April 29, 2010

Star Wars: still amazing, always will be.

I finally bought the DVD set of the original trilogy, and I watched Star Wars (A New Hope) for the first time in what feels like 5 years at least. I was in heaven. And I don’t think it has as much to do with nostalgia as I first thought. No, it’s because Star Wars is simply one of the most imaginative movies ever made. And that will never get old and never seem dated.

Think about it: literally everything in that film—from the spaceships, to the costumes, to the weird languages, the weapons, the aliens, the set design, the robots, even the names and sound effects—everything, down to the smallest details—looks, sounds, and feels like nothing else you’ve ever experienced. We take those famous elements for granted now, but before Star Wars, there simply was nothing remotely like it.

Compare that to, say, Avatar—the current so-called triumph of the imagination”—where pretty much everything does look like something you’ve seen before, just in a different color and in 3D. Amazing as some parts of Avatar were, it’s still a rather pathetic match-up. Even really kick-ass sci-fi movies like The Matrix and District 9—which are plenty imaginative—still don’t hold a candle to the sheer immersive otherness” of Star Wars. Dune is the only other movie I can think of that comes close, but it also sucked.

Not to get all pretentious, but Werner Herzog once said:

We are surrounded by images that are worn out, and I believe that unless we discover new images, we will die.”

The irony is that 30+ years and a boatload of crappy merchandising and sequels later, you could argue that Star Wars’ images are pretty worn out themselves. But watching the original film, and getting caught up in its magic, makes me wonder when a filmmaker will show us something truly new again.

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