Wednesday, July 13, 2005


You have to understand something. Arguing about why the new Star Wars trilogy sucks to somebody of my age (29) or thereabouts is tantamount to blasphemy, at least in my book. (My book isn 't the book, no, but as a non-Christian and a non-Muslim, the Bible or the Koran ain't going to cut it; Star Wars is the closest I will get to a religion. That and Marvel Comics...)

Then again, I suspect I may be in the minority here, as many folks my age feel wounded, betrayed, kicked-in-the-crotch by what George Lucas has wrought this second time out.

Not me.

You see, when you're seven years old, and you save the proof-of-purchase certificates from four or five Star Wars action figures, diligently cutting them out from the back of the box, and then you send those same proof-of-purchase cardboard ovals carefully in the mail, hoping against hope that the mailman doesn't lose that precious little envelope, all with the promise of receiving an exclusive, can't-buy-it-in-the-stores Nien Numb action figure in the mail, and two, three months later that figure actually arrives, in your house, in a small gray cardboard box, well, when such an act occurs, it is akin to all those folks who see images of the Virgin Mary in pieces of toast. (And if you think I'm exaggerating, think again.)

So I can, if pressed, rationally explain to you why I actually really, really like The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and, finally, Revenge Of The Sith. I can state that I love how Lucas has retroactively refitted his original story, making it now the primary narrative not of Luke Skywalker, but that of his father, Anakin Skywalker, later to become Darth Vader. I can relate how this is now a saga of a father who chooses the wrong way in life, and is then redeemed by his son, who faces similar temptation, then resists. I can point out how the entire series, all six films, reflects the circular nature of history, how democracies are fragile enterprises that often come undone by the actions of a few misguided individuals, and how the empires that arise are then, in turn, undone by a concentrated group of dedicated rebels. I could even hypothesize that Lucas has attempted something that nobody in cinema has ever done before -- using one family's personal saga, intimate and emotional, and interwoven it with the fate of an entire civilization. I could, on reflection, show how various Buddhist, Christian and Muslim ideas surrounding God, fate, prophecies and prophets are interwoven together alongside the spaceships and light sabres, and how embedded within the entire saga is a subtle critique of how institutionalized religion inevitably becomes corrupted alongside the institutions that govern our lives, and that it is only when the religion itself breaks free from its schematic, regimented requirements that true spiritual redemption arises.

I could say all of that, but it would be bullshit.

Because what matters is that when I was seven years old I sent away for a Star Wars action figure that could not be found at Zellers, or Towers, and it arrived, in my hands, weeks later. A solid, bendable, force. You have to understand -- this was Nien Numb, people, the co-pilot of the Millenium Falcon, Lando Calrissian's right-hand man when they attacked and destroyed the second Death Star.

So, I understand all the criticisms of the new Star Wars films. I even agree with some of them. And again, if a light sabre was pressed to my throat, I could articulate, in an 800 page essay, the political, social and familial themes that Lucas was articulating.

But the seven year old who got Nien Numb delivered by mail to his house would respond:

"Did you see that fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan? And the way Anakin's face, like, melted? And Yoda crawling through that little crawlspace! And how Anakin killed all those Jedi, even the younglings? And..."

When the seven year old inside of you pipes up, you listen, and you listen hard. That boy's religion was Star Wars, and while it may not be a mature relgion, or a real religion, it was mine, more or less. Trying to explain to me why Star Wars sucks is like trying to convince a born-again why evolution is the real deal. I will nod my head and smile politely and concede that you do, in fact, have quite a good argument. But nothing will change.

Very few things in life can take me back to that boy who waited, patiently, day after day, for his action figure to arrive -- and the things that can accomplish that feat, Star Wars or otherwise, I revere, plain and simple.

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