Archive for Thursday, May 26, 2005

Star Wars’ transports to time long ago

Movie-going experience not the same in Malaysia

May 26, 2005

I'm a self-professed movie buff, and I claim movie watching to be my one acceptable vice. This week, a movie brought me back to a time long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. Wait, I mean a long time ago in a country far, far away. When the very first "Star Wars" movie came out, it crossed cultural and language barriers in movie watching around the world.

That also happened to be the first English non-animated movie I saw. Prior to that I had only seen the obligatory Disney movies such as "Pinocchio", "Snow White" and a few other older ones. Movies in Malaysia are shown in the original language with Malay and Chinese and, sometimes, Indian subtitles. Because of this, the bottom half of the screen was smeared with subtitles. Reading the subtitles sometimes took away from the action in the movie, but when I watched "Star Wars", there was no need to read them. The visuals and special effects had me captivated. For those two hours, I was lost in battle against the Empire and Darth Vader.

It is amazing how much a movie can influence the people. "Saturday Night Fever" brought on the disco era, even in Malaysia. How many times have you said, "I'll be baaack," or have heard about someone being terrified about swimming in the ocean because of a certain shark movie they saw?

As popular as "Star Wars" was in Malaysia, it didn't influence the people as some of the other movies did. No one went around wearing Storm Trooper costumes or wielding fake light sabers, nor did they invest money in pricey memorabilia. However, that movie did entice people who normally don't go to see English-language movies to the theater.

I vividly remember going a couple of days early to get the "Star Wars" advance tickets for my friends and myself. As I was walking away with the tickets in my hand, I saw my dad standing in line to get tickets for him and my mom. I was very surprised. I believe that was also my mom's first-ever English-language movie experience. The hype and buzz was so strong that even she had to experience it even though she didn't understand the language.

Although movies are not as big an entertainment experience as they are here, most of the popular movies always made their way to the local cinemas. There are no ratings for movies there because all movies are censored before they are shown to the public. There is no cussing, sexuality, kissing, nudity or extreme violence. You can practically take little kids to any movies. Unfortunately, many did. I never knew how much of a movie was censored until I started watching the same movies here. In fact, when I was in college, I suggested a movie for a youth group meeting that I saw in Malaysia, which I had really enjoyed. You can imagine my horror as explicit language and sexuality was laced very heavily in that movie. I kept telling them that the scene or language was not there when I saw the movie back home. That was the last time I was allowed to pick a movie.

The one nice thing about watching movies in Malaysia is that they have assigned seating. You can select your seats when you purchase the tickets. Advance tickets were great because you could buy tickets for a popular movie like "Star Wars", arrive minutes before it started and have the best seats. As you can imagine, the lines were usually at the advance ticket box office.

Last week when "Star Wars Episode III" opened, some of my co-workers and I took in an early show on the first day. The anticipation of the final "Star Wars" movie was poignant. It brought back all my memories of my early movie experience that my friends and I watched. It was not something we did often, but when we did, it was usually for a blockbuster movie, and we made an event out of it. I was never a "Star Wars" fanatic, but it is probably the one movie that I truly enjoy every time I watch it. As the light dimmed, and the majestic score of the "Star Wars" theme played -- followed by the bright yellow scrolling of the story -- I found myself being transported to a place, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

My personal recommendation for "Star Wars III"? Go see it. It's worth the adventure and fun. Kids older than 7 years of age should be able to enjoy it, also.

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