It had been a while, so after our traditional Friday pasta night yesterday, we watched Star Wars: A New Hope (the original theatrical release, of course.) Here are some assorted thoughts:
- Watching through it this time, I reflected more on how mind-blowing this movie must have been when it first came out. It is amazingly creative in so many ways that are hard to appreciate nowadays because Star Wars has become such an integral part of our culture. So many things in Star Wars are iconic now. I found myself thinking things like: Wow, imagine if that was the first time I had ever seen Darth Vader/a Star Destroyer/an X-Wing/a light saber. I felt very nostalgic for the first time I watched Star Wars back in middle school. I somehow had managed to get to middle school having no idea what Star Wars was, and it blew my mind. But even then, without knowing it, I had grown up in a world where Star Wars had influenced the culture (for example, I think I remember watching the cartoon Muppet Babies, which parodied Star Wars in at least one of its episodes, and not realizing what it was imitating until later). I can only imagine what it must have been like back in 1977.
- It’s funny. Not a comedy of course, but the use of witty banter is great. I was struck by how effectively the movie makes R2D2 a character, with a personality and an attitude, all without any dialogue. Just a few cute sounds, and translations from C3PO. And of course, Han Solo and Leia both have plenty of good lines. I particularly like the scene where Han is trying to bluff over the intercom to keep troopers from coming up to interrupt their rescue of Leia and he says “Everything is fine here… How are you?” The humor sprinkled through the movie made me sad for the prequels, where instead of well-placed witty lines, over-long slapstick sequences are used for comic relief. And it was refreshing to see an action movie without the “gritty” “realism” that most genre fiction these days seems to think it needs.
- It is so great because it leaves so much unexplained. It manages to strike a perfect balance: it is never confusing, but at the same time it leaves the viewer wondering about all sorts of things, big and small. What were the Clone Wars? What’s the deal with the Galactic Senate? And the emperor? Luke says he can “bullseye Womp Rats in his T16 back home”. What’s a Womp rat? What’s a T16? Similarly, there are tons of visual things that are not explained, but which add to the experience. It all comes together to give the vivid impression of a setting much bigger than what is seen in the movie. And that much bigger setting gets filled in by your imagination. Part of the trouble with newer movies in the franchise is that they replace parts what your imagination has created with an “official” version, and thereby remove some of the mystery and wonder. It will be interesting to see how the new movies handle this.