Mar 31, 2014
Notes on the Star Wars trilogy, part 1: A New Hope
[Note: This is an expanded (to put it mildly) version of a post from my blog. It also covers the special edition versions of the trilogy, whereas the original version of this article was just the initial theatrical cuts. Add to that the fact that I’m splitting this into three pieces, and it can be safely said that I have entered “indulgent ‘70s director” territory as far as my tenure on this site goes.]
I’m back from the outer reaches of the web (also known as working on other projects/having dick all to say about much) to give a little tribute to a fantastic trilogy. You know, seeing as we’re getting a new movie later this year and all.
While the James Bond films may be my first love when it comes to franchises, Star Wars probably comes in a fairly close second; mainly the original trilogy. And by mainly, I mean I pretty much enjoy those three, some of the video games are decent, the prequels are decidedly meh in a gradually more watchable sort of way, and the expanded universe can respectfully go stuff itself. (Except for the first run of the Marvel comics and some of the Dark Horse stuff. That’s pretty fun.)
Needless to say, these three films speak for themselves, so recapping the plots is an exercise in wasted time. I love all three movies and agree with all the accolades they’ve received over the years. So for this mega piece (and how, given that I’m going all Peter Jackson on it and splitting it up), we’ll be sticking to favorite moments, jokes, and odd little tidbits.
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Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
I’d like to think that at some point during the first run of this movie, some stoner went to see a screening and looked up in awe at the first shot… and promptly went into munchies overload, muttering, “Man, that is one big wedge of cheese!” At least, I hope.
To date, I think the total kill count for Imperial Stormtroopers is still just the six in the first five minutes of this movie, and maybe about ten or so over the course of the rest of the trilogy. And to be frank, most of the ones in Empire Strikes Back shouldn’t count, because the laser beams coming from those Imperial walkers were frigging huge.
Even with the prequels sort of diluting the overall effect of the character, Darth Vader’s first appearance is still damn impressive. But then again, screw it; the prequels may actually help it in a way, since now you don’t just think Vader is an asshole. You know exactly how much of one he is, to the precise degree!
Carrie Fisher: Proving that you can kick ass even with two Danishes as big as your face strapped to your head. Yeah, it’s an old line, but what else can I do? Height jokes and cracks about her being coked off her ass? No! I do have some standards, for God’s sake. Besides, those will come later.
The thing I love about these films is the stuff that pops into your mind after repeated viewings. You know, because watching three movies repeatedly over a span of thirty years isn’t generally thought of as “rational”.
For instance, it was a joy for me to come to the realization that between the two droids, R2-D2 is the real brains of the operation, held back only by the fact that he can’t talk. He saves the day, kicks some butt, and if the exchanges throughout the series are any indication, he gives C-3PO crap nearly every second of the way. He’s essentially the biggest jerk hero you can imagine, only in the form of an ambulatory trash can that beeps.
You also have to realize that thanks to the prequels, we know that by the time we see the two droids here, R2 has been putting up with 3PO for over twenty years. You ever seen a married couple that’s been together that long and can’t stand each other? Yeah. Goldenrod should thank his maker that R2 doesn’t have a death ray under his dome.
I like to think that the Jawas capturing C-3PO went something like this: They drive up and begin to get out, but he just gets into their sand crawler as they all look at each other in shock, probably muttering something along the lines of “Jesus, why can’t they all be this easy?”
I don’t know why, but for some reason, I’ve always gotten a chuckle out of there being just one or two really tall Jawas wandering around. Most are around the 3’6 range, but at least one or two of them could look Carrie Fisher right in the eye.
I love how this film retroactively makes some of the stuff in the prequels make sense. Darth Vader started out a whiny little bitch? Guess what? It’s just in the genes!
Christ, Luke is the kind of dude I would have mocked in school, and I was one of the nice kids. Actually, R2 kind of screws with Luke to begin with, if you think about it. To Mark Hamill’s credit, he smoothes his performance out and is actually pretty damn good for the most part in all three films.
Not sure why everyone makes a big deal out of the blue milk. You get a carton of the regular and leave it out for a few months, you get the same damn thing. Though to be fair, I would hate to see what Luke’s aunt had to milk to get that stuff. There’s an outside chance she stood her ground against those stormtroopers and said, “Go on and fry us, assholes! You know what I have to do to get my family milk? Death is not something I fear anymore.”
Thanks to the version of the movie I recorded off TV in the late ‘80s, every time I see the first scene with the sand people I think of the song “Lookin’ Out for Number One”. I think it was in a Dodge commercial or something. I don’t know, it could have been a beer ad.
