Jeff Smith 11:59 p.m., Feb. 8
So, What Are You Doing Tonight?
Stay with me on this one...
When I think of Star Wars, I tend to think of this speech from Commissioner Gordon in Frank Miller's Batman story, The Dark Knight Returns:
And you, dear reader, may not see what this has to do with Star Wars. But then again, you might. Because in some ways, Star Wars is just too big for me to judge.
A lot of that, I know, has to do with timing. I was born in 1973. Star Wars came out in 1977. Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Return of the Jedi in 1983. Those films went straight past my juvenile cerebral cortex and lodged right down there in the part of the brain responsible for emotion, nostalgia, mythmaking, and all the rest of it. (Oh, hush. What am I, a neuroscientist?)
So imagine my shock when I encountered this exchange in the Star Wars riff that appeared in my very favorite comic strip at the time, Berkeley Breathed's Bloom County:
Cinematic clap-trap? Tootsie? Surely, Breathed was joking. Surely, that was just the insane ranting of evil Darth Dallas. Surely...
And then I saw the Star Wars re-release, and the raping of my childhood was on. Not only did Greedo shoot first, but also... the dialogue! The acting! Oof. Suddenly, I understood what these guys were getting at.
But it didn't matter. Vader telling Luke that [NOT GOING TO GIVE IT AWAY EVEN THOUGH EVERYBODY ALREADY KNOWS IT] was one of the most powerful moments I'd ever seen on a screen — flat-out devastating. We argued for months about whether it could possibly be true. For better or for worse, Star Wars was our story. We played with the action figures. We fought with homemade light sabers. We argued about who got to be Luke and who got to be Han. It became too big to judge.
Okay, I'll stop. What does all this have to do with tonight? Tonight, Cinema Under the Stars is screening The Princess Bride, a film that Reader critic emeritus Duncan Shepherd one-starred, saying...well, just go read it.
You know, he may be right. But here's my claim: like Star Wars, The Princess Bride burrowed deep into some childhood nerve center and became in the process too big to judge. At least, for a generation that first encountered it as children. I was 14: old enough to get the tongue-in-cheekiness, young enough to thrill at "You killed my father. Prepare to die."
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