My favourite film is The Empire Strikes Back. It is the best of the Star Wars films. Part of the fun was seeing it before Mom & Dad. My aunt Rhonda took me the first time to see it. When we went as a family later, Mom & Dad made me sit in front of them, so that I wouldn't talk to them about the movie. So, I guess, it has a little bit of a grown-up feel for me (even though I was only seven).
In the late 70's and early 80's there was a series of films that defined my childhood, and thus, my life. They gave us, especially guys my age, a feeling for adventure and a sense that life did and could contain something greater. What I'm saying is that these are the mythos of my life and my group of guy friends.
The pantheon of these films is represented by the three that are my favourites of all time:
2) E. T.
3) Indiana Jones & the Raiders of the Lost Ark
But there has been a problem with these being our myths. Our lives didn't end up being full of adventure. There is a sense that Lucas & Spielberg lied to us.
So, in the 90's we experienced angst and were spoken to by Nirvana & Radiohead & Smashing Pumpkins, etc. Maybe the film Fight Club best expresses what it is to be a male my age. Tyler Durden expresses our sense of loss of myth, though he doesn't word it that way or express disappointment toward Lucas and Spielberg like I would.
Beginning 6-7 years ago I realized that Spielberg's masterpieces of the 70's and 80's could be read another way than I always had. Jaws is really about a man who has lost his sense of meaning and is trying to reconstruct it in this small town -- and there just happens to be a shark. Close Encounters is really about a man's marriage falling apart -- and there just happen to be aliens. E. T. is really about a kid dealing with his parents divorce -- and there just happens to be an extra-terrestrial.
So, Spielberg really was about the anxieties of real life. The mythic qualities were simply escapist and imaginative. But we are then still left without our myth. Somehow the end of the Cold War and the Clinton years could not generate a new myth or adventure for us. There was one example that stands out though -- Independence Day, which was very popular and I greatly enjoyed. But it does seem that if we had mythic hopes they were forward looking or virtual (the very important roles played by Star Trek: Next Generation, video games, comic books, and anime for my age group).
The Matrix, my fifth favourite film of all time, perfectly addresses us -- me. It speaks from and to our angst. It uses the language of sci fi, video games, anime, etc. It seems to come from the environment of Tyler Durden & Fight Club. But it gives us a myth. And a myth that unabashedly speaks of theological/spiritual/philosophical issues. It really is about the mythic adventure and not about divorce and not set "a long time ago" and "far, far away." It is "future" but looks like now. The trilogy ended up disappointing because it failed at its original appeal, ultimately.
However, by that time the classic adventure myth had returned with The Lord of the Rings. The Fellowship of the Ring is my fourth favourite film. Unlike The Matrix it doesn't speak from or in our context. Instead, it calls us out of our context to a truly great adventure. It rebukes our context & cultural identity of the 1990's. It is greatly spiritual and theological. And it presents us with a duty, and challenges us to a life of commitment. This trilogy suceeds. Maybe it works because it does speak to us post-9/11 & 9/11 destroyed our Nirvana/Fight Club angst? Or maybe it speaks to the optimism inherent in any new century or millennium? Or maybe we finally see ourselves confronting a big generational challenge as we move into late young adulthood & middle life (the oldest of us are turning 40!)? Whether your worldview makes you think the challenge is fighting the nations "enemies" abroad or the "enemies" within doesn't seem to matter. We have been given these challenging times (to paraphrase Gandalf); we did not choose them. We now have a duty to live lives committed to a greater cause. We have our adventure that we've been pining for since we were children.