Star Wars ★★★★★

What is perhaps most fascinating about the original Star Wars film is how inventive it feels despite being almost devoid of new ideas. George Lucas' space opera is Kurosawa by way of Flash Gordon (or Buck Rogers, take your pick). In a sense, Star Wars is the film that reinvented remix culture in a post-Classics and post-Shakespeare world. It is a beat-for-beat play-through of the Hero's Journey, dressed up in absurd, fantastical production design. But Lucas solidly understood both the power of film and the power of mythology: both require you to "buy in," and both reward you thusly with a profound sense of wonder.

Star Wars is far from a perfect film. The later prequels often take the brunt of criticism for Lucas' writing of dialogue, but this first film also has its share of awkward moments and clunky conversations. It just isn't as much of a problem here because the retro feel of it all is kind of charming. There is a kitsch 1970s vibe to it, but so much of that became iconic. Characters like the terrifying (yet objectively absurd) Darth Vader, the rogueish Han Solo, and the wise Obi Wan Kenobi. It is a classic tale of good vs. evil, and the power of small groups of people to make big change. It's such a simple story, but one that inserted so much into the cultural lexicon: lightsabers, The Force, Death Star. Hell, how many babies born in the late 70s were named Luke or Leia? The prequels are more morally-complicated. Star Wars is pure white hat/ black hat, and I think that is what resonates with people in a complicated world.

I didn't see Star Wars when it was released. I wasn't even born until the year after Return of the Jedi. But I have seen it probably more than any other movie, with the exception of maybe Die Hard. Star Wars is a movie, and maybe even a really silly one. But it's also more than just a movie. It is a cultural experience, a formative touchstone. For that reason, I can't fault those who grew up a few years after me and who had a similar experience with The Phantom Menace.

We all have those things that touched our childhood sense of wonder. Years later, you can watch Star Wars and see all its flaws. But when that moment comes when Luke, filled with youthful optimism and discontent, stares out over the vast desert towards the twin suns of Tatooine and John Williams' score swells, that sense of wonder hasn't gone anywhere.

The Force will be with you, always.

Joshua liked this review