Alec Guinness personifies the motto for British performers: No matter how much you think the script stinks, do your best. If nothing else, he makes the inherently goofy Jedi philosophical stuff sound at least halfway reasonable.
Not sure which is easier to break into several pieces: the old Kenner C-3PO action figure, or the character in the movies.
Peter Cushing: When you need pure evil in the most gaunt, skinny package imaginable. God, he was awesome!
I get a chuckle out of the way Vader sort of resignedly moves over before he begins to choke the guy giving him crap about the Force. You can almost hear him thinking, “Ugh, this crap again? I slaughtered every Jedi, only to have to eat shit from this prick?”
Not for nothing, but it has to be said that Mark Hamill plays grief more subtly and effectively than Hayden Christensen. Come to think of it, so does Nicolas Cage.
I actually don’t mind the visual enhancements Lucas threw into the special editions all that much (with a few exceptions). Honestly, they only hurt the flow if you let them. It’s like getting a flu shot; it only hurts for a second or two. Whining about it when you’re legally an adult just makes you look like a big baby. Just so long as it doesn’t hurt the story.
Ever wonder how many kids tried the Jedi mind trick on their parents as a way to get out of trouble?
Gotta love the Stuart Freeborn creature designs, along with the early Rick Baker stuff. For a fan of creature f/x like me, it’s a real feast. The cantina scene is still one of the best scenes in the entire franchise. And the best part is that they top it in the third film.
I’m not sure what the exact stats are, but I’m fairly certain virtually every single alien in the cantina has had some story written about them, detailing how they’re actually the savior of their home planet. Even the little guy below.
Yeah, he might look cute. But while fighting for the people of Grpnlp at the Battle of Plorvox 12, he racked up a body count that would make Rambo shit himself!
Actually, I did a little research and found out that this character is a thief who was the adopted daughter and partner in crime of the white alien in the first cantina picture in this piece. You see what I do for you people? That’s five minutes of my life I will never see again.
And yes, I do agree the whole “Greedo shooting first” thing was a silly addition.
I kind of like the addition of the Jabba scene. It’s sort of cool, though having Boba Fett there isn’t really necessary.
I always got a laugh out of Chewbacca roaring at the little droid in the Death Star hallway. It’s the shrug and exhaling afterwards that makes it. Sort of a “Well, I needed that. Let’s get moving” sort of thing.
I like to think the real name of the thing in the garbage chute was “Plot Element”, before Lucas put in one of his patented names that sounds cool for about a second and a half and then is just silly later on. (I don’t give a damn if he pronounces it “Count Doku”. Every actor in that damn film threw in another “o” and made it sound like shit. Pun intended.)
Based on the performance of the average stormtrooper, and given that a slightly fey droid can outwit them, I’d say you don’t even need to use a Jedi mind trick on them. Pointing in one direction and running in the other should do the trick just fine. Bottom line, I’m not sure Obi Wan really needed to use the Force to distract from his shutting down the tractor beam.
I always loved how Harrison Ford goes bug-eyed at the sight of danger. Just one of the many things that makes him so great.
The powers of quality filmmaking: when I was a kid, the brief bit where the blade of Ben’s lightsaber is visibly just the dowel they were using while shooting the scene with some post-production f/x added in was interpreted by my young brain as the guy’s sword shorting out. Of course, the MAD magazine parody also helped in that regard.
Sometimes grief counseling takes the form of blowing the living shit out of enemy starships. Beats paying a shrink.
Based on this film, would it be fair to say that the Y-Wing fighter is sort of the Emilio Estevez of the rebel fleet when compared to the X-Wing’s Charlie Sheen level of coolness? Good, and maybe even better in some ways, but you really prefer the X-Wing because it’s just more memorable.
Granted, it’s a nice ship design, but they really do get stomped quite badly in the film.
The story of Wedge: It’s sort of funny how a relatively minor character can become one of the more popular ones just by sheer virtue of not getting his ship blown up in every single major battle. No wonder there are entire novels dedicated to the guy. They’re novels I’d never read unless there was no other choice, but still!
The funny thing to me about the medal scene at the end is how it’s shot so that you never notice just how damn short Carrie Fisher is. I myself didn’t notice until around viewing #873.
Oh, and I’m pretty sure Chewbacca is roaring, “What about my damn medal, you shaven assholes?” at the end.
The first entry in the franchise is just fantastic and iconic. Forget whatever the prequels did right or wrong, forget the incessant changes Lucas liked to indulge in; the first three are still fantastic movies. Stay tuned for The Empire Strikes Back, coming soon(-ish).