Friday, March 11, 2005

A convert

I share Brian's enthusiasm for the new Star Wars movie--up to a point: I must confess, Brian, that I likely won't catch the screening at midnight May 18. But I have seen the theatrical trailer a couple of times now, and I find it stirring.

This surprises me a little. I loved the original trilogy as much as any kid at the time (I was six when the first one came out), but as the excitement surrounding Phantom Menace built to hysteria in the spring of 1999, I found myself less and less interested in the new films. I have this near-fatal contrarian streak, you see, and I all too often fall into the trap of pooh-poohing that which is new and popular, because it is new and popular, and then eventually coming around. Other examples: Pulp Fiction, Post-It Notes.

I wrote about my thoughts at the time in an e-mail to a friend, part of which I'd like to share with you. The message is dated March 24, 1999, and in it I describe a St. Patrick's Day party I attended, at which
the fun was dampened somewhat by my principled attempt to explain to an assistant district attorney why Star Wars is undeserving of all the love and devotion it receives. He wasn't buying and mocked both my criticisms and my acknowledgements of the movie's strengths.

Me: It's badly written and acted.
He: [Sneering] It's modern mythology! It's a GREAT movie!
Me: It's derivative. It recycles cliches.
He: [Sneering] Have you ever heard of CAMP?
Me: No, never, and it's not camp. The special effects are pretty good though.
He: [Sneering] "Pretty good." So what movies DO you like?
Me: Um, Potemkin?
I was shameless even then, but anyway. I was prepared never to see Phantom Menace and to go on loathing it, but when it opened the following May, the magazine I worked for took an office holiday for lunch and a matinee. Never one to pass up free food and entertainment, I tagged along, and...

...I loved it. In no small part because I had such low expectations, certainly, but I thought Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace was terrific, and even thought-provoking, in its way. I saw it twice again that summer. I was excited all over again to see Attack of the Clones in 2002, and when Ereck and I went, I relished filling him in on all the developments from the first installment, which he hadn't seen.

And so I find myself a Star Wars contrarian all over again: moviegoers and critics have been almost universally disappointed by, yes, the acting and the writing of the new films, but I think they're marvelous, gorgeous entertainments. I won't be at Revenge of the Sith opening night, and probably not even opening week (I like to let the hoopla die down a bit), but I'll be there soon enough and, if recent experience is anything to go by, cheering every frame.

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