Star Wars opened 30 years ago this past Friday. I hadn't yet been born, but I still feel like I grew up with that movie and its sequels. Mom is a Star Wars O.G., so I was well acquainted with the films by the time I entered kindgergarten. Fuck, when I was three years old I slept in Yoda pajamas. A lot of Star Wars geeks bitched about the DVD release last year because the prints of the original pre-Special Edition films were taken from the laserdiscs released in the 1990s rather than a proper state-of-the-art remastering — which I totally understand, but I never owned those laserdiscs and it was nice to be able to watch Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and even Return of the Jedi as they were before George Lucas decided they were densely packed metaphors for all human existence.
Ashley and I watched Forbidden Planet last night, one of the greatest sci-fi adventures ever filmed, a fun outer space tale that shows off its brains and wit without being full of itself. I remember when Star Wars was like that, when it was a goofy space western, before it was recast as the statement of a deep and deliberate filmmaker. Not that I have a problem with statements from deep and deliberate filmmakers (2001: a space odyssey has been a favorite all my life), but George Lucas is one of them, and Star Wars is not that kind of film, no matter how insistent Lucas is to the contrary.
Look no further than the horrible, boring, lifeless prequel trilogy for proof of what happens when Lucas worries more about pretentious themes and special effects than telling a compelling story. Lucas freely admits that he drew inspiration from the films of Akira Kurasawa, especially The Hidden Fortress, but he also expects us to believe that he is an heir to Kurasawa, and that his brutally dull Jedi are the descendants of the samurai in Throne of Blood and Yojimbo. He talks as though he is a much better filmmaker than he is, and that his films are much better than they are. Star Wars and the other two entries in the original trilogy are good, entertaining, rousing films and they — especially the first two — deserve to be remembered fondly in the annals of American film. But let's not go nuts.
A few weeks ago Lucas condescendingly declared Spider-Man 3 "silly," and went on to say "People thought Star Wars was silly, too. But it wasn't." Yes it was, George. You should've left it that way.