I love movies. I love the escape that they provide from reality for 90-120 minutes at a clip. I especially love the basic formula that is used to tell the story. If you haven’t guessed yet, I am speaking of the age-old formula of “good vs. evil” that is the blueprint of most theatrical performances. As a child growing up in the 70’s, every year I could see this formula play out in both of my Easter classics. One being The Ten Commandments and the other was the Wizard of Oz.
Both had villains that we were introduced to in the very beginning of the films and appeared difficult, if not impossible, to defeat. To keep things simple I will just focus on Dorothy and her nightmarish situation of waking up in another time and place with just her little dog. Kids could identify better with her because the age gap wasn’t as far as that of Moses in Egypt. Minutes into Dorothy’s saga, she is confronted by the evil, wicked witch whom we find very scary, intimidating and unbeatable.
After we are introduced to our evil villain in the first minutes of a movie, we then spend the majority of the film wondering how on earth our hero is going to triumph. But time after time the hero finds some miraculous way to conquer evil in the waning moments of the movie. It could be something as simple as a plain old glass of water; we have discovered that from the wicked witch’s demise in the land of Oz.
That all changed for me 35 years ago in the summer of 1977. My dad took me to the movies for the first time (he left my mom when I was 4) and it just happened to be the blockbuster film that I had heard so much about…STAR WARS! All I knew for sure is that there was this awesome scene where chess was being played on a board by live creatures. The rest was all a great and spectacular surprise to my 9-year-old eyes.
Moments into the film we meet our villain and he was like no other bad guy I had ever seen on-screen. His height, his gait and that voice had me quaking in my Dolby stereo implanted seat. As soon as we meet him he is killing people with his bare hands and also this mysterious power known only as the “force.” Immediately my mind starts to wonder how on earth are the good guys going to defeat this evil?
Only this time the evil villain would not be defeated by the good guys before the credits rolled up the screen. How could this be? Good has to triumph over evil because that is the only formula this kid has ever known. But George Lucas had other plans for his fans as he put together the best trilogy to grace the big screen. And not only does the dark villain, now known to us as Darth Vader, survive the first chapter of the saga, he comes back in the “Empire Strikes Back” (my favorite of all six films) as mean and as ruthless a bad guy as I had ever witnessed. The guy cut off his own son’s hand for goodness sake. Then he coined a phrase that will live in moviegoers eternity when he uttered, “I am your father!”
As you can see, I could go on all day about Lord Vader and his evil antics but what the first trilogy left me asking myself was what could have happened to him to turn him into such an evil monster. Well Mr. Lucas gave us a wonderful back story about how Lord Vader came to exist. And in 2005, at a midnight showing no less, the reason was revealed…it was love.
Darth Vader chose evil over good so that he could save the life of his wife and unborn child (she did have twins but that was a surprise to everyone). How many times has history shown us that behind every great moment was a love story? Love of a woman/man or love of freedom and country have been common themes since the beginning of time.
But today I have a new favorite villain to watch as he conquers his foes on the hardwood of the NBA. His name is LeBron James and I have watched this man dominate the sport that he loves for more than a decade now. But to so many people, two summers ago he became the biggest villain in the sport of professional basketball. Why? Because he made a choice that he had every right to make as the most sought after free agent of modern times.
Criticize the way he went about it all you like, but at the end of the day he made the best decision for himself, his family and his basketball career. So many of us are not able to make those kinds of decisions in our entire lives and then this hometown kid decides to take his talents to South Beach and join forces with his buddies on a quest for multiple championships. Had I chosen to leave my firm when I was as hot as he was in year 7, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would still be at the top of the corporate world today (that “two comma” income did allude me).
In year one of his journey he made the conscious decision to embrace his new villainous role and play with an angry chip on his shoulder. He even made an awesome commercial about it with his team from Nike. That earned him boos in almost every arena in the league whenever he touched the ball.
He played hard that season but made a habit of not finishing as strong as he was capable of and his “hater” ranks grew stronger as he failed in the best of seven against the Dallas Mavericks (the Mavs got even from their previous 4-2 loss in 2006 to the Heat). So this year he had to constantly hear that he couldn’t get it done, about his “Decision” and his prediction of multiple championships (those other two guys said it too).
He could have been unbearable when he finally got the chance to hoist the trophy but instead he was grateful and humbled by his team’s triumph. He knew that he couldn’t do it alone and he chose the team that he knew he could get it done with. That line of thinking got him labeled the ultimate villain and that was unfair. LeBron knows more than anyone that life is unfair at times and he does his part to level the playing field. This year he made a commercial pleading with young people to stay in school and get an education.
Mr. James, you became the type of villain that, when it is all said and done, there won’t be anyone around to claim that they ever hated you. I look forward to you leading our country to Gold in London and your next NBA campaign as you embark upon the hardest challenge in pro sports…repeating as champion.
Lord Vader made a tough decision that led him down an evil path that forever cemented him in our minds as the top member of the Evil Hall of Fame. LeBron James made a tough decision that will cement him in our minds as one of the greatest to ever play the sport and a guaranteed Hall of Famer. For different reasons I have found a way to love them both.