Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Star Wars Still Works

Lucas claims that he knew they were brother and sister
right from the start, if so. . .eeechhh.
We've been having a series of classic family movie nights and on Saturday night it was finally the big moment where we all watched Star Wars. My kids aged 5 and 9 had never seen it and my wife hadn't seen it since it came out. I, of course, have seen Star Wars about twenty times but not for a while. These are some of my impressions. 
1. Star Wars still works. The narrative is solid and fast paced. The characters are well defined and interesting. I like the idea (which I think comes from Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress) of initially telling the story through two secondary characters (R2 and C3PO) and the world making setup is done in a convincing way. The kids enjoyed the film, although my 9 year old not as much as my 5 year old.
2. Coincidences. Normally I hate coincidence as a plot device and and in Star Wars it's a big ugly coincidence that the escape pod Princess Leia sends out crash lands so damn close to the farmstead of her own twin brother. BUT this only really becomes a coincidence when we learn Luke's family history in The Empire Strikes Back. In Star Wars he could be just some random kid whose father happened to be a Jedi and a pilot. OR maybe you could say it was the machinations of The Force which brought the pod so close to the Skywalker farm. (That feels like cheating to me).  
3. The Special Edition is irritating. (But at least we didn't get the new and even more horrifying Blu Ray.) I don't even know if you can rent or buy the original Star Wars anymore but the one we got from the DVD shop was the remastered, "improved" special edition with lots more special effects, the appearance of Jabba The Hut and the notorious scene where Han Solo and Greedo both go for their guns at the same time but Solo is quicker on the draw (in the original Star Wars Han Solo just shoots Greedo under the table). None of this stuff is necessary and often it's invasive. The special effects done with 1990's computer technology are not that good and look pretty cheesy and the entire scene with Jabba is a bit of a disaster. These "improvements" slow down the momentum of the story and take you out of the film. Lucas should release the original print on DVD or if it's already out there make it more generally available. 
4. Less Is More. In the prequels we learned that too much politics, too much Darth Vader, too much pontificating about The Force were all bad things. In Star Wars the balance is just about right. 
5. The acting is good enough. Sometimes Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill are a bit shaky but everyone else is excellent, including the many British character actors and day players. 
6. The ending is great. Death Star blows up, everyone gets medals (except Chewbacca and the droids), John Williams cues the orchestra