By Dom Cioffi
The first “Star Wars” film came out in May of 1977. I was 11 years old and a typical wide-eyed youth. I remember going to see the film at the mall (when malls were still fashionable). I knew while standing in line with the troves of other viewers that something special was happening.
The film was a worldwide hit and subsequently turned into one of the most profitable franchises the earth has ever seen. I have dutifully gone to every following movie, figuring that since I was there at the beginning, I might as well see it through to the conclusion (if there ever is one).
I don’t remember much about that initial viewing other than being blown away by the special effects. Even at that young age, I still recognized a shift in the technology. Up until then, “Clash of the Titans” reigned supreme in my mind as the epoch of special effects in cinema.
All that changed overnight.
The suspension of disbelief had reached a new level and the viewer’s ability to become transported to other possibilities was heightened beyond the imaginable. At that moment, I officially fell in love with motion pictures.
It would be three more years before “The Empire Strikes Back” was released. I was understandably over the moon with anticipation. And thankfully, that anticipation was met with a home run. I watched in awe as all the characters from the first film (and a few new ones) returned for more interstellar havoc.
Three years later, “Return of the Jedi” was released and I again waited with bated breath (except this time I went with my girlfriend –who I remember was less than enthused by the experience).
It would be another 16 years (1999, “The Phantom Menace”) before the next episode in the series was released and in that time, advances in special effects technology would reach dizzyingly realistic levels. Again, the next two films would be released in three-year increments in 2002 and 2005 respectively (“Attack of the Clones,” “Revenge of the Sith”).
I was married by the time these films were released but still hungry for more space fantasies. Other science fiction-based films had been released but nothing seemed to have the epic allure of the Star Wars franchise.
Interestingly, at some point during this period I went back and watched the original three films. I rented all three VHS tapes and planned to watch them all in one day. I prepared food, set the lighting and made sure no one would bother me.
Unfortunately, I remember being less than blown away by the return visit. Sure, my palate had evolved in those years, but I still imagined that the original magic would be there for me to bathe in. For some reason, it was not.
I waited another decade with guarded anticipation for the release of “The Force Awakens” in 2015. By this point, I was ignoring all the press about the next installments and was vaguely interested in where the story was headed. I saw the film and was impressed by the digital effects, but I failed to see a truly great film.
And so, this past weekend, I grabbed my son and his friend and fought the holiday crowds to see “The Last Jedi,” the newest installment in the never-ending Star Wars franchise.
My reaction was mixed. Sure, I love seeing Imperial Walkers and TIE fighters again, but to be honest, I could have passed on witnessing the aging of Luke and Leia. I stared at them throughout the film and was constantly reminded of my own mortality. Luke was barely older than I was when the franchise started. Now he looks like a homeless grandfather!
So, while my son and his friend were pleasantly thrilled with the movie, I was constantly being reminded about how old I am. Yes, it was fun to watch, and yes, it continued with its dazzling special effects, but as far as the story goes, I’m done. I just don’t find it that interesting anymore.
I hate to say it, but I have officially outgrown “Star Wars.” Admittedly, I’ll probably go to the next one, but the anticipation factor is over. I guess I’m more interested in seeing films that don’t require a backstory and that don’t dredge up past characters.
The bottom line is that “The Last Jedi” is a solid film and something that will give fans great pleasure. However, unless this story is taken to a new, radical level, I fear that others will also become disenchanted with future films.
A tiring “B-” for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.