There will never be a better movie than the 1977 sweeping space opera, Star Wars. . . for me.
I recognize that there have been many movies with much more powerful acting, way better dialogue, more expert editing, more vivid cinematography, much deeper themes and much stronger or original scripts. From a craft standpoint, I can't argue that movies like The Godfather, Raging Bull, 12 Angry Men and Casablanca are better movies. I am sure there are some movie buffs rolling their eyes over my declaration of love for the movie that may be responsible for the domination of big special effects spectacles that pushed away the smarter adult movies as big studio offerings.
Here is the thing, art is subjective. There is not an objectively great movie. A movie can have all the components that craft a masterpiece, and you can acknowledge that each individual element is a masterwork, but the declaration of greatness in art is deeply personal. It is about the work touching your soul and heart.
I've written and talked numerous times about how a movie critic's job isn't to tell you what is worth watching. A movie review is not a consumer report. A top ten greatest movie list is not a holy doctrine that should be burned into stone. A movie critic should be informed about history and know a lot about film craft. and be able analyze why a certain scene or moments connects. This doesn't mean that their job has anything to do with how accurately they can recommend a movie.
A good movie critic knows that their views are their own and their opinion of a movie is subjective. Their job is to share their own personal experience with the movie and be able to express how and why the movie connected with them. A good critic also should provide insight in why a movie does or doesn't work from a technical aspect, explore the themes and social issues layered in the texts and start a real conversation around the movie. In the end, the best reviews are when the critic is honest with how a picture resonates with them no matter the craft or themes demonstrated.
Star Wars will always be my greatest movie because it is buried deep into my soul and is the work that has formed me most as a person. For some, it may seem silly that a sweeping space saga inspired by cheesy 1940s adventure serials would be credited as playing an integral part in forming me as a person, but we can't be snobs about what honestly shapes and inspires us.
My first ever movie wasn't Star Wars and it opened before I was born, but my mom would have been pregnant with me when she saw it in theatres with my father in the spring of 1977. But the first time that I saw Star Wars, I was immediately blown away by the sweeping shot of the Star Destroyer chasing down the small rebel ship. I was immersed into the imaginative world full of wild creatures and creations that caused my imagination to soar.
I was so enamored with Star Wars that I wanted to learn everything about it. This was my very young introduction into 'making'-of' documentaries, and I gobbled up every special and documentary movie that detailed how the special effects were made and how the screenplay came to life. I remember absorbing several books that detailed the history of Star Wars and the various stages of its development. It was how I learned that there were people responsible for the creation of motion pictures. It piqued my interest in finding out how other movies were made and started my fascinations with the art of movies and the creative process of storytelling in various forms.
The exploration of how movies were made caused me to have a deeper appreciation and love for movies. I wanted to seek out movies of all genres and from all time periods. As much as I adored E.T., Back to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Labyrinth and such movies in my childhood, none could ever compare to my connection with Star Wars.
I was a geeky little kid who never felt popular or believed that I was very talented at things. I had friends but some of them would join in on the teasing and bullying at times. It led me to often feeling uncomfortable in my skin and wishing for something more.
Kind of like Luke Skywalker who was stuck on a desert planet with his aunt and uncle and couldn't even go to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters with his friends. But then he got himself a couple of droids and that led to him meeting Obi Wan Kenobi who started his path towards being a Jedi like his father and going on a galaxy-sweeping adventure. Luke felt like a nobody who proved to be a powerful hero who rescued the galaxy and helped take down the evil Empire. For a kid with an active imagination and not always happy with who he was, Star Wars gave me hope for something more and promised that life could be even greater.
I knew that I didn't have the Force or a lightsaber, but I started believing that I had another power that could bring light into the world. I was a writer and storyteller.
Instead of a lightsaber, I would carry a notebook with me almost everywhere when I was a kid. I started by writing stories based off things referenced in the Star Wars movies but not ever shown. I would also rewrite the movies and add in some extra scenes or slightly alter parts of the movie. I am not sure if I was aware of novelizations at this point or just doing my own version of them.
Over time, I started writing original stories that were heavily influenced by Star Wars. I wrote a series of stories called The Hero Legacy, which was based in a far-off galaxy and was about average folks that would rise up and prove their greatness against evil and adversity. The story beats were still very similar to Star Wars, but over time, I got more confident and started moving in a new direction with stories that were set on Earth during various times like prehistoric, medieval, old west and the 1930s (gangster stories).
Around this time, I would be in Grade 3. Before that, it is fair to say school was kind of a disaster. Kindergarten was a good run, and so good that I did it three times. By the time I was in Grade 1, I already had it in my mind that I wasn't very smart and unfortunately, I wasn't the best match for the teacher that I had (I'm sure she was amazing for many students through the years). I entered Grade 3 with a hatred for school and a feeling that I was dumb.
Ms. McCombe was my Obi-Wan Kenobi. She showed me a new world. She made me feel special. She made me realize that I could make a difference and what I did matter.
She recognized very early into the year that I loved to write. She taped pages on my desk so that I could doodle and scribble down ideas. She created a journal just for me that I could write in every day and then share with her. She encouraged me to write in all forms and she always wanted to see what I created. It was Ms. McCombe that showed me that I could write more than just adventure stories. She got me into writing poems, and I created several that year that I shared with her. She encouraged me to write about real life and dig into my feelings to drive my writing, I started a weekly newsletter that talked about my thoughts on what was happening at school or my neighbourhood or even in the greater world. She gave me a love for writing in all its forms and made me believe that I may actually be good at it. If this site or my writing drives you nuts, then she is one of the people to blame. She made me believe that I could do this.
|Another great supporter of my writing was my mom who proudly posted it in our house|
Star Wars stoked that interest in writing. Because I wanted to create something as sweeping and epic and powerful. I wanted to write things that could impact others in the same way this movie connected with me.
My deep movie love started with Star Wars. My obsession with learning everything about it caused me to dig deeper into how films were made and worked. It also made me delve into why this movie worked and how the craft of storytelling is constructed. This got me into not just watching movies but analyzing them. I was writing mini-reviews of films that I watched by the mid-80s. It also started my love of Roger Ebert, who is one of the inspirations for this site's title and my style of writing on here.
I'd say many of my interests jumped off from Star Wars. I was captivated by the many aliens and creatures in Star Wars, and so I scoured movie history to find other iconic creatures like Godzilla and King Kong. It also sparked my interest in the classic Universal monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein, and that then took me down the dark path of being a horror fan.
In my deep dive of trying to learn all things Star Wars, I discovered that director George Lucas had many inspirations. I tracked down older movies like Metropolis and Silent Running because the droid design was heavily influenced by those movies. I learned the story structure was influenced by Akira Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress, so I remember renting many of the Japanese greats' classic movies including Seven Samurai (which then led me to watching other movies influenced by him like The Magnificent Seven and Sergio Leone's classic Spaghetti Westerns).
I discovered that Lucas originally wanted to make a Flash Gordon movie but couldn't get the right, so I had to uncover those comics, which then led to another totally different medium that I fell in love with as well. I sought out many of the great comic books featuring Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men and Superman. I never was a great visual artist, but I did create a few comics and even adapted a few of my stories into that form.
Another major influence for Lucas was scholar Joseph Campbell's book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which is about the archetypal hero in various myths and lore. It got me fascinated by myths and legends and the stories passed down by different cultures. This got me reading things like Greek mythology and digging into classic literature. I also found out that Lucas was influenced by The Lord of the Rings, so by around 1985, I was taking out my dad's copy of those novels and gobbling them up. Around this time, I also learned about Dune and so I had to go through all those books as well.
Most of my love of storied had to with the epic adventure and far off worlds, but the more I read then the more I was willing to try different genres and wanting to read other held-up classics. My interest in monsters also led me to reading my first Stephen King book in the mid '80s. My dad didn't have any of those, so I had to borrow it from a friend and hide it from my mom, because I was pretty sure she didn't want me reading Salem's Lot.
I love a lot more than just Star Wars, but so much that I do love spawned from my initial connection and obsession with that movie. A movie that was so important that I was counting down the days until I could share it with Everett. I've now re-watched the whole series with him, and while I don't think his obsession is as strong as mine when I was his age, it was great seeing him be swept on the adventure. It is a series of movies that we do share a love together.
There are a lot of amazing and great things in my life that have nothing to do with Star Wars. My wife could really care less about the series. Most of my deep friendships were grounded in other things. But there are many great things throughout my life that were sparked by the first time that I was swept away by a time long ago in a galaxy far, far away.
For me, Star Wars for all it has done will always be the greatest movie ever.