I hope everyone has had a great Labor Day weekend. Myself, I took the past week off from work and have enjoyed every single second of my 10 days which included not working out, sleeping in, going to the beach, watching movies, and going to my concert. I find myself completely refreshed and ready to face the following work week…I will probably regret thinking this tomorrow morning when the onslaught of emails hit me.
I never understood the appeal of Twitter before a week and a half ago. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would be interested in other people’s tweets regarding their boring lives. Until CVI happened and I experienced “live tweeting” first hand. Wow, talk about amazing. I seriously felt like I was at CVI with everyone else. Tweet after tweet came in of pictures, panel discussions and updates (Star Wars Detours, anyone?); a plethora of wonderful information that, surprisingly, did not make me feel jealous but instead made me indirectly as part of CVI as anyone else.
As mentioned in my last blog, I attended a concert last Saturday night and checked Twitter occasionally for the live updates of CVI. While listening and singing along with Kenny Chesney’s song “Reality” to a stand of 60,000 people, I pulled out my phone and checked twitter. All I saw were condolences on Neil Armstrong’s death.
I was immediately taken out of the concert for a moment and felt a rush of different thoughts in my head. Here I was, singing along with Kenny Chesney and relating to how sometimes life…well, sometimes life is life. And it’s not “all that it’s cracked up to be.” I think that’s one of the reasons I am so drawn to Star Wars. It takes me out of this life and into all the possibilities that could be. It’s a world where aliens and humans live side by side, and anyone can jump into a spaceship and be whisked between planets. I also believe that it’s an underlying theme that runs through many Star Wars fans. All of us, that I have met thus far, are extremists in some form or another but we have found an outlet for an extremism. We don’t just like Star Wars, we LOVE Star Wars. We have watched the movies way more than the average movie buff, we know far too much on the history of the characters and planets, and Star Wars effects every day of our life. There are different levels of fandom, obviously, but I have a feeling that we are all drawn to this world created by George Lucas because sometimes our life is not what it’s cracked up to be.
But as I read the tweets about Neil Armstrong, it hit me that he was once living a reality that we can only dream of. He did get whisked away on a spaceship and though he did not walk on another planet, he was a whole lot closer than I’ll ever be.
Which got me to further thinking about George Lucas and if he was at all influenced by Neil Armstrong. If not Neil Armstrong, then surely he would have been influenced by the Space Race. The following day after the concert, I grabbed my copy of The Cinema of George Lucas by Marcus Hearn (I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Lucas and his entire life up until 2005) and started to meander through the dates. George Walton Lucas Jr. was born on May 14, 1944 (isn’t that interesting that all the Star Wars movies were released around his birthday?) and finished his first year of undergrad in 1965. The Space Race began in 1957 and ended in 1975, with Armstrong stepping foot on the moon on July 21, 1969. I can safely assume then that the Space Race was going on when George was a young teenager all the way through to when he was working on Star Wars.
The Cinema of George Lucas does not mention the Space Race nor the walk on the moon.
The book lists him being influenced by Slavko Vorkapich, Stanley Kubrick, Joseph Campbell, and of course – as most Star Wars fans know – Akira Kurosawa. It also says that the inspiration of Star Wars came from George’s anthropology studies.
But the undercurrent of the explorations of outer space had to be there. If your daily life is surrounded by the media hyping up the need to get to get to space, along with technological and scientific advancements to further the exploration of the unknown, wouldn’t that influence the pop culture of the time? After Armstrong landed on the moon, we had a plethora of science fiction movies including Alien and Close Encounters, while 2001: A Space Odyssey heralded in the era, being released in 1968.
Not only films, but one of my favorite novels was written during the Space Race: Dune by Frank Herbert.
Today, I am surrounded by sustainable living and “green” options and I noticed this summer that both the Avengers and Batman: Dark Knight Rises had alternative energy sources at the heart of the plots.
With the death of Neil Armstrong and all that he stood for in the age of the Space Race, I wonder if he (indirectly or directly) influenced George Lucas, so that Lucas ended up giving us fans a different reality than the one we are living in. His life was surrounded by the research being invested in outer space and I think that it has translated into his work. Of the movies George released during the Space Race, American Graffiti looked behind while Star Wars looked ahead. Neil Armstrong took one small step for mankind, and Star Wars took one giant leap for our imaginations.