04 January 2016

Thoughts upon rewatching Star Wars: Episode IV

After seeing Episode VII, we rewatched the previous films. Some thoughts...

There may be spoilers for Episodes I through VI below! ...but none for Episode VII.

Episode IV: The first time I saw this movie I would’ve been about 8yo. I thought Darth Vader and the stormtroopers were robots. I was completely unprepared to appreciate it. Without home video, the comic adaption and The Story of Star Wars recording were more the Star Wars I grew up with rather than the movie.

This movie is so good. A mash-up of fairy tale, Flash Gordon movie serials, and WW2 films. Not to mention all the literary influences snuck in there. No extraneous exposition. The “used future” design.

Younger me would have criticized it for the implausibility of light sabers, the airplane-like movements of space ships, and the impression of sound in space.

(Not that space shots need to be silent, but I appreciate it when the reality of no sound in space is respected. Maybe we get the sounds from within one of the ships. In the Star Wars movies, however, there are clearly sounds that are meant to be read as happening in space.)

But from the (paraphrased) “once upon a time in a faraway land” that it opens with, it is clear that those criticisms are not appropriate.

My nitpicks today are: Why do they have to fly down that trench to fire at the exhaust port rather than flying straight down at it? (Made even worse by the way the torpedoes are depicted as having to make a 90° turn to enter the port.) How can they detect the TIE fighters approaching but no one notices the Falcon’s arrival? But those are—indeed—nitpicks. They are important elements even if they lack a little plausibility/explanation.

There are three things that ground this movie in the 1970s: Luke’s hair, the short sequence of actual 1970s-era computer graphics, and Han’s line about “female advice”.

The only reason the “Greedo shot first” revision bothers me is...how could he miss?

The one place the design of Star Wars completely failed for me was the light saber handles. Those things (and the toy replicas) are not pleasant to grip. Weapons have better grips than that. Which is highlighted by the fact that the blasters are real guns with greebles, and therefore, have sensible grips.

Previously, I believed that Lucas didn’t decide who Luke’s father was until he started on Episode V. Vader seemed like nothing more than Tarkin’s evil wizard. Although, the way Guinness plays the moment before Ben tells Luke about his father...that has read to me like he is making the decision to tell the lie. That was the one thing, previously, that made me think it might to be a retcon. But Luke’s father is mentioned enough that his identity is clearly meant to be significant. I’m now willing to accept that it wasn’t a retcon.

I think it succeeds at being the modern myth. It is the hero’s journey and perhaps the most relevant of traditional values told via the action/adventure motion picture.

Overall, I am even more impressed by this movie today than ever. I used to vacillate over whether Episode IV or V was the best of the series, but today I say unequivocally that IV is the best.

5 comments:

Darcy Perry said...

Despite Luke being the hero, Han Solo was far cooler. I loved the droids. In fact, the droids tell the story. As we follow them we are introduced to all the main characters. I later found this idea came from the two peasants in Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress.

Darcy Perry said...

Despite Luke being the hero, Han Solo was far cooler. I loved the droids. In fact, the droids tell the story. As we follow them we are introduced to all the main characters. I later found this idea came from the two peasants in Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress.

Robert Fisher said...

If you haven’t watched The Hidden Fortress, I recommend it. If only to see how it influenced Lucas.

JB said...

From "The Secret History of Star Wars" (a book which discusses the development and production of the films, including earlier drafts of screenplays) it's fairly clear that Vader being Luke's father was a decision made during AFTER the original film was made. At several points (up until the final couple drafts of The Empire Strikes Back), Luke's father would have made an appearance at some point...either in the flesh or as a "force ghost." Combining the two (Vader/Anakin) allowed the filmmaker to dispense with redundant characters neatly (and with a fairly epic reveal).

Robert Fisher said...

Interesting! I actually have that book but hadn’t gotten around to reading it.