Maybe I should have called this series of posts “Force Fed”.
While that’s not exactly the truth about how it went down, that title does reflect a bit of how I feel now that we’ve completed watching Return of the Jedi, and thus the original trilogy.
I definitely didn’t force my kids to watch these movies. They’ve been asking (and at times whining) to see them. I do think that I didn’t hold out as long as I should have, though. As I had originally expected, they don’t have the attention span at this age to make it through a 2 hour movie and understand what they’re watching. I should have waited another year, maybe two. By the end of the film, both kids were sort of glazed over and not really seeing what they were watching.
Of course, it’s always difficult for me to gauge my kids’ engagement with a film on the first viewing. They don’t react much. They’ll say they liked it, but that’s about as much as you get out of them for a while. They need time to process it. Eventually, if they’re into it, they’ll start incorporating scenes or lines or characters into their playing. That’s happened to a very small degree with Star Wars so far – which, truthfully, depresses me a bit. But that’s really my issue, not theirs.
I want their reactions to be like mine were, and that’s honestly never going to happen. It’s an unrealistic expectation to place on them. What hooked me initially into Star Wars when I was 7 years old was the action – the pace, the scope, its fantastical nature – and of course the visuals. The action was what drew me to the story, which I also appreciated at the time, but action is an integral part of what I’m looking for in Star Wars. My kids are girls. Whether it’s genetic or nurture, they’re not nearly as impressed by action as I am. They, like my wife, seem to get overwhelmed and can’t really follow the plot of an action scene. To them it’s just a lot of stuff going on on-screen – cool looking perhaps, but unimportant to the story beyond its outcome, and thus unworthy of as much attention as an emotionally laden dialogue scene. Age may be a factor in this as well, but I’m willing to bet that if I plopped a boy the same age as my daughters in front of these films he’d be looking for the nearest lightsaber and blaster.
(As an aside, there’s something to be said here about the poor quality (or at least poor handling) of action scenes in general in contemporary movies that supports the “it’s not important” viewpoint – I’m looking at you, Mr. Bay – but maybe that’s a different post.)
My kids like these movies mostly because I like them and it’s something we can share. They latch on to parts of them – they like Yoda, Leia (her hair especially is of great interest), and the scene where the Ewok steals a speeder bike, for example – but there’s no real engagement with the story. That’s not too unusual for them, though. The only movie we’ve seen that I can honestly say they’ve been engaged with at all levels is The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe – and it’s more than probable that the engagement there is because my wife read them all the Narnia books and explained them painstakingly over the course of months prior to watching first the ’70s BBC version and then the newer film. They knew those stories well – the filmed versions just gave them something a little more concrete to picture. Even with that, though, it’s the smaller, more easily digested action scenes they enjoy more.
To throw a movie full of action at them, whose story they have not yet internalized, and expecting them to come out all excited is unfair – especially expecting them to sit through it all at one sitting.
So now I’m back to the conundrum I mentioned the last time… do I move on to The Phantom Menace, and plan to spend the $45 to take them to the 3D release next month? It’s arguably the ‘kid-friendliest’ of the films, so they might engage with it more. Maybe I should show it to them in segments first? Or maybe we need a break, and I should see the 3D version alone (that would be depressing). I don’t know. I’m sure you’ll all hear what I decide on that in a future post.
Turning away from my kids and toward the movie for a second, here’s something that for some reason I never considered before in all the times I watched Return of the Jedi…
When Luke finally takes a swipe at the Emperor with his lightsaber and is blocked by Vader – what is Vader’s motivation there? Is he really, as it appears, trying to protect his Master, or is he trying to protect Luke from taking his first major step on the journey to the Dark Side? We’ve seen in earlier scenes that his allegiance seems to be wavering, and his compassion for his son growing. Perhaps this block is really his first – perhaps tentative – step to saving his son.
It disappoints me that I never considered that before. I’m going to have to take a hit on my Geek Card for that one.