Three perennial childhood favourites, The Empire Strikes Back, Back to the Future and The Goonies, are celebrating anniversaries this summer (Empire is 30 while the others are both 25).
When did I get so old?
It’s hard to imagine any big summer popcorn films of recent years (with the exception of Star Trek and The Dark Knight perhaps) still being celebrated in a couple of decade’s time. It’s interesting that a film like The Goonies still has legs even though it’s essentially a dippy little kid’s film. Its popularity lies in the fact that it has heart and a real sense of wonderment - something the Spielberg-produced stuff of that era strived for and mostly delivered, and something which is very much missing from films nowadays. I still have much fondness for The Goonies (having actually gone to see it for my 9th birthday), but there’s one scene at the end that I always had real trouble with. I’m sure Chunk’s father would have taken serious issue with the prospect of having mental man-mountain Sloth become a permanent member of the family. I know you’re supposed to suspend your disbelief at the movies, but even he would have put his foot down at the merest hint of becoming a surrogate daddy to that.
“No...I am your father!” Empire has perhaps the most perfect three-act structure in any sci-fi film ever and, alongside Dill whipping out a wiener in The Crying Game, it concludes with the greatest twist/reveal of all time. In fact, it’s stuffed with so many amazing scenes you almost wish in hindsight that Lucas would had squirreled some away to distribute around the later instalments. For a film brimming with wondrous moments, my favourite still remains the introduction of Yoda. The scenes on his home planet really are the stuff of movie magic. Not only do you completely buy this little muppet as a living, breathing character, but you also believe that this now shrivelled, rather sad-looking creature in front of you was once an all powerful Jedi Master (until, devastatingly, Attack Of the Clones needlessly and unimaginatively filled in the blanks).
Having won a VHS copy of Back to the Future in the national press when it was first released on rental, I was the envy of everyone at school and was even able to use this prized possession as leverage in gaining more ‘friends’ at the time. It’s easy to see why it was (and still is) loved by so many. Another entry from Stevie’s talent-nurturing, hit-making Amblin (where is the modern day equivalent?!), this is near perfect Hollywood film-making – from the tight, extremely well-constructed script to the faultless pacing and fun performances. Even after all those years, director Robert Zemeckis has yet to surpass this in terms of purely joyous entertainment.
I have to say, these films seem like genuine anomalies now. I suppose all we can hope for is that after the abysmal line-up of summer films so far this year - and with the web coverage and love these classics have been receiving - Hollywood will take note of its past achievements during this season and try to deliver something to their quality again.
Oh dear. Did I just write that last paragraph? You’ll have to forgive me - early senility can also be a by-product of growing older.