Friday, February 17, 2012

You Win This Round, George Lucas

I never got to see Star Wars when it was first released. I’ve shared how it was introduced to me via my Cousin Maria during a visit to my Uncle George’s in Claxton. But I wasn’t out of luck. In the days long before DVD/video releases, movies often popped back up in theatres if they were warranted profitable enough. For the most part, they were the same movie and not that director’s cut crap that has become so prevalent.

It was September of 1978 and Star Wars had come back to Milledgeville, GA but this time not at the new Hatcher Square Twin Cinemas where we always went to see flicks. Star Wars was playing only at the old rundown Campus Theatre. I was so disappointed because my mother had a long standing “no movies at the Campus Theatre” rule. She felt the place was dirty and attracted the wrong type of people that a 10 year old should not be introduced to.
In writing this article, I discovered the Campus Theatre has been restored. Very Cool!

I had always wanted to go because the Campus Theatre looked just like those old cinemas from the 1930s-40s. I spent a lot of hours watching the Turner Superstation’s B&W Afternoon Movie. Even though I was only 10, I had visions of driving up in an old Packard to take in a screening of Casablanca or The Maltese Falcon. I’d strut in wearing my best Bogie suit with the dark felt, brimmed hat. My escort would be a hot little number draped in a mink stole and she’d feed me popcorn while wearing her shoulder length gloves during the Sing-a-Long and Looney Tunes cartoon. I didn’t even really care about girls; it just seemed the classy way to watch a movie.

Obviously, it did not go down in this manner. Frankly, I still have no clue how I was able to convince my parents to take me out on a school night to their least favorite movie house in Milledgeville, GA. Mom was well into her third trimester. I guess they wanted to have one last night out before Mary’s arrival though at this point, Mary was always referred to as Marmaduke Marathon Boo Paycheck Richardson. But that is a whole other story.

We arrived around 7ish and I was immediately impressed because the place had a balcony just like in the Little Rascals and Three Stooges. How cool is that? Unfortunately, the balcony was closed for repairs and I suspected those repairs might be a long time coming. We finally found three seats almost in good condition with very little rips on the red vinyl.

The previews started and I still remember them to this day. I was so excited because Mom also had a strict nothing above “G.” Last Christmas I had seen my first PG movie with Uncle Billy so this was kind of a big deal. The first was this horrible ode to disco known as Thank God It’s Friday. I think it’s only remembered because it was the launching point for Debra Winger and a young Jeff Goldblume. Next up was Jaws 2 which prompted me to freak out. Are you kidding me? Any chance to spend an afternoon viewing sharks feasting on slow tourists was time well spent in my book. I didn’t even get part of the request out before the Big Guy said without even turning towards me, “No.”

That would be the end of that. On to the movie.

Now I knew Star Wars backwards and forward thanks to the good people at Marvel Comics and the wonderful adaptation they had done. What failed to escape me were the subtle nuances that only film can deliver. A comic book can tell a story but they can’t convey a funny glance between Obi-Wan and Han Solo or a deadpan line delivery between Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. That movie changed my life in how I enjoy films.
Sitting on my bookshelf as I type

Thirty-four years later, and I am now in the unique position to do the same for my kids. The Phantom Menace is out in 3-D. I hate this movie out of all the trilogies. It’s poorly directed and acted. The pacing is horrible and it has Jar Jar Binks. I am also not thrilled about the idea of dropping a ridiculous amount of cash for something that I don’t really want to see in the first place.

So why I am I ponying up to bankroll George Lucas’s desire to drop a Hot Karl on my memories? Probably for the same reason my parents took me to a crappy theatre back in 1978 on a school night. I love those kids and I get to share in their excitement and wonder of Star Wars. Roni and Jude don’t worry about bad acting, implausible plot lines, or horrible CGI characters. The world still has real magic to them and this movie may help us all too collectively share in that for 131 minutes. For them, I’ll take one on the chin and tone down my snobbery for a bit.
But George Lucas, heed my words. I’ll pay the crazy ticket prices and do the same for the next six years as you release each one of the SW in the trilogy. We’ll buy the wacked out merchandise like the SW can of Pringles and the breakfast cereal with the light saber spoons. I’ll even laugh along with Roni and Jude at the annoying antics of the ewoks and Jar Jar Binks. Just please, for God’s sake, leave Raiders of the Lost Ark alone.  

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