Welcome to another installment of Movies to Show My Son. This is the blog series where I discuss movies I can’t way to show my son in the future. I’ll be covering my own personal experience with the movie, movie and life lessons I hope he will learn, and lastly my concerns about showing said film. This week’s film is Star Wars.
I know many can point to the exact moment they sat down and saw Star Wars for the first time. They can speak to it as the ultimate religious experience where they transcended their physical forms to become one with the force. For me, I cannot recall the first time I saw Star Wars, or if going in I knew about who Luke’s dad was or if I was ever properly prepared for what I was about to witness. Of course, I watched it, but it was not as big of a part of my childhood as it was for others.
That changed though when the special editions were set to be released. I remember watching a documentary on Fox one night that showed the beyond the scenes of the original trilogy along what they were working on for these new versions. It was perhaps the first time I ever saw anything like that for a movie. Seeing this archival footage of actors dressed up as their iconic characters but acting like normal people off camera was surreal. That along with seeing how the special effects were created sparked something in me that is alive to this day. Almost as if we were watching the magician willingly showing you how he did his tricks.
What is forgotten with the controversy of the special editions is that they were released in theaters prior to hitting home media. It was because of that I was able to see Star Wars on the big screen for the first and only time since. So while I understand the vitriol disdain that is spewed towards the changes George Lucas made, I cannot fully participate as they do hold a somewhat special place with me.
In fact, my love of Star Wars began to fully blossom when it was finally released to VHS. When that happened I remember traveling to a local Wal*Mart and seeing two giant bins full of triple packed VHS’s. One had the special editions and the other the classic version. Being young and naive I could not understand why anyone would want the classic version. It was simple to me. The new ones had updated graphics and you got more movie. Why would you choose anything else? As they say, the youth is wasted on the young.
Age to Show:
There is a misnomer that simplicity equals bad and complexity equals good. When you break down Star Wars to its most basic foundation it is a story of good trying to triumph over evil. I remember watching a clip of an old Nightline episode where Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert defended Return of the Jedi against a fellow critic. Ebert brings up how children were able to get infested into the story and why that is such a big reason the movie was a success. Looking back at that interview it’s interesting to see how all of Star Wars was considered a children’s movie, which is not really the case anymore. As indicated in that interview Star Wars does challenge the imagination in new ways which makes me feel around the age of five would be the ideal time to watch it for the first time. Where you can better understand the story being told, and when some of the major plot developments would have a much bigger impact.
A funny moment occurred with my son the other day. He has a toy shark and when he was playing with it I heard him humming the theme to Jaws. No, I have not introduced a toddler to a movie about a killer shark. He’s got at least a couple years before we sit down to watch that. However, he has heard me humming that tune as we played previously. I was just taken aback by how a rather small and quick moment stuck with him so much. Shows how powerful music can be in its simplest form.
When you think about music is there a movie more defined by its score than Star Wars? Before watching it I do not think I ever really paid attention to the music in a movie outside of the use of “We are the Champions” in the Mighty Ducks films. Star Wars changed that for me and I would imagine the same will occur with my son. I did not fully realize as a kid how much the music was apart of me until attending one of my sisters’ band concerts. There were few things I hated more as a kid then being forced to attend those. One time though my ears began to enjoy the sound that was being made and I realized they were playing the “Imperial March” from that movie I really loved. Of course I would never admit this to my sisters at the time.
My hope is that it opens up discussion about how music can be used in movies. On its most basic level how certain pieces are automatically associated with certain characters, and how a piece of music can often tell you much more than actual dialog. My musical talents are limited at best. When it comes to describing why I like a piece of music I cannot do much more than say, “It sounds good”, but when it comes to how music can impact the mood of the effectiveness of a scene I can find a lot to discuss.
Growing up as a kid from a small rural town I could relate to a character like Luke Skywalker. What I hope my son can learn from him is that greatness can come from anyone. As simple as it may sound learning that it is okay to follow your dreams is an important key to life. Yes, that has a cheesy after-school special aspect to it, but when someone does not feel they can dream big they are doomed to live small.
How you live is dependent upon those choices you make, and one of the biggest is deciding what people you will surround yourself with. Will it be the scum and villainy of the dark side or will you choose a lighter path? I hope my son will see the benefit of surrounding yourself with a diverse group of positive people. Sure you may argue with one another, but when things get tough and you have to fight off a swarm of incoming tie fighters or stay on target on your way to blowing up a planet-destroying Death Star it’s good to know you have people you can trust guarding your back.
My hope is it will open up my son’s imagination to new possibilities. Seeing this new world with crazy creatures and magical like powers. How the worlds of both fantasy and science fiction can meld into one perfectly formed piece of entertainment. Even today I am amazed how much imagination a toddler can possess. I do notice though is much of what he imagines is a recreation of things he sees in real life. Whether it be pretending the laundry basket is a dump truck or his legos and enormous buildings what he experiences impacts the limits of his imagination. A movie like Star Wars can expand those limits in galaxy sized proportions.
I remember as a kid hearing rumors that they were going to make more Star Wars movies and never believing it was going to happen. Then the prequels came out and…that’s a story for another day. Again rumors were bandied about that there were going to be even more movies that took place after the original trilogy. A pipedream I thought especially after how awful the reception for the prequels was. Why would George Lucas bother to return to that world? Enter Disney to show anything is possible when you have more money that Montgomery Burns, Scrooge McDuck, and the guy from Monopoly combined.
Now do not get me wrong I love that we are getting more Star Wars movies. I have greatly enjoyed both The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and as I am writing this I eagerly anticipate finally seeing The Last Jedi. With that said by the time my son is old enough to watch Star Wars there may be over a dozen movies in the franchise. Can something like A New Hope remain as special as it once was knowing there are eleven other movies like it? I worry that it will become to the Star Wars franchise what Dr. No is to James Bond. Often forgotten about and not as highly regarded as more modernized installments.
Not to mention the basic question of what order do you go with? Do you show them in order of release? In order of storytelling? Should we just pretend the prequels never existed minus Revenge of the Sith? Some have event mentioned watching a New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and then the prequels minus Phantom Menace. Then finally finishing up with Return of the Jedi. If you do that when exactly do you watch Rogue One? Would it cause special effects whiplash going back and forth like that?
To answer that question my thought is keep it simple and watch them in order of release. Going Prequels first is so wrong in so many ways. You completely ruin the biggest surprise in movie history, and god help me that I can keep that unspoiled for him until we watch it for the first time. What else are movies for if not creating memories that we will not forget? That is why I am not too concerned about more and more Star Wars movies being released.
These past few years my family and I have been able to start a new tradition as each Christmas we get together to watch Star Wars on the big screen. In fact, I saw Force Awakens with my Dad in the theater, and I can count on one hand the number of movies he has seen in a theater. Oddly that was the first ever Star Wars movie he ever watched. I am still not sure what he thought of it. He tends to stick to anything World War II or Western themed. Still, that moment is something I remember more than ninety percent of the movies I see. Yes, it is more meaningful knowing we are all partaking in this one epic story.
I cannot wait to add my son into that tradition. Just sitting back and being thrilled for two hours over whatever new Star Wars story is being released that year. Yes, I could be cynical and complain about Disney only caring about making money, or this will only lead to further franchise fatigue. I have hope they will be good, and even if they aren’t the memories will be. If I can remember the special editions as fondly as I do anything is possible.