Sunday, June 3, 2012

This Week's Geek: Star Wars

In the spring of 1977, I sat in a dark theater near the mall in Greeley, Colorado, and the words in yellow block letters that slowly scrolled upward on the screen to a crash of rising classical music read:

Epsiode IV: A New Hope


 Little did I, or probably anyone else at the time, realize that what was about to follow those words would change the way we watched movies and thought about things like science fiction and special effects forever. 

To say that the Star Wars franchise has a cult following is really an understatement.  Seriously, take the definition of 'cult,'  

"an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers"

What doesn't jive here is the 'body of admirers' bit.  Star Wars is doesn't just have a following, it's pervasive throughout our society.  Everyone...and I mean EVERYONE knows who Yoda is.  Even the least nerdy person you know will at least roll their eyes at you when you say, "Luke, I am your father!"  In the 35 years since Episode IV first hit the big screen, there's been five more movies (with the subsequent series of movies on tape, DVD, Blu-Ray, and so on), the animated theatrical release of The Clone Wars and its subsequent television series, video games, comic books, novels and 'non-fiction,' toys beyond counting, an unbelievable market of collectables, and probably a whole lot of stuff that I've forgotten to mention.  Whether or not you think the movies themselves are actually any good really doesn't matter does it?  It's not just a series of's a franchise.  Wait, let me restate's a cyclopean monolith under whose shadow everything else that came after it resides in.

To be honest, there simply isn't enough room to cover everything Star Wars in this meager post.  In fact, entire blogs and websites are written and dedicated solely to Star Wars.  There may not even be enough space here to even talk about why Star Wars is such a universal lifeblood of nerds and geeks worldwide.  But I'll give it a shot...

These are in numerical order but for no particular reason or significance...mostly its just as they came to mind.

  1. Lightsabers.  Dude, not sure I need to really expand on this.  A sword with a laser instead of a blade.  Take everything that we grew up with - tales of chivalry and knights errant, samurai warriors upholding their honor, kung fu movies with feats of amazing martial prowess, it was suddenly all there with battles in bars filled with aliens and duels to the death on space stations the size of a moon.  Only this time, the swords glowed with amazing color and could cut through anything.  The first one we saw was handed down posthumously from father to son just like in the old days...and little did we know who dad was.  Any Star Wars fanatic worth his lunchbox would sell his soul to the dark side for a chance to have a lightsaber.
  2. Yoda.  We all started to roll our eyes when the guy with the second most imitated voice showed up in a swamp in Episode V figuring that George Lucas just couldn't get away doing a space movie without having at least one little green man in it.  But lo and behold, the greatest Jedi Master of all time was he.  If you doubt me, then you didn't see Episode II.  Who da man?  Yoda man!  Geek Lesson #2 of Star Wars is that size does not matter.  The greatest thing can come in the smallest and unexpected packages.  A poor moisture farm boy from a backward planet can become the last Jedi, one of the biggest scoundrels in the some backwater port town can become one of the ultimate heroes of the galaxy, and the greatest Jedi Master of all time can be a little green guy with big ears that lives in a slimy mudhole and sounds like Frank Oz.  That means a lot to every nerd that got his skinny white butt bullied by some jock in junior high.  (BTW, Geek Lesson #1 is always keep the international merchandising rights.)
  3. Jedi Mind Tricks.  "These aren't the droids you are looking for."  Big brains win over weak minds.  'Nuff said...
  4. Good vs. Evil.  Let's be honest, you can't go wrong with the classic tale of bad guys vs. good guys.
  5. The Slave Girl Leia Scene.  The wet dream of every eleven-year old boy is the scene with Carrie Fisher in that metal bikini.  Again, it's less geek than was even mentioned on that episode of Friends...
  6. The Force.  It can lift rocks.  It can rip equipment off a wall and throw it at your opponent.  It can shoot lightning out of your fingertips.  It can choke people that are smarting off to you.  Simple enough, Feel the force around you...
  7. Boba Fett.  Paging Mr. Fett...Mr. Bob A. Fett.  And yes, I do want a armored suit with a bunch of gadgets that can do all sorts of ridiculous things, including a rocket pack.  The king of the bounty hunters...let's see that Dog guy stand up to Boba Fett.
  8. Space Combat.  It was the 1970's, and let's face it, from the opening scene of the Imperial Destroyer chasing Princess Leia's rebel ship, the space scenes blew our minds.  We sat in those cheap theater sits entranced with the space special effects.  And to be honest, we still do...
  9. Aliens.  The best aliens overall.  Not sure you can name another movie with a pantheon of memorable aliens like this.  Sure, we'd like to forget a few (Ewoks, a bunch from Episode I, etc.), but overall, from the Sand People to Mos Eisley to Jabba's Palace, the aliens of the Star Wars Multiverse are awesome.
  10. It Looks Real.  Face it...we stumbled out of that theater in '77 and were bedazzled.  Why you ask?  Because we looked up at the sky and actually believed that somewhere, far, far away, this really happened.  Why believe this and not Close Encounters or The Spy Who Loved Me (both of which also came out in '77)?  Because Lucas knew (and still knows) how to do it.  It looked real.  The proportions are right...when an AT-AT comes lumbering down on a bunch of guys in an icy trench, it looked right.  Other things made of these that I've often read about and swear to even to this day is that everything looks normal.  That means it looks used.  It's often dingy and dirty in the Star Wars Multiverse.  There is rust on things.  Things are often malfunctioning.  When people shoot at things, they miss.  How about this...people do dumb things.  Even though it was actually a mistake on the actor's part, the scene where a stormtrooper hits his head is a classic example of, this #$% looks real!!!  And because it looked real, we loved it even more! 

This could go on and on with no ending in sight.  Suffice it to say that Star Wars is the pinnacle of all geekdom the main event at the nerdapalooza.  Many may argue with me on this point, but theirs are hollow arguments.  If you'd like to debate it, meet me on Skywalker Ranch and try and tell me why Star Wars isn't the king...

May the Force be with you...



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