Tuesday, May 17, 2005

THE RETURN OF THE FORCE - Star Wars Fever Kicks off in the United Kingdom

LONDON - It’s been twenty eight years in the making. So the few hours of constant pouring rain and cold weather didn’t distract thousands of Star Wars fans camped out in London’s Leicester Square from lining up against the red carpet to usher in the newest, and last, installment of the most successful movie saga in history.

If you are a fan of Star Wars, then Revenge of the Sith is more than just an episode… it’s a bridge between what is old and what is new. It’s one of those movies you’ve been waiting most or all of your life to see. To have those questions answered. Or at least one in particular.

“What everyone wants to know,” says John Knoll, the man behind the curtains at George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic responsible for bringing the daring and epic space battles to life, “is what makes Darth Vader… Darth Vader. What makes Anakin Skywalker turn from the dark to the light.”

Responsible for answering that question on screen is Canadian actor Hayden Christiansen. Off screen, on the red carpet in front of the Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square, he shared with us his hopes for the film, in which he stars as both Anakin Skywalker, and Darth Vader.

“I just want them to like the movie, you know? I hope that the die hard fans will feel a good sense of fulfillment, and I hope that those who aren’t will just enjoy it as a good film onto itself.”

I guess I would consider myself to be one of those die hard fans that Christiansen speaks of. For me, Star Wars has been a big part of my life.

Anyone who knows me, knows that the borderline obsession with this intergalactic space epic has inspired me in many ways.

Watching the first Star Wars Saga planted the seeds of interest in film and video editing, looking with wonder and amazement at how all those spaceships and different scenes worked together to deliver this fantastic story.

In Kenneth Inman’s AP History class at Ottawa High School in the 1990’s, we were assigned to write about a person we thought was the most influential in society. I took this opportunity to write a twenty page diatribe on the history and contributions of Star Wars creator George Lucas. As the head of a multi-billion dollar business and one of the most successful movie directors of all time, I was sure that I effectively conveyed his importance to society, and the
film industry.

While George Lucas may have inspired a generation of filmmakers and a generation of film watchers, Ken Inman was hardly impressed, and gave me a “B” with the immortal words written on the cover of the paper “You didn’t convince me that he was an influential figure.”
I wonder how Ken Inman views George Lucas these days. Forbes.com has the man listed as 194th richest person in the world, with an estimated personal wealth of $3 billion, and the head of a film empire that is the most influentiual in the business.

A moment I have dreamed about for some time has finally arrived on the red carpet here in London. For a brief moment leading up to my short interview with Lucas, I thought about sharing with him the fact the he caused me to get a “B” instead of an “A” on that paper some years ago, or the fact that because of him I applied (and wasn’t accepted) to the film school at the University of Southern California, or any number of Lucas or Star Wars related connections that he might have found dreadfully boring or probably heard from fans before.

I instead decided to focus on the business at hand, talking with him about the movie.

“For me, both making the movies and meeting the fans is the fun part of all of this,” says Lucas under the shelter of an umbrella in the typical London downpour. I’m a bit relieved that he likes to meet fans. I could only worry if he called me a geek and told me to get a life.

For a man who is both shy and creatively intrinsic, he seems to have an eternal smile when talking about his thirty year distraction known as Star Wars.

Perhaps it’s because he views his role in the creation and delivery of the saga more as spinner of a moral lesson rather than a weaver of flashy effects and blockbuster satisfaction.

“If they take away one thing, it’s that ultimately what it is that turns you to the dark side and what the consequences of that are.”

I am about to find out what those consequences are.

As an added bonus, I managed to get a ticket to the premier screening… sharing a theater with the latest “in” crowd in England, including Lucas himself and other Star Wars luminaries who turned out for the event.

Sitting near English pop star Sophie Ellis Baxter and some celebrity from the UK version of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” plus a plethora of people I’m sure I should know, I can’t be bothered by my surroundings because the moment of a lifetime is about to unfold on screen, and George Lucas is the man who is introducing it to me.

For the next two hours and fifteen minutes, I easily forgot there was anyone else in the theater.

If you were disappointed by the previous two movies that have brought us to this moment in Star Wars history, fear not, find what you are looking for you will with Revenge of the Sith. Without spoiling the fun for those who wish to stay in the dark until they get a chance to see the film, know only that it’s dark and sinister, tragic and foreboding, breathtaking and fresh, and more than I expected.

“What I like very much about it is that the ties between the first film they made in 1976 and this one are strong,” says the erstwhile Scottish actor Ewan McGregor in a rare-but-lucky-for-me interview. He stopped by the red carpet on a break from his rehearsals for his performance as Sky Masterson in the London production of “Guys and Dolls”

“It marries together beautifully, and I didn’t see it until yesterday, and it wasn’t until then that I realized that all of the hard work that we had been doing since the first one I did made the transition work.”

Critics also seem to think the transition works. Many have given the film high marks, a stark change to the beating the previous two movies received.

For the man who plays C-3PO, and one of the only actors to appear in all six films, Anthony Daniels is hardly surprised by the recent turnaround in critical acclaim for the movie.

“There is so much in this movie! There is something for everybody just like in the Star Wars saga. It’s become this one enormous story and you can take from it the thrill of the battle scenes, you can take from it the affection, the human characters with each other, the love indeed… which is the problem with this movie, where love leads Master Anakin.”

Though Episode III is the final movie, we can all take a deep sigh of relief knowing that it’s not the end of the Star Wars franchise. If you haven’t heard it before, let me be the first to tell you that George Lucas plans to make two different Star Wars ventures into television, one in cartoons and the other in live action.

If a few years it too long to wait, or if you prefer to stay within the confines of your own home and watch Star Wars on your personal entertainment system, get the subwoofers and surround sound ready to blare the trumpets of Star Wars opening theme as all six films reach a video store near you, in a mall not so far away, to capture your imagination all over again.

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