We all have signature events from our formative years that resonate with our senses and emotions. They are part of what makes us who we are. When we revisit those events it can recreate or re-energize those emotional and sensory experiences. The result can be a sort of dÃ©jÃ vu induced, euphoric event. For a lot of people, one of their signature events is the Star Wars films, especially Episodes 4, 5, and 6 — A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m 62. I have my own media-related set of signature events, none of which are the Star Wars films themselves. Mine include the original TV series The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits; John Wayne westerns; and spaghetti westerns. Probably my biggest one is The Beatles. The first record I ever bought was the 45 RPM of I Want to Hold Your Hand/I Saw Her Standing There when I was ten. When the remastered Beatles albums were released a few years ago, I spent a year listening to nothing else as I focused on a different instrument or vocal part every time I played each CD. Obsessive? Yes. But I didn’t seem to have a choice and I had a silly, enraptured grin on my face every time I listened and returned to that world. If someone tells me they love The Beatles, about 10 minutes later, they realize that I LOVE The Beatles and that what they really meant, is that they like to listen to their music once in a while.
Getting back to Star Wars, my fondest memory of going to Episodes 4-6 is sharing in the experiences of my sons. My oldest son was so caught up in Star Wars, that I remember waiting in line to get him the last Millennium Falcon available before Christmas. It went well with his 15-inch Chewbacca and similarly scaled Han Solo.
My oldest son was 5, 8 and 11 when Star Wars Episodes 4-6 were released, but I was 24, 27, and 30 and the movies themselves have no special hold or sway on me other than in reference to my sons. In fact, I thought Star Wars: A New Hope was hokey and overacted, especially by Harrison Ford , Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill. And I could never figure out why the formidable Storm Troopers couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Don’t get me wrong. I like the films a lot. I also like the story — the Force, the Dark Side, the good vs. evil, and the mystical powers of the Jedi. However, I’ve read many books with just as good or better stories. Maybe it was all the drugs and alcohol I did in the 70’s and 80’s that blocked my infatuation. Maybe it was my age. Who knows? But the films just didn’t have that signature event type of impact on me.
As for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I look forward to seeing it on the big screen, but I haven’t decided if it’ll be 2D or 3D. There is an IMAX in the area but it’s 50 miles away and to be honest, the time and added expense isn’t worth it to me. I have an 8-year-old grandson who is hot to see the new film and I’m more excited by the prospect of taking him than with seeing it for myself. I selfishly want to take him to it before anyone else has a chance. Conversely, his 11- and 13-year-old sisters, who were excited about seeing the original Psycho in the theater with me, couldn’t care less. Their dad, my youngest son, was four when I took him to The Empire Strikes Back, so he was seven when he had finished the original trilogy. While I’m sure he’d like to see the new film, he doesn’t have near the passion for the Star Wars universe that his older brother has. Our oldest son has tickets for his whole family to see The Force Awakens at an IMAX. I’m fairly certain his kids will love it.
But even if my grand-kids love the new film, the odds against it having the same effect on them as Star Wars had on their counterparts in 1977-83 are slim. A New Hope was a groundbreaking film – a unique experience both with the score and visuals, and with the ambitious, grand scale of the story. However, my grand-kids have grown up surrounded by the Marvel Cinematic Universe and other grand scale, visually exciting storytelling. If Star Wars: The Force Awakens has the impact of a signature event on them, it will have to be on the strength of the story and film-making and it will have to be exceptional in relation to other films they’ve experienced. In other words, it will have to stand head and shoulders above the others as A New Hope did, and not be just one of the many. And maybe it will. I haven’t seen it yet so right now, I’m just thinking via keyboard.
I have friends through social media who attended The Force Awakens multiple times (one friend planned and made 11 viewings in three days) on opening weekend. I can’t imagine going to any film that many times in that short of a period. But then, there was my year-long renewed obsession with The Beatles, so even though I would never go to a film 11 times in a 3-day period, I think I understand. That’s their thing, so go for it. As for myself, I don’t have a need to see The Force Awakens on opening weekend. On top of that, I really dislike crowds, so I spent the Friday afternoon of opening weekend attending Krampus. There were two people in the theater besides me and I was perfectly content. So if you can’t get into The Force Awakens, I would highly recommend Krampus. And there’s always The Hateful Eight which opens January 2nd in my area. I’m more excited about seeing that than The Force Awakens. (In anticipation of future insults being hurled my way, I mentally ducked when I wrote that.)
Please understand that this is only my experience. It may or may not be yours, but it is mine. And I intend no inference about your experience. It’s based solely on my observations and my interpretations of those observations. It’s just me.
BUT … I would like to see your thoughts and comments! One of the reasons I wrote this is to spark a conversation. My thoughts, as they ricochet around the inside of my skull, become lonely and incestual, and need outside inputs to expand.
So if you’re comfortable doing so, please share your media related “signature events?” How have they affected your life? Maybe we can all expand our horizons together.
And of course, MTFBWY.
UPDATE: I went to Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 3D on December 23rd with my 8-year-old grandson. It turned out he had already seen it, but when he saw how disappointed I was, he offered to go again just so I wouldn’t have to go alone. “Besides,” he said, “I don’t really remember it very much so I should probably see it again.” What a guy!
In my opinion, The Force Awakens is the best Star Wars film although I’ll need to revisit The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi to be sure. But I liked it much better than A New Hope. Everything about A New Hope that led me to feel it was “hokey,” was corrected and the overacting I mentioned was replaced with excellent acting on all parts.
I did have some concerns with characters’ abilities, but my grandson explained it to me and was able to clear up a couple of my issues. The kid hasn’t seen any of the prior films but seems to know everything about the characters from the first six films through cartoons. He was even correcting my pronunciations. So we’ll see where this takes him. Besides, what to heck do I know?