On Tuesday’s episode of “The Andrew Klavan Show,” Klavan talks about “Star Wars,” “American Sniper,” and how hungry people are for stories about heroism. Video and partial transcript below:
I was at the Hollywood Bowl — had a wonderful time, I thank Josh Kerr for bringing us and letting us share seats — and they did a tribute to John Williams, who conducts the L.A. Philharmonic and who wrote so many great soundtracks. He wrote Star Wars, that’s the big one — Star Wars. I think he also did E.T., and so everybody shows up with these lightsabers, and you know it was really an interesting experience because on the one hand, it was delightful. It’s delightful to have people in L.A. come together — it’s a big city. It’s nice that they come together to appreciate music, and it’s nice that they come together to appreciate the Philharmonic, which it does as a whole — you know all through the summer, The Hollywood Bowl does all these different things which include Beethoven and … movie themes and all this.
But at the same time, every time I see the devotion that Star Wars fans have — and this is not, believe me, this is not an attack on Star Wars fans at all. I am touched by the fact that I know that Star Wars started out as a sort of tribute to the old Flash Gordon films. George Lucas loved these Flash Gordon films, they all started — I think [it] was the Emperor Ming, when he’s taking over the universe and Flash Gordon was always going to fight them. And they always started with that scroll that you’re probably familiar with from Star Wars, where the story unfolds and kind of scrolls into the background just like it does in Star Wars — that’s an imitation of that.
And as he went forward, [George] Lucas, you know, incorporated other influences. The great Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa was part of his influences and of course Joseph Campbell — I’ve read I think virtually everything that Campbell has ever written who wrote about mythology, and what mythology means. And he wrote a famous book called “The Hero With A Thousand Faces,” which talks about the meaning of the kind of modern myth, what James Joyce called the modern myth. The one myth that all myths sort of partake of, and Lucas incorporated those ideas into Star Wars. I believe Campbell was actually a consultant on it and brought those heroic ideas, what the hero means, into that story.
And what I find so touching is this thing that sort of started out — and you can see it when you watch the first Star Wars — this sort of started out as a parody that people were so hungry, so desperately hungry for these ideas about heroism — about manhood, about adulthood, about becoming an adult, that they idolized Star Wars with complete seriousness. They discussed the Star Wars idea and the Star Wars universe and where it should go, and where it goes — a place that they don’t like. And it just shows you how hungry people are for these ideas and these ideas are built into the mythology of the Greeks [and] the mythology of the Romans.
Certainly, in a new and fresh and completely revolutionary way, into the stories of Christianity, which as C.S. Lewis said was the myth that really happened — the myth that was actual reality. And what’s said to me is that there are not enough artists who can incorporate those ideas into stories that are adult and complex. The only movie I can think of that actually talks about real heroism in a complex, and deep, and human way recently [and] was a great movie was “American Sniper” by Clint Eastwood. And there’s such a need to — once you become an adult, there is a need to maybe leave some of these heroes behind that are so pure and so perfect and that live in a universe that doesn’t exist and remind people of what it looks like to be a hero in a world that does exist, and how complex it is, and how it doesn’t make you perfect and it doesn’t make you anything except a hero.
That’s why “American Sniper” is such a good film, and that’s why I’m sort of sometimes sad when I see Star Wars fans, that they have nothing to move on to, that even as they grow older and then grow old, they still cling to what is essentially a fantasy film. Not that — that’s not an attack on them or on the film, it’s simply to say that with that, we also need a deeper version of the heroic story that I think is really lacking from American culture, which is why so many films are about superheroes and so few films are any good. So anyway, those were just my reactions to listening to wonderful music wonderful evening at the Hollywood Bowl that I thoroughly enjoyed. But it does remind me of the need for something that’s missing in American culture, which is complexity and depth in adulthood and heroism.