For the longest time, my daughter Sarah, who will turn 17 next month, begged me to buy tickets to the first midnight showing of "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith." But I was worried about going not because George Lucas had warned us all that his new movie might be too dark for young people. I was worried that it would be too dark for me.
I'm saddened by what Lucas has done with the final chapter of his long cinematic saga. Not because it's ending. But because of the way it's ending. Let me explain.
Born on the back end of the baby boom, I was 20 when the first "Star Wars" movie came out. It was 1977, a time of generational uncertainty and upheaval. Our older brothers and cousins, just home from Vietnam, were no longer listening to the Beatles they were embracing Black Sabbath, and warning us about the dark underbelly of our own government.
The gas crisis taught us we were growing up in a world of limits. The new guy in the White House, Jimmy Carter, was trying to erase the memory of Richard Nixon. But he seemed to make things worse when he defined what we were all feeling. America, he said out loud, was in the midst of a national "malaise."
It was against this backdrop that my friends and I piled into the giant Loews Cinema on 44th and Broadway in New York to see what everybody was talking about a movie about an intergalactic space battle, with jet fighters that defy light speed, a dynamic kid named Luke Skywalker, and a villain for the ages who had powers not of this world.
Yes, we were blown away by the cool special effects. But that was only a small part of our attraction to this movie called "Star Wars." For many of us, it was the belief in our own power to make things right again in a world that had gone terribly wrong.
Luke, with a little help from his friends [see: Lennon & McCartney], defeats the Evil Empire by destroying the Death Star, and Darth Vader is sent hurtling into deep space.
|Check out our comparison of the two Evil Empires, our special look at fans waiting in line, and the secret script for Episode VII.|
In one rip-roaring good time, Lucas had given us the answer to an age-old epistemological question raised by that Danish party-pooper Kierkegaard. The existential contradiction between awe and dread could be solved by the power of positive thinking, belief in something called "The Force."
And more specifically, there was an unmistakable message to our generation. Lucas was saying, "Expunge the stench of Watergate and Vietnam and reclaim your future." This is what we learned and tried to do.
Now, of course, the Evil Empire does come back, but the Jedi returns and Luke saves his father from the evil that has consumed him. But this is not what our children will see when they watch "Revenge of the Sith." This is Episode III. And here, according to Lucas, we will learn of the dread: how Luke's father, Anakin Skywalker, turns to the dark side of "The Force." The evil of Darth Vader is incubated and comes to a boil.