Doing something different this week. In advent of The Force Awakens, the club I run at NYU is marathoning the Original Trilogy. In lieu of an essay, what follows is something of a live blog.
(A New Hope)
- It’s remarkable how much of the first few minutes are told visually. The first proper dialogue isn’t until Vader interrogates Antilles. Once we get to Tatooine, we’re back to relying on the visuals for Artoo’s run in with the Jawas. The lack of explaining goes a long way to making the world feel lived in and, well, real. This way, by the time we get to Luke, we’re already immersed in this very foreign world.
- Binary sunset. Freaking iconic.
- I always forget how downright weird Star Wars is. We’ve got spaceships and robots but an ‘old wizard’ (as Owen calls Ben) and tribal people riding animals. There’s such a delightful mix of past and future that makes it feels very timeless.
- Ben’s discussion with Luke is very much an exposition dump. But it works because by the time we get to it we wanna know what’s going on with Artoo and Threepio and we’re also very much in Luke’s position in wondering who is he and what’s going on. Also, the exposition isn’t so much on how the world works but on the romance of Luke’s adventure-to-come.
- Once Leia joins the group she refuses to take crap from anyone.
- There’s a wonderful mundanity to some of the world; like Stormtroopers discussing speeder models while Ben shuts off the tractor beam.
- There’s a strong focus on an emotional arc (rather than a character one). It’s about the thrills and the adventure, not so much about an in-depth character analysis.
The Empire Strikes Back
- The opening of Empire really highlights the serial inspiration. IV, V, and VI all open with a misadventure of sorts (Artoo and Threepio on the Tantive IV, Luke and the Wampa, Jabba’s Palace) that isn’t unlike a cold open. Helps give the movies the feeling that things have been going on before the start (and will keep going after). The world’s lived in.
- These movies are ridiculous: we’ve got a muppet fighting with a robot over a lamp. But they commit to it and that sells it. We take Yoda seriously despite how silly he could be because Empire isn’t winking at the audience. It’s played straight and it works so well.
- Threepio interrupting Leia and Han will never not be funny.
- There is a major gender imbalance in these movies, but Leia really holds her own among everyone else. She’s a strong character.
- Unlike A New Hope, Empire focuses far more on character. We’ve got the relationship between Han and Leia and Luke’s own quest to become a Jedi. There’s no less derring-do and adventure than the first movie, but there’s a stronger focus on the character’s own internal emotional arcs.
Return of The Jedi
- The misadventure cold open is most pronounced in Jedi where it’s in some ways its own episode. It’s a crazily convoluted way to get Han back in the picture, but it also serves to reestablish the relationships of the central characters. And it’s a whole lotta fun.
- Leia getting to kill Jabba is a great moment.
- Luke’s conflict is so much better than Anakin’s in Revenge of The Sith. Rather than the choice being a very clear Light Side or Dark Side, Luke has to choose between his father and becoming a Jedi. Neither choice is inherently wrong, but the interesting part comes in what each decision reflects: saving Vader is selfless, whereas becoming a Jedi is more self-centered. Luke’s arc in this movie is being willing to give up himself and his conflict along the way is really well done.
- I know I shouldn’t but I do kinda really like the Ewoks. I think part of the reason is because they’re so reflective of the heart of the movies. There’s this uncynical hope to them that, even if they are people-eaters, fits into the movie well enough.
- Fittingly, Luke’s brush with the Dark Side (when he attacks The Emperor) comes at the lowest point of the battle; the Ewoks are losing, the Rebel Fleet is being torn apart, and then Luke gives in to his anger. The protagonist’s inner arc is reflected in the larger conflict as a whole.
- The music, man, the music. During Lando and team’s run on the Death Star it’s not this super-serious musical cue of epic-ness, rather it’s this romantic adventure theme. Star Wars doesn’t get weighed down with itself, it isn’t afraid to be a lot of fun.