Friday, 2 September 2011

217: Z is for Zealot

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

The A-to-Z of the GFFA.

Thursday 15th July 1999.
The Carlton Cinema, Wesgate-on-Sea.

People were standing up to leave from a sold-out performance. I can't say I noticed their mood or reaction, that didn't matter. @ReedyP and myself didn't move from our seats. We glanced at each other, a wordless agreement that we were there until the end. After that, our attention was still focused directly ahead of us. The music played, very new and yet beautifully familiar in its sweeping style, while a list of names was displayed. Each of these people had a part to play in what we'd just witnessed. Each had contributed enough to be named on-screen; not that I could comprehend the individual tasks, as the sum of their parts had just overwhelmed me.

Finally, with less than twenty people left in the auditorium, the music ended and the screen went black. Then… one more thing. A sound familiar to millions all over the world; the inhale then exhale, a single breath, of Darth Vader's ventilator. This prompted another look between myself and my BFF. We stood to leave.

The other patrons who were also leaving were chattering away about what they'd just watched, but still an unspoken acknowledgement hung in the air that a simple 'oh, I quite enjoyed that' wasn't going to do it justice. We left the building by one of the side-exits the staff had opened, and walked to where Reed had parked the car a couple of streets away. He unlocked the doors, and we got in, closed those doors and gave our honest and detailed opinions on the movie we'd just watched...

So, I don't know if anyone in the surrounding area heard the two grown-men in a car shouting for 30-60 seconds and stamping on the floor, but if they were close enough to see the fist-bumps and the hugs, than they definitely would have. No-one interrupted us, anyway. After the whooping and the manhugs, what followed was a gushing about Star Wars Episode I which has generally continued, I kid you not, to this very day.

Yes. £4.00 - tell me about it.

I love The Phantom Menace. There, I said it.

Pointing out that there's a massive lazy backlash against the prequel trilogy has become almost as cliched as the backlash itself. I genuinely have no problem with people who didn't like the film from the word go, it's more the ones who waited until their contemporaries started shouting about The Emperor's New Clothes (pun intended), and haven't stopped banging on about it since.

It's a common belief that the press/fan retaliation against The Phantom Menace was instant, with outraged reviews and disgusted fanboys turning their noses up at the movie the world had waited sixteen years for. The fact is, hand-in-hand with the overall media coverage, TPM got a fairly good reception for its cinematic outing. It wasn't until it hit the VHS market that columnists had had time to reflect and think of things they really didn't like. I won't trot out the usual laundry-list of complaints that the film garners; some I've already covered in this series of posts, and you know the rest anyway.

There are aspects of tPM that I don't like. I can deal with them because I know why they were put there, whether I agree with the decision or not. In much the same way that you overlook the foibles of your loved ones, because they're your loved ones.

As the aesthetic value of art is subjective, no film is perfect (sorry to break that to you). Luckily, most people realise that, and most of tPM's detractors have used their 1999 disappointment as the motivation to break into film-making themselves. They've since produced many, many films which have been more successful and critically acclaimed than tPM, and which have had a greater lasting legacy on the digital film industry and cinematic art in general.

What? Oh, right.

I've found the best (well, most interesting) way to counter the negative verbal assaults against tPM is with discussion. Lots of people have been more than happy to tell me that they thought tPM was awful, but very few have been able to explain why they think that (just saying 'Jar-Jar' isn't an answer, sorry to break that to you, too). And I'm not talking about requiring an in-depth critique to validate their opinion, I've genuinely heard "well it just is, isn't it? It's not like the old ones".

They're absolutely right. tPM isn't like the old ones. No film produced today is 'like the old ones', not least because the audience in 1999/2011 isn't the same as in 1977. It's difficult to re-capture the groundbreaking influence that ANH had, especially as back then there weren't hoards of fans ready to clumsily dissect it with their blunt expectations (not all clumsy, just most).

But at the Robins Cinema in Durham in 1978, there was a four year old boy, mesmerised in a darkened auditorium as huge yellow lettering raced away from him, and he was introduced to an entire galaxy full of people to love, people to fear and endless adventures to be had. At Westgate in 1999, with barely a smattering of spoilers, that boy felt exactly the same. It was like going home. Part of me will always feel at home in the GFFA, no matter how much it expands. Or maybe because it expands.

And you know it's not just me. Star Wars (including the prequels, sorry to break that to you. again.) has a massive multi-generational fanbase. The younglings loved tPM because they went in there with no baggage. They were swept up in the ride just as I was. This was their entry point into the GFFA, to tales old and new.

In 2012, tPM will be released in cinemas again.
Many will see the galaxy for the first time, and even more will visit the cinema to return to it.

To the part of me that will always, proudly, be four years old; Star Wars is home.

Nine times...

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• Photos and videos appearing in this blog post are for informational and reference purposes only, and no ownership of copyright is claimed or implied by me. The intellectual and physical copyright of such material belongs to its creators and owners.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organizations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

1 comment:

  1. I saw pieces of Jedi on Betamax when I was 3. I finally saw IV-VI from beginning to end when I was 11 and the Special Editions were in theaters and I was instantly hooked.

    I was 13 when Phantom was released. I saw it at 6:00 a.m. on opening day. To this day, it's my favorite motion picture of all time.

    I love all the Star Wars films, but Phantom transcends for me. I can't help feeling that childlike excitement any time I see anything related to that film, more so than really anything. Few others come close.

    As far as I'm concerned, the haters can shove something sharp somewhere very uncomfortable, because most don't even take the time to understand it.