[Movies That Changed Us is a feature we are running for the first two weeks of Flixist’s life. We’re using it as a way to let you get to know the staff of awesome writers here. But you should use it as a way to let us get to know you. Blog your own Movies That Changed Me and let us know all about your most important film experience.]
When I was six years old, my family had just moved into a new house in Florida, in a Ft. Lauderdale suburb called Coral Springs. We had a pool in the backyard and a little swamp within walking distance. As a result, we had drills on what to do if an alligator made its way into our pool. This was a normal thing for South Florida. My brother and I had no friends—especially not each other—and we were headed into a new school within a couple weeks. Naturally, this was a troubling time. Christmas was right around the corner as well, so I think our parents wanted to go all-out to make us happier. That year, we got two major presents. The first was a big inner tube for the pool, and it was bad-ass. I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun with a pool toy as I did with that. There are pictures of my brother and I taking that little puppy out within moments after opening it. On Christmas Day. In fifty degree weather. We were born in Maine, you see. The second present was the Star Wars trilogy on VHS.
Before this, I was slightly interested in science fiction. I never really saw a huge number of movies, but I can barely remember, honestly. The strongest movie memories I have from the time are Jurassic Park and Natural Born Killers. Seeing Tommy Lee Jones’ head on a pike that early on should have scarred me horribly, but at the time, I thought it was awesome. At any rate, here I was, on Christmas Day, with an awesome inner tube and a set of VHSes that indeed looked pretty cool.
However, it was still kind of a side-note to awesome inner tube, so it went unwatched for about a month. I was very sick and had to stay home from school for most of a week. My mom asked if I wanted to watch “the Star Wars.” I had a temperature in the hundreds; I think I’d have watched the 1970s Alice in Wonderland musical porno and barely noticed it. But I did notice. I watched all three movies, largely delirious with fever, and I still clearly remember it.
There was just this sense of awe right from the start as I watched a spaceship so big I couldn’t wrap my mind around it streaking across the sky in pursuit of something that looked no larger than a Hot Wheels car in comparison. That permeated the trilogy for me, that sense of wonder. There’s really something so sublimely special about discovering a completely new world and watching what makes it tic. What makes The Force work? Who the hell cares! It’s amazing! Han Solo basically introduced me to the sort of person I would think is just so cool for the rest of my life. Shooting first, asking questions later, but still capable of incredible heroism. In Darth Vader, I had my first glimpse of pure evil, and even then I eventually learned there was the spark of possible redemption buried beneath circuitry and black leather. I identified with the journey of Luke Skywalker, a simple boy tossed into a world bigger than anything he could imagine but still winning out in the end. Also, lightsabers kick everything else’s ass, which is a sentiment I have also maintained throughout my adulthood.
Star Wars also opened me up to the infinite possibilities within science fiction. My mom was an immense Trekkie and overall sci-fi nerd, so she nurtured my enthusiasm, tossing me Asimovs and Heinleins just as soon as I could read well enough to get them, and what I couldn’t get she’d read to me anyway. My father showed me Blade Runner, one of my three favorite movies of all time, and the Batman movies, which lead me to a lifetime love of comics. I learned more about George Lucas, and I found the Indiana Jones movies and American Graffiti, which both lead me down ever more strange and varied pathways. The tastes that I have, from the indie to Iron Man, all came from that one week where I was sick as a dog, and my Mom decided to put something cool on in the background while I slept.
Do I love Star Wars as much nowadays? No, and it really does pain me to say that. I see glimmers of the things I loved so dearly about it now and again, in The Force Unleashed or in some of the Extended Universe books, but it’s not the thing I worshipped when I was six through fourteen. Do I blame George Lucas for trying to tell more of the story? No. I blame him for not letting anyone second-guess his shitty writing, maybe, but I don’t blame him for wanting to revisit the universe. No matter what bullshit goes on with the Star Wars universe in films and television that makes me want to scream, I’ll still always have my galaxy far, far away.