Last night, we finished watching "Return of the Jedi," which was one of the transformative movies of my childhood. The entire Star Wars series have been huge influences on me as I've grown: one of the first comics I collected, one of the first book series I collected, and one of the first movies that I actually wore out on video.
It's interesting, watching it as a grownup. There are so many missteps that they took: poor choices in character behavior (Leia kissing her brother in each of the first two movies, and Ewoks), poor choices in redoing effects in later editions, and awkward dialogue. However, these movies actually set up a bunch of sci-fi tropes: the Han Solo type character, Lando's betrayed and subsequent redemption, Luke's hero's journey, the rise and fall and rise of Anakin Skywalker, and the middle movie which had the heroes surviving a series of massive defeats yet striving to fight again.
I can't call Star Wars one of the best movies I've seen, anymore. I think a number of recent movies have passed it, in terms of epic storytelling (Lord of the Rings but not The Hobbit), special effects (Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy), and action (The Matrix).
But, for a kid who loved space ships, whose first favorite book was "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel," and who worked to reenact every scene in Empire with his toys and the Hoth battle set his parents bought him.... it was the first and most influential. It was immensely satisfying to hear my kids laugh at the same jokes that I did, to watch them get scared and nervous at the same parts I did, to mourn the deaths of friends (Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Anakin) and to celebrate with them at the victories. Priceless memories for me.
The discussion afterwards with The Boy, where he figured out that the Rebels didn't win a single thing in Empire - that Vader and his minions beat them like a drum for the entire movie - was awesome. It got him to think differently about the movie, about how satisfying it was even though his heroes didn't win.
Next up: Superman III and Superman IV, the the latter two movies in the Indiana Jones series.
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