Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Passing of Marvelous Things

The game I was supposed to play tonight fell through for a variety of reasons, leaving me without a blog topic, until I spent a few minutes reading over the Legatus' tribute to Ray Harryhausen, who died Tuesday.  My initial response to his death had been a bit distant.  While I have seen several of his movies, and have an intellectual appreciation for his role in the development of film and pop culture, it didn't really register as personal, if you know what I mean.

The man at work.

I had an urge to paint orks tonight, of all things, and for some reason that brought home to me what Harryhausen's passing means.  I remember seeing Clash of the Titans in the theatre, and saw the Sinbad and Jason and the Argonaught movies on TV as a kid.  As a child of the Star Wars generation, however, and in all the arrogance of my 8-year old wisdom, the Harryhausen movies always seemed crude, almost silly.  What I didn't realize then, and what I know now, is that if it wasn't for the Harryhausen films, there never would have been movies like Star Wars. The impact Harryhausen had, both as an inspiration to young film-makers, and as someone who showed that fantasy adventure could be profitable, made the modern sci-fi / fantasy renaissance possible.

Not as cool as lightsabers

No Harryhausen, no Star Wars.  No Star Wars, no . . . anything.  No Star Trek reboot, no Indy, no superheroes, not nearly as much D&D, no mainstreaming of the tropes of sci-fi and fantasy in pop culture, no . . . well, anything that I love in, and of, pop culture over the last three decades probably, including 40k and space orks.  No GW, at least not as we know it.  As a consequence, and whatever you might think of GW, quite probably no hobby.  I challenge you to find a gamer under 40 who didn't get their start via the gateway drug of Games Workshop or fantasy gaming. Instead, we live in a world where there are so many good historical games right now it's almost impossible to play them all.

Totally stolen from Watts.

It got me thinking in broader terms as well.  There are so many movies and books and stories I want to share with my kids.  I can't wait to watch Star Wars with them, but part of me wonders if, to my son, say, it will seem as silly and dated as The 7 Voyages of Sinbad seemed to me.  He lives in a world where cartoons are a 24 / 7 proposition, and was horrified when I told him about how magical Saturday mornings used to be, because it was the only time you could watch cartoons.  I wonder if, living in a world of marvels, will the things I remember as marvelous seem . . . quaint.

Not my kid.  My kid's cuter.

There's a of the passing of the torch here.  I have no doubt every generation deals with something like this, where the things they remember as moments of wonder seem ubiquitous and cheapened by availability, where they wonder if their children and descendants will be jaded by the availability of things once rare and precious.  But then I remember what it was like, at 5, to sit in a movie theatre, and watch Lord Vader stride aboard the blockade runner, and just be . . . lost.

This defined my childhood.

There will be something like that for my son and daughter, even if it isn't the things that were precious to me.  There will be a thing inspired by what inspired me that will shape them, and mold their imagination, and tell them stories about what it means to be heroic, and to have faith that whatever the world is, there's hope for something better.

So here's to Ray Harryhausen, to the passing of a marvel, and to the passing of marvels, in the hope that they'll be passed on again.



  1. That was a nice tribute he did. I came in at about One Million Years B.C. on his career. But I saw a lot of that on the telly at my grans when I was little. She would pop corn and we'd sit on her woven rug and stay up late watching all those old films. To us it was magical.

  2. Excellent and thoughtful piece.

  3. So many souvenirs...great post!

  4. I've introduced my kids to Star Wars through 'Lego Star Wars - the Padawan Menace'. Something we can all laugh along to, even though they don't get half of it! It isn't easy converting three little girls to appreciate my geekdom, but I'm getting there.
    And my appreciation of Ray Harryhausen is very similar to yours. An indirect thankfulness for what he achieved and inspired.
    Great post.

  5. I liked your elegy.
    Unlike you I started with the Sinbad movies ($2 at the community centre every Saturday, free popcorn, Caroline Munro initiating my puberty) to Star Wars. So I appreciate you perspective Munko.

    My son and I did our own stop motion films featuring his Bionicles. He referred to them as 'Harryhausens'. My enforced viewing of them paid off...hint hint.

  6. Very thoughtful post and I remember those Harryhausen films on Saturdays when I actually had to stand up and turn the knob to get to the channel on the TV.:=0 Love the skeleton and Sinbad duels. Oh btw I grew up on Star Wars like the rest of 40 somethings too.:-)