Friday, April 17, 2015

A Long Time Ago

Nostalgia is a narcotic. In small doses, it can enhance an experience. When I was eighteen years old, my best friend, my brother, and I took a trip to Ottawa one Saturday night on a whim, and on the way there, on another whim, we drove to the house I grew up in in Nepean until we moved when I was six. That was pretty cool. I get the same nostalgic feeling whenever I return to my hometown and drive around, passing my high school, or when I stay with my parents and sleep in the house in which I lived from six to twenty-two, the age I was when I moved to Korea.

I don't want to live my life again, however. I like to see photographs of the past and recall fond memories (and even the bad ones have a better coat of paint on them with the passing of years), but I don't want to experience everything over again in the same way that I didn't want to break into my childhood home and sleep in my old bedroom, or walk through the halls of my high school with gray hair. It's fine to look back, but not at the expense of looking forward.

For decades, Hollywood has been the hoary old coal miner of properties people my age grew up with, trying to find a gold vein but usually mining shit. While trying to appeal to the worst aspect of nostalgia -- remember when you liked this as a dumb kid? We're going to try to make you like it as a stupid adult -- movie producers also have continually thought that making children's properties into darker versions of their source materials will work.

The thing is, it does for some people. Earlier this year, director Joseph Kahn released a satirically gritty short film based on the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It was meant as a fuck-you to the manchildren who actually want that kind of shit. Ironically, a vocal portion of the Internet took it seriously and ardently pleaded that a feature film be made.

I'm not entirely innocent when it comes to revisiting the nostalgic idiocy of 80s kids. I saw the first Transformers movie and liked it well enough (the sequels are for brain donors); I saw G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra twice in a movie theater*; I have a bunch of T-shirts with comic book and video game characters on them, which, as a soon-to-be thirty-seven-year-old man, I have no business wearing**.

My ability to discern between right and wrong, just and unjust, is pretty strong, I think. When it comes to entertainment, art, I'm better than I once was, but my subjective integrity can sometimes be compromised by what I think I've seen over what I saw (I gave Terminator: Salvation a 4/4 review on this very blog almost six years ago).

Case in point: In 1999, I saw The Phantom Menace on my birthday. That movie is absolutely awful, but because it was the first Star Wars movie released in sixteen years, and because I grew up with Star Wars***, I talked myself into thinking it was good. Adulthood doesn't erase idiocy, nor the indelible impressions of childhood.

 Today, I have a new hope. The second teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is good. Really good. I've been a Star Wars apostate for longer than I was a true believer as a kid. My faith has been restored. For now.

Nostalgia is a drug.

* In that film's defense, it's just as stupidly silly and enjoyable as the original cartoon.

** In my own defense, I bought them while on vacation in Canada because I can't buy T-shirts here that would fit even an anorexic teenager.

*** I don't have a photographic memory, but I can recall almost every film I've ever seen inside a theater, who I was with, and where I sat. It's my mutant power. My mother took me to a double feature of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. I was sitting to her left. Yoda scared the shit out of me. (This was perhaps 1981, during a second theatrical run. I have a good memory, but at two in 1980? I'd have to check with the matron.)

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