhaps youíre eyeing that 3-D cut of the original trilogy, due in 2007.

We know whatís going to happen; what Iím most excited for is the how. Iíve done my best to avoid every TV ad in the last month or so, lest I learn some crucial fact prematurely, but I couldnít avoid Entertainment Weeklyís summer-movie preview. Those pictures of the Wookiees totally sealed it for me. Itís amazing, the power that one image can have; in the end, that may be the legacy Star Wars leaves us. Itís not too late to remember ...

ē When I was five, I dressed up as Chewbacca for Halloween. It was one of those all-plastic get-ups that you find at Walgreens, and I scared some little girl half to death. Iím not too proud to admit that I also owned a pair of Yoda Underoos. Clearly, the seeds were planted early, and 17 years later, when James Earl Jones was speaking at my college graduation, I had VADER LIVES emblazoned on the back of my gown. I donít think he saw it.

ē Most of my action figures from the original trilogy were handed down from my brother, so when I got my mitts on, say, his Darth Vader, it was without the cool built-in lightsaber; his Boba Fett looked like it had come straight from the Sarlac pit. My cousin had a model Millennium Falcon and my best friend had one of those giant Rancors, both of which I was always jealous of; recalling all this helps me understand so much about my youth. But does anybody born after 1995 ó 1985, even ó care enough about this new movie to buy the action figures? The other day I saw a commercial for some Revenge of the Sith toy and couldnít help but feel a little off. Kids today like Spy Kids and Harry Potter; Iím not sure the idea of a Flash GordonĖtype space opera appeals to them.

ē The Lucasfilm logo still makes me giddy. Iím the one you hear applauding whenever itís branded ó much in the same way George Lucas has branded us all ó onto the screen at the local multiplex. Iím also the one who left the 1997 re-release of The Empire Strikes Back and announced, shocked and without so much as a scintilla of irony, "I canít believe Darth Vader is Luke Skywalkerís father!"

Okay, so I stole that gag from Homer Simpson, and Kevin Smith has made a career out of debating the various scruples of Imperial contractors, but that just goes to show how far the Star Wars universe reaches. Without Star Wars, we wouldnít be calling the Yankees the Evil Empire, Mel Brooks never would have made Spaceballs, and Tom Selleck probably would have played Indiana Jones. Weíd also be without two of the all-time funniest sketches on Saturday Night Live: Bill Murray as lounge singer Nick Winters singing the Star Wars theme, and Kevin Spacey as Jack Lemmon, asking about the "fucking space ape" during his failed Star Wars screen test.

ē Rumor has it that in the new film, thereís a lightsaber battle between two Jedis with the same-colored crystals ó the first time this has ever happened (Iím betting on an Obi-Wan/Anakin fight with blue sabers, one of which eventually goes to Luke). That alone would be worth the price of admission, but we also get to see who fells Mace Windu (you know heís a goner; itís either going to be a young Boba Fett, or some epic showdown with Dooku), and Senator ó pardon me, Supreme Chancellor ó Palpatineís rise to the galactic throne. To say nothing of Obi-Wan and Yoda fleeing to the edges of the galaxy, and a full-on Wookiee army.

Sadly, there are myriad people who have already made up their minds to forgo the movie altogether. But Iíll be there, undoubtedly more than once, and Iíll be cheering along with the rest of the audience when the Lucasfilm logo flashes and the 20th Century Fox tune starts playing. And Iíll know that despite the inevitable ending, the Force will be with us, always.

Aaron Solomon can be reached at asolomon@phx.com

Issue Date: May 13 - 19, 2005
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