Autumn Phillips: Connecting the ‘Stars’
June 9, 2005
At the risk of sounding like a nerd, I was desperate to see “Star Wars: Episode III.” It was going on three weeks since the movie entered theaters, and I still hadn’t seen it. My foot-dragging companion wanted to wait until the crowds died down. He wanted to wait until the entire world had seen the movie, and then it would be our turn.
He was still traumatized by the time we went to see “Lord of the Rings” on opening day and had to sit in the front row for almost three hours of neck-cramping, vision-destroying battle scenes.
The days passed, and I was starting to get nervous.
“Want to go see Star Wars today, honey?”
“The weather’s too nice to go to a movie,” he said. “We’ll go tomorrow.”
I asked again days later. It was pouring rain, and it had been for days. It was cold. It was gray. It was a great day to sit in a movie theater.
“How about a Star Wars matinee?”
“Look at the weather. Everyone will be going to see Star Wars,” he said.
I looked at him and realized in disbelief that God had put this creature into my life to keep me from seeing the final episode of Star Wars on the big screen.
Any day now, a theater employee would walk out onto the Lincoln Avenue sidewalk and pull those letters off the marquee. I would be doomed to watch the movie on DVD. I would have to watch it weeks or months after everyone else had seen it. I would miss out on the great collective Star Wars dialogue. By the time I saw the movie on a tiny TV screen and brought up my impressions, I would be faced with the glazed eyes of my fellow nerds who had this conversation months ago.
But worse than being excluded from the social interaction this movie could provide, I also was missing something bigger.
“Star Wars” is the great myth of my generation, and I would be missing the conclusion.
I decided to take control of my fate. I woke up on Saturday morning and announced that we would be attending the 12:45 matinee. All protests were ignored.
I called my hair stylist and moved my appointment so I would make the show. I watched the clock until 11 a.m. when the theater box office opened. I put on my rain jacket and walked downtown with enough money for two tickets to “Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith.”
The street was full of cars — and wet people from across Colorado and the Midwest in town for the Steamboat Marathon. I smiled at a few people as we passed, but deep inside, I saw them as the enemy. They might be interested in seeing a movie on this gloomy afternoon. They were fit and prepared to run for miles in any weather. They easily could beat me to the ticket window.
To make a long story of paranoid delusion short, I got my tickets. We got good seats in the theater, and I saw the movie. It was great.
Lucas redeemed himself after releasing those two piles of steamies known as episodes I and II. The final episode wrapped up the story nicely, brought us full circle visually and intellectually to the first three Star Wars movies that dazzled me when I was a child.
Why is that important?
Picture me lying on the couch with my legs flung over the back cushions like a teenager on the telephone. The remote was hanging loosely in my hand so I could forward through the commercials. On the screen, Bill Moyers was interviewing anthropologist Joseph Campbell at Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch. It was 1986, the year before Campbell died, and someone had the foresight to get Campbell’s thoughts on tape. For six hours, Campbell sorted through the world’s myths and religions and showed us that man has been telling the same story generation after generation, culture to culture.
The story follows a young person’s search for truth, his fall and ultimate redemption. He listed three modern storytellers who he thought were doing the same work as the ancient mythmakers — James Joyce, Picasso and George Lucas.
I can’t count how many times I watched those PBS tapes and how profoundly it struck me when I watched the second round of Star Wars movies and realized that Campbell had been right. As a child, I always thought the story was about Luke Skywalker. Instead, I realized the story was about Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader.
No matter how modern the special effects, the story is an ancient one. Lucas lost the train of thought for a while when he got preoccupied with product sales, but picked up the thread just in time for the end — just in time for his redemption, I guess we could say.