Magazine | April 6, 2015, Issue

A Long Time Ago . . .


Men of my generation — huddled within the arbitrary boundaries of Generation X — are like men of any other. We tend to romanticize the cultural offerings of our youth. And after taking stock of my own childhood, I’ve come to the realization that my nostalgia can probably be boiled down to two words: Harrison Ford.

Of course there were sports stars and many genuine real-life heroes along the way, but really, looking back, nothing quite captured a young boy’s imagination like Indiana Jones or Rick Deckard — and certainly no one could match the élan of Han Solo.

And if a person checks the Internet Movie Database website to see what Ford is up to today, he will learn that the actor’s next three projects will be Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens, “Untitled Blade Runner Project,” and Indiana Jones 5. So I ask you: How can anyone expect us to avoid a life of perpetual adolescence if Hollywood won’t stop remaking our favorite childhood movies?

Now, I’m not embarrassed to admit that while I will dutifully drop off the dry cleaning, pay taxes, shovel a walkway, and perform any number of mundane errands expected of a marginally dependable fortysomething man, I get pretty excited by the very idea of J. J. Abrams’s upcoming Star Wars film. I will also admit to being slightly embarrassed by the number of times I’ve watched that movie’s painfully brief teaser trailer on YouTube in hopes of grabbing some thread of a plot, catching a glimpse of a recognizable character, or hearing a bit of John Williams’s brawny score.

And that medieval-looking light saber in the preview? I’m on my fourth mortgage, and that still blew my mind.

Sometimes a person feels like the embodiment of Margaret Atwood’s notion “that everyone else my age is an adult whereas I am merely in disguise.” When Star Wars: Episode VII arrives in theaters later this year, I will be there. This month, Disney announced that Star Wars: Episode VIII will be in theaters in 2017. I will be there, as well. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Episode IX is going to make an appearance at some point in 2019 — and so on and so on, until we hit Episode XXXV or however many movies the series continues to generate interest in. I’ll probably be 89 by the time they wrap this story up, God willing.

Not only will I see all of them, but I won’t miss any of the stand-alone movies, either, which include one that’s already in production, called “Rogue One” (Episode XXII ½?) and coming in 2016. My other responsibilities will likely keep me from indulging in all the books and video games and the rest of the multi-platform universe that could easily satisfy the profit expectations of the average Sith Lord.

And by Sith Lord, I am of course referring to Star Wars creator George Lucas, who taught us all that a cheerful creativity can be the essence of a good film but also that life can be profoundly disappointing when that creativity runs dry.

Or let me put it this way: If I visited my early-teen self, I’d have a hard time convincing that kid of a number of seemingly improbable events. For instance, I would have to explain that that whole Communism thing just kind of fizzled out, and that one of the guys in Bosom Buddies went on to become a major Oscar-winning movie star while Luke Skywalker would be relegated to the sci-fi-convention circuit. But the events a young me would have the hardest time grappling with would be that George Lucas directed three movies telling the Star Wars origin story and that those movies were so indefatigably atrocious that they nearly ruined all things for all males born between 1968 and 1981.

When I was eight years old, I convinced my parents to take me to a local suburban theater — a duplex that I imagine would be considered awkwardly cozy by today’s standards — to see Star Wars for the first time. It was a great day. Yet after rewatching the movie with my utterly unimpressed kids, I was under no illusions that by today’s standards the stilted dialogue or the crude storyline was very special at all. Other than Harrison Ford’s, the acting is atrocious. In almost every respect, today’s offerings for kids are more sophisticated, with far better pacing, action, and jokes. Their movies are, generally speaking, more pleasing aesthetically and more thought-provoking.

But so what? The truth is, kids will never have the experience I enjoyed that day in 1977. Going to that movie was memorable because going to a movie was an event. It would be a few years before the “New Hope” subtitle appeared or those curiously ostentatious and unchronological Roman numerals began adorning Lucas’s silly movies. As far as we knew, there were maybe two or three shots at seeing a spectacle that looked like nothing we’d ever witnessed. Today, storytelling is often excellent, but it is also never-ending. There will always be a sequel or a reboot or a reimagining. We created expanded universes in our backyards and sequels in our notebooks.

If I sound like an old man being needlessly sentimental about culture, that’s not the case. Every generation experiences its own exhilarating breakthroughs in art, music, and literature. We might share them with others, but in some ways they belong to us.

At least until Harrison Ford stops making movies.

– Mr. Harsanyi is a senior editor of the Federalist.

David Harsanyi is a senior editor of the Federalist and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun, From the Revolution to Today

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