And now we get to the original Star Wars.
It’s about damn time.
Tom: Fresh off my rewatch of the prequels, the scene that stuck out the most to me in Episode IV was when Obi-Wan and Luke were chatting in Obi-Wan’s house and all I could think was that pretty much everything Obi-Wan says about his past is either a lie or just inaccurate. I mean, there’s a few bits here and there before they got to Obi-Wan’s house (“I haven’t gone by the name of Obi-Wan since, oh, before you were born,” says the man who assisted with the birth while still being addressed as Obi-Wan), but still…
I can make excuses for a lot of what Obi-Wan says, but mostly I just chalk it up to scenes Lucas hadn’t written yet. And let me tell you, the best part about that scene is how it hints at a long history for these people, something we can only dream about…until the prequels came along and nothing could quite live up to our imaginations.
I mean, I remember one of the first Extended Universe novels saying the Clone Wars were when a bunch of Jedi got cloned, but the process of making clones of those with Force talent drove the clones insane, so there were all these insane cloned Jedi running around. That sounds a hell of a lot cooler than what actually happened, doesn’t it?
But really, there’s so much to actually praise here. When you have, like, actual sets and things, it actually makes the universe looked legitimately lived in. Everything in the prequels looked…pristine.
Of course, there are some who like the prequels. I teach a lot of 18-22 years olds, and one of them told me today the best scene in any Star Wars movie was the fight between the Jedi and the droids in the arena in Attack of the Clones. Not just the lightsabers igniting that tickles Ryan’s inner child (and mine too if I am being honest), but the whole scene. Better than the rest of Attack of the Clones? Maybe. Better than anything in Empire Strikes Back? Hell no.
OK, but, back to Episode IV. I was thinking a lot about Alec Guiness as I watched this. He notoriously didn’t like these movies, that character, or anything about the film aside from the fact he made enough money from it to never have to worry about rubbing two dimes together for the rest of his life. He thought the young actors were weird…which was odd, since apparently everyone on set respected the hell out of him.
But look at what Guiness brought to the table here. He really, really brings the goods for a movie he didn’t even care for. Supposedly, Obi-Wan died because that was one of his conditions for signing on in the first place. When Guiness refers to Anakin as a good friend, he sounds like he means it. Didn’t get much of that between McGregor and Christensen, did you?
Then there was the thing the prequels were really missing: Han Solo, or someone like him. You can see where some of the characters in the prequels are, in a sense, standing in for characters from the originals, with Anakin for Luke, Padme for Leia, and Jar Jar probably intended as a bad cross between Chewbacca and C-3PO. There’s no Han Solo type to be seen anywhere, and that’s the sort of character that is sorely needed.
Look at Han for a moment. He’s brash, doesn’t believe in the Force, and would shoot a guy under the table. Yes, I rewatched a version where Han shot first. What do I look like? A Star Wars poser? That shooting first is, I would argue, vital for the character. It shows how he grows and redeems himself over the course of the trilogy as opposed to badly composed shot where Greedo shoots first and Han’s shot is arguably self-defense. Han shooting first is a sneaky scoundrel. Han shooting second isn’t quite so bad.
Han brings about something missing from the prequels, where all the main characters are either Jedi or politicians. He’s a lowlife type, but he’s also a regular guy just trying to make his way in the universe with only his wits to help him. There’s no one like that in the prequels.
Plus, he has young Harrison Ford’s roguish charm.
Really, the prequels needed a rogue of some kind.
I’ve stated in the past that Lucas never told the story he wanted to. You can see some differences between the characters here and from other movies. Lucas imagined Vader as a pathetic character that the various Imperial officers didn’t even respect. There’s some of that. 3PO was imagined as a used car salesman/con man. He does successfully talk his way out of problems here, but the change in personality was due largely to Anthony Daniels’ voice. He was originally just supposed to be the guy in the suit, but after having no luck casting a voice actor, they just decided to let him do it and he got fussier in the later movies. And Luke and Leia were obviously not related in this draft…though I prefer to interpret a lot of Luke’s more…amorous lines about Leia as more like the sort of thing a protective older brother would say. He just doesn’t know he’s an older brother yet…and older by only a few seconds.
Final notes: Man, Lucas really made sure Luke was totally blowing up the Death Star by himself there by the end. All his allies were dead or fled, even R2 was shot up, and the targeting computer was turned off. But after the prequels, I cannot emphasize enough how much this movie comes across as a breath of fresh air. Also, I like to think Wedge survived all these movies as a gift from the Force for saving Luke’s life at one point in this movie. Biggs sure didn’t help much there and look what happened to him…
RYAN: There’s nothing worth saying about Star Wars. If you’re reading a geek rewatch column then you already know or I can’t help you. Because Star Wars.
Okay, wait, there is something to say. For geeks, we have to actually put Star Wars aside all the time. Because otherwise every list of best movie, every list of best moments or best anything would begin and end with Star Wars. We can debate whether Star Wars caused it all or simply hit at the right time–it’s all irrelevant. Star Wars created modern geekery. We can debate its placement among movies and maybe even give the edge to one of its sequels but that’s all ignoring the fact that Star Wars was so awesome it took over the world. Movies, toys, all of pop culture was influenced by Star Wars. Hell, it didn’t just give us a disco song–it gave us a 15 MINUTE DISCO SONG!
We can nitpick details. We can point out that Lucas pretended to have more of a complete vision than he really did. Heck, we can complain that the role of the Jedi change from the first movie to the second. We can complain about a lot and we should all JUST SHUT THE HOTH UP!
Because imagine a world where Star Wars wasn’t made. YOU CAN’T! And you shouldn’t. That’s really scary.
Star Wars exists in a category all by itself. A category and movie that we have to protect behind plastic shields and transparent aluminum thought bubbles because otherwise it would win everything, every time.
It’s Star Wars. Star Wars is the Star Wars of Star Wars.