Why I love Star Wars (or, John Williams is the Man)

Originally, I thought I might just write that as my title, and then not talk about Star Wars at all (huzzah for in-jokes) but then I realized that you can relate Star Wars to anything, and therefore I can write about Star Wars for this topic.

I first watched A New Hope when I was really young–in fact, we still have the old VHS tapes from when Lucas released the new-and-improved versions of the original trilogy (you know, with the Jawa falling off the  Ronto and the more-crowded cantina and Han shooting second). I think it might have been those first few viewings of that galaxy far, far away that turned me into not only a fan of SciFi, but of adventure–particularly quest romances.  I devoured old myths and fantasy/sci-fi novels as I grew up, never realizing that these stories  had a lot of the same traits until I read Eragon (caution: spoilers ahead!). When Eragon finds out that the right-hand man of evil, Morzan, is his father, all I could think of was Luke and Vader on Cloud City. The light bulb flickered on, and after that,  I really dove in, looking up Hero of a Thousand Faces and just about everything else Joseph Campbell wrote, comparing legends and myths from various civilizations and, of course, writing my own stories as well. Call it escapism, a hobby, an antisocial activity–whatever you like. You’ll still have to admit that there’s something in Star Wars (and in any quest romance) that makes you want to be a part of it.

Quests are a part of life. Most have meaning only for you, but they’re still there. Whether you’re walking across campus to find a professor’s office or writing a paper or applying to college, you’re on a mission–a quest, in other words. What Star Wars gives us is a series of quests that have more meaning than a paper or a long walk. Star Wars does combine the best of adventure, romance, mysticism, science, and unexpected plot turns, but what really makes it special are the quests the story focuses on. Luke, a farm boy longing to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Jedi; Leia, the princess, bravely leading a rebellion against an evil Empire; and Han, the scoundrel, just out to keep his neck intact and his wallet full of credits at the end of the day. The success or failure of their quests, unlike your paper, matter to everyone around them. If the Rebel Alliance succeeds, the course of history changes drastically, and thousands of worlds will be freed from Imperial tyranny. Or, the Empire could crush them and then extend the grip of the Dark Side even further. Everything (almost literally; the Empire can blow up planets, you know!) hangs in the balance of their quests. Lives, planets, the balance of the Force–it all depends on them. Your paper, on the other hand, makes up a fraction of one of your many grades, which in ten or twenty years you will not even remember.

Just in case you’re not convinced, watch this, and just try to tell me it’s not awesome:

Remember: the Force will be with you, always.


Edit: I completely forgot to cite the video. Thanks Prof. Hall 😀

Moosebutter, comp. Star Wars An A Capella Tribute to John Williams. Perfs. Corey Vidal. 2002.

The Adaptation of My Childhood

Growing up my parents constantly encouraged me to read.  They saw it as a positive alternative to the rather addictive gameboy that seemingly never left my hands.  I read a diverse array of works, spanning many genres, but my true love was always fantasy.  I dedicated countless hours to the works of Tolkein, Rowling, Tad Williams, and many others.  I would lose myself in these alternate universes, letting my imagination run wild.  As I grew older my passion for these works never died, I was constantly rereading them just experience that feeling of excitement once again.

As you might expect I was elated when I discovered that many of my childhood favorites would be made into movies.  I would be able to experience these foreign worlds in a completely new way.  I counted down the days until the release of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, barely able to contain myself.  In the back of my mind I was somehow worried that Jackson would fail to do justice to the book that I loved, would he depict middle earth the way I had always imagined it?  I knew ten minutes into the premier that Jackson had pulled it off.  The second and third film’s in the series were equally as impressive, each one a masterpiece in its own right.  The success of LOTR trilogy only made me more excited for the future release of other film adaptations of fantasy novels.  I nearly went through the roof when I heard that there was going to be a film based on Christopher Paolini’s Eragon.  Again I awaited the release of this film with baited breath, would it live up to the standard that the LOTR trilogy had set?  Sadly not.  Eragon fell flat, it was a complete disaster.

I spent a great deal of time thinking about why Eragon had failed where LOTR hadn’t and I finally came to the conclusion that the success of a fantasy adaption is entirely based on the directors vision.  Peter Jackson respected the LOTR trilogy,  recognizing that the books are something more than a simple fairy tale.  The films were intense and thoughtful, Jackson diligently portrayed middle earth in a mature way.  Jackson’s middle earth was highly realistic, favoring natural settings over special effects backdrops. Stefen Fangmeier, the director of Eragon, decided to go in the opposite direction of Jackson.  Eragon had an extremely childish visual style, relying heavily on cheesy special effects.  The plot was completely butchered down to appeal to a younger audience, a 544 page book was made into a 1:39 movie.  The characters I had come to love just looked goofy on the silver screen, the dragons looked like giant chickens rather than fearsome beasts.  Fangmeier made a movie for children far to young to have read and appreciated the book.  All of the truly dedicated fans were completely snubbed, and not surprisingly the film was a failure.  It is a tragedy when a filmmaker fails to appreciate the roots of their project.