Saturday, May 4, 2013

May The Fourth Be With You

In 1977, Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope for you nitpickers out there) was released.  I was seven years old at the time, and I immediately lost my shit -- so much so that my transition from second grade to third was jeopardized by a complete failure of my brain to focus on anything other than the adventures of Luke Skywalker.

I was already prone to distractive daydreaming, and seeing Star Wars was the equivalent of a steroid injection right into the imagination section of my brain pan.  Arithmetic and grammar and spelling be damned.

And I know I was not alone.  Star Wars was a game changer, not only cinematically, but on a deep social and cultural level as well.  In cinema, it inspired an entire generation of what would become future filmmakers.  In terms of social impact, theories abound how the film landed at the perfect moment for a culture yearning for escapism from the all too real tragedy of the Vietnam war.  I don't claim to have any expertise on the latter, as I was merely a child at the time; but it is impossible to be a fan of the film and not become aware of the numerous theories and claims over the years.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be a member of the generation that saw Star Wars on the big screen when it was first released.  My nephews are big fans as well -- but I lament the fact that their first experience of the film was not on the majestic glory of the larger than life big screen, but on the living room television.  People can talk at length about the marvels of home theater technology, of which I too am a fan -- but nothing can ever replace the theatrical experience.

In addition, my generation had to wait for the sequels.  There was a three year gap between each of the sequels, with The Empire Strikes Back being released in 1980, and then Return of the Jedi in 1983.  Kids today can watch them back to back to back, which robs them of the sweet anticipation that the years in between brought.

So, with all of that being said -- of the incredible impact the film, and the subsequent sequels of the original trilogy (and what a sad thing it is to say original trilogy, in the wake of the oh so pitiful and deservedly abhorred prequels)....

...some of this shit makes no sense at all.

Look, everyone's a critic -- but I feel that the keen, analytic eye is razor sharp when dissecting the nuances and supposed faults of contemporary films.  Far too often, that same analytic tool becomes cloudy when looking back on the films of the past -- specifically our past, when we associate so many things with our youth.  And hey, who doesn't love their youth.

For that reason, I think that the original trilogy, the whole grail of cinema for an entire generation, as magnificent, brilliant, and life-changing as they are commonly regarded, is often the benefactor of a critical disconnect that glosses over things too conspicuously.

Here are some of them:

Now I've joked about this on Facebook a couple of times, but I really do think that Lucas is completely full of shit when he says that the original trilogy was completely mapped out.

Luke and Leia

In Star Wars, when Luke first sees the holographic message from Leia, he is clearly smitten.  "She's beautiful," he exclaims.  His ability to speak is lost altogether when he breaks into her cell to rescue her.    Seeing her reclining somehow gracefully on an undoubtedly uncomfortable Empire Cell Bunk, the cat has most certainly got his tongue as he stares utterly mesmerized at her.

Even later, after our band of good guys has escaped the Death Star and destroyed the pursuing band of Tie Fighters, Leia has some less-than-choice words for Solo, and then storms out.  But not before saying to Luke "Your friend is quite a mercenary.  I wonder if he really cares about anything, or anybody."  After she disappears down the corridor, Luke says, with more than a dollop of puppy love, "I care."  Then he plops himself down into a set beside Han, seeming to gloat with the confidence that there will be no chance on cock-blocking on Solo's part.  And just to make sure, he asks, "So, what do you think of her?"  Solo tells him that he's basically trying not to, which earns a reply of "good" from Luke.

But not to be outdone by some farm brat, Solo amends his response, praising Leia's Spirit, and inquiring from Luke if he thinks there could ever be a chance between "a princess and a guy like me."

Solo has barely even finished the question when Luke curtly says "No."

Uh-oh!  Somebody's smitten!

Now Luke gets a quick, "for luck" peck on the cheek before he and Leia swing across the chasm on the Death Star.  But in The Empire Strikes Back?  Oh, golly...

Han and Leia are fighting it up, and when Solo brags aloud something about Leia revealing her true feelings for him, Leia's response is to plant a big tongue swabbing his mouth out quite nicely smootcheroo on Luke.

Which is all great, except that LUKE AND LEIA ARE FUCKING SIBLINGS!!!!!!

EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, of course, this is a detail we didn't learn until Return of the Jedi, but still, I ask you -- do you really think Lucas had the original trilogy planned out?  Because if he did -- that's just fucking gross.  If he actually knew that Luke and Leia were twin siblings before he rolled cameras on A New Hope, let alone The Empire Strikes Back -- well, that makes Star Wars a mere bumping uglies short cousin of Oldboy.  And again, for those of you keeping score, that is seriously fucked up.  Like George Lucas should be experiencing mandatory psychiatric evaluation fucked up.

Ben Kenobi Is A Pathological Liar

Obi-Wan Kenobi is the wise old Jedi master, guiding Luke through the ways of the Force even after death.  And he's a big fucking liar.  He's seriously the Jedi equivalent of a television evangelist or used car salesman.

In A New Hope, Kenobi tells Luke his father was betrayed and murdered by Darth Vader.  Then, in The Empire Strikes Back, we of course learn the truth when Vader exclaims to Luke, "I am your father."

In Return of the Jedi, Luke gets his chance to ask Kenobi about all of this, and for reasons I can only assume relate to the MPAA and children being the primary audience, the conversation inexplicably did not begin with, "Hey, asshole..."

But Luke asks in a very PG-rated way, and Kenobi's response is "Your father was seduced by the Dark Side of The Force.  He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker, and became Darth Vader.  When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed.  So what I told you was true...from a certain point of view."

Yeah, from the view of a sociopathic lunatic.

Ultimately, I just think that Lucas was making this stuff up as he went along, and what was proclaimed to be the vision of a grand trilogy was really just aftermath of the success of the first film.  In fact, only after the film became a monstrous success was the opening crawl changed to include the title A New Hope.  There was never any promise of there being another one.

When you watch the end of A New Hope, the story is satisfactorily concluded.  Good has triumphed over evil, and all that stuff.

Fortunately, there was more to come, and my childhood was fucking awesome because of it.