Friday, May 25, 2007

The 30th Anniversary of Geekdom

May 25, 1977 is the birthdate of geekdom. Without that date, we’d be sitting around watching subtle, quiet movies like Little Children; rowdy, boisterous comedies like Blades of Glory; chick-flicks like Georgia Rule; and epics like Delta Farce. Forget about movies like Spider-Man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End, and the upcoming Transformers. The idea of the “popcorn flick” wouldn’t exist, at least not how we know it today. What makes May 25, 1977 so special? Duh:

Star Wars’ debut was revolutionary in multiple ways, debuting Dolby surround-sound, setting a new standard in movie scores, and leading to the creation of Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Sound and Industrial Light & Magic, a special-effects house. The consensus is that without Star Wars, visual effects that dominate films today would not be the same. Coming two years after the father of “summer blockbusters,” Jaws, George Lucas’ first entry of the franchise solidified the concept of the summer event film. The same could be said for the licensing that goes hand-in-hand with summer movies; Lucas’ waived his director’s fee for the licensing rights to his film, leading to scores of merchandise tie-ins that proved more valuable than any movie studio could have predicted.

Lucas began the stories that would lead to the Star Wars franchise in 1973, originally creating outlines for fifteen stories. After the first film, he declared that there would be a total of twelve movies chronicling the adventures of Luke Skywalker, retracting that statement a year later and reducing the number to nine. After Return of the Jedi, Lucas put the stories on hold until special effects had improved. Obviously, the movie saga has ended at six movies, though the Timothy Zahn novel trilogy published from 1991-1993 (the “Thrawn Trilogy” – Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command – the beginning of the Star Wars “Expanded Universe”) is generally considered Episodes VII, VIII, and IX.

By the way, in 2005, Forbes estimated the total revenue generated by the franchise at $20 BILLION. The Star Wars Fan Celebration IV is currently going on at the Los Angeles Convention Center, kicked off this past Wednesday with a showing of all six movies, and will continue through the weekend.

On a personal level, The Empire Strikes Back was the first movie I remember watching in a movie theater with my father (heck, I was four and a half when it came out), and Return of the Jedi was the first movie I ever anticipated with fervor. I remember getting the movie storybook and reading it over and over again, shocked at Princess Leia’s new outfit (c’mon – the gold bikini… ooooooo) and the revelation that Darth Vader would remove his helmet at the end of the movie. I remember the joy I felt when my mom took me to the movie theater the day it opened to see long lines, Darth Vader, Stormtroopers and hundreds of fans, and I also remember the drop in my stomach when she told me it was sold out. She asked me if I wanted to see something else – I screamed inside and said, “No.” I also remember waiting and waiting, mumbling under my breath when I finally got to see Return of the Jedi for Darth Vader to remove his mask.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was the only movie I’ve ever bought a ticket to another movie just to see its trailer (saw it before The Waterboy), the first and only movie I’ve ever sat in line for to get tickets to (twelve hours! with a little help from Steph – thanks, Steph), the only movie whose merchandise I’ve ever sat in line for (waited at Toys ‘R’ Us for five hours to shop), the only movie I painted my face to see (you shoulda SEEN my Darth Maul makeup!), and the only movie I’ve ever sat in line for eighteen hours to see. Too bad it sucked. But the fanboy part was fun.

Nothing for guys in my generation will ever be revered as much as the original Star Wars trilogy. It was what stirred our imaginations and fueled our dreams – and still does. To revel in the wonder, go to, Wookiepedia, the Star Wars Wiki, or

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Oh, and by the way, today is Frank Oz’ 63rd birthday. In addition to his work with Jim Henson’s Muppets (performing Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Sam the Eagle, Grover, Cookie Monster, and Bert), he performed and voiced Yoda for The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Phantom Menace, and provided the voice for the CGI Yoda in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

May the Force be with you.

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