木曜日, 5月 19, 2005

Of lightsabres and astro-droids

Battle of Yavin.

a long time ago, in a country far, far away...

it was 1978. i had heard of a movie called star wars. all i knew about it was that it was a tale set in outer space. kids in my generation then grew up on a dose of sci-fi telly programmes the likes of space:1999. a girl in my class saw the trailer in a cinema in singapore, which further fuelled my interest in the film. a few weeks later, i got to to see the trailer myself at cathay cinema near bukit bintang. i was blown away. totally. as an eight-year old, i loved to draw. i replayed the trailer excerpts from the death star battle again and again in my head, to conjure up images of what i thought the x-wing fighter looked like so that i could draw it. the TIE fighters were easier to draw as all you needed to doodle was an H-shaped spaceship.

What I though it'd look like

star wars premiered on may 25, 1977 in the 'states and europe. in those days, movies didn't get shown on malaysian soil at the same time as the 'states unlike today. i remembered then that over three weekends, the new sunday times ran an abridged version of the george lucas novelisation. with the little stills they had and the movie poster, i learned to draw an x-wing fighter (and darth vader, but in only one pose!) properly:


i can't remember when exactly but the day i got to watch star wars i was excited as hell. from that day onwards, the 20th century fox fanfare was star wars to me.The poster that started it all. after being blown away by the magnificent intro of the blockade runner being attacked by the imperial star destroyer, every second was savoured with my jaws agape. like trabye's experience earlier this morning, i had the displeasure of sitting in front of a jabbering teenager going like: "waaa... that's dak weda. after that aaa...". damn idiot. may the fleas of a thousand banthas crawl up your ass. walking back towards the car, i was so looking forward to talk about it with my friends in school the following monday. recess time saw us playing star wars instead of the usual combat or police 'n' thief. which star wars character was i assigned to? R2 effin' D2. cilakak korang, mentang-mentang lah aku kecik.

in those days, the VCR was non-existent. i'd then get really excited whenever there's this late night TV show called that's hollywood! was aired on rtm1. simply because the end-credits had a shot of luke's x-wing being chased by vader's TIE fighter in the death star trench that leads to the thermal exhaust port (right below the main port. yeah, yeah.). i would wait every week without fail to watch that! i even had a 60-minute cassette which basically was a mini audiobook narrated by roscoe lee brown complete with dialogue, sound effects and score from the actual movie. i played that tape to death, literally. when the tape finally putus, i had to make do with a poorer version which had some other actor doing the voices.

A fraction of what Kenner released between 1978-1985

star wars mania was really big in KL at that time. we got a polaroid of us taken with darth vader, chewie, C-3PO and a stormtrooper at jaya supermarket. and then the toys. the kenner action figures was like $3 apiece. my first ever action figure was, err.. R2-D2. i think trabye got chewbacca. little did i know that in 5 years time, both of us would have all 98 of the 6" action figures ever released by kenner. the larger toys like the x-wing were a bit too pricey, so we were happy to have gotten the smaller die-cast metal/plastic versions. for example, the smaller millenium falcon toy was scale-to-scale more accurate like the actual movie model, allowing me to be able to draw the falcon from any angle possible. also, by the time bits of paint had chipped off the falcon, it looked more realistic, like all the starships seen in the latter 3 episodes.

drawing was my passion in those days.Infantino's interpretation of our favourite characters. i couldn't colour to save my life, but doing pencil drawings were pretty much my forte. not artistic sketches, but comic-style drawings. marvel comics had star wars titles which had stories set after episode IV. i literally copied the comic artwork which were then pencilled/penned by the likes of howard chaykin and carmine infantino. infantino's characters had ridiculously angular jaws and his version of princess leia was so like angelina jolie, lip-wise and, err, tit-wise. haha. it was from there, i started to do my own comics. i'd buy exercise books in school and started writing/drawing my own star wars stories. the stories were ridiculuously simple and written off the cuff. content-wise it was ever so random and you couldn't see a plot. in fact, one part of the story i could remember, because trabye keeps taunting me about it to this very day.

Click to enlarge comic.

see what i mean? the syntax was acceptable to me and my friends at that time. what do you expect? i was in primary school, dagnammit.

the sequels literally expanded the star wars universe. new planets, new creatures and new ships. and obviously new toys. by the time empire came out, video was widely available. when we bought our very first VCR, we had to be contented with pirated copies of episodes IV and V. by 1983 when jedi was released, rtm screened star wars as part of their dunhill-sponsored movie selections. yup, i had my VHS recorder out and got myself a better copy of the film. it wasn't until i was in university in the early 90's when i got to purchase original VHS tapes. i think to date, i have the original trilogy in fullscreen, widescreen and the remastered widescreen. it's a pity lucas didn't think of having the original unedited versions in the DVD.

like my recent interest in tracing the roots of modern rock music, i bought the DVD of akira kurosawa's the hidden fortress, the inspiration behind the basic storyline for a new hope. any self-respecting star wars fan should check it out.I still buy 'em. Hehe. do watch it and look out for the two protagonists, tahei and matashichi. like the two droids (the ongoing dynamics between the two are ever so similar, and there's also a general and a princess!), the basic premise of a story revolving around two characters who are caught in the midst of everything is ever so familiar.

star wars still means a lot to me. it is part of current popular culture, where non- SW geeks know what a lightsabre is. as i grow older, it has stopped becoming an obsession (like listening to that audio cassette, i have lost count of how many instances i have watched all three episodes!). when episode I came out, i think i watched it like 4 times in a row. i was amazed to find that by the time i was viewing number four, i was falling asleep. some star wars fan, huh? as a big fan of the original non-digital episodes, i wasn't as bowled over as i was when i saw a new hope in '78. it wasn't the wooden acting (everything went downhill, acting-wise, from episode VI onwards). i just think that it is just not a pivotal part of my life anymore, as it happens when one grows older.



so, the circle is finally complete, as i watched the last instalment earlier today (in fact, it was sebelum subuh, to paraphrase p. ramlee.), less than one week to the day the first film was released 28 years ago.That fateful fight. the film included many scenes (and dialogue - "lock s-foils in attack positions!") echoing the latter 3 episodes, like the speeder bike/jedi genocide scene and the final looking at the horizon with the twin tatooine suns, G1 and G2, setting. in fact, one episode III scene appeared to be reminiscent of the crappy han solo-lando calrissian "just get going, you pirate!" dialogue in the hangar scene of jedi. i was already cringing in my seat that early in the morning! but lucas redeemed himself with the superb introductory battle scene together with the numerous lightsabre fights we get to see throughout the film. every question that needed answering was indeed answered, may it be in the form of a scene or a single line of dialogue. to make sure everything fits in the end is some feat, and it is nothing like writing my home-made comics.

Onboard the Tantive IV.as i write this, i have in the background, the episode IV DVD playing. watching it now with a renewed sense changes everything. everything is crystal clear. luke and leia aren't just two characters trying to rid the universe of the tyranny of the evil galactic empire. now, i see them as the children of a man who sacrificed his soul because of the love of life. after watching episode III, just put the a new hope DVD on. you will know what i mean.

to anyone who feels bummed that there'll be no more star wars, lucasfilm will be doing a 3D animated version of the clone wars followed by a television series set in the star wars universe. so, watch this space.

and may with you, the force be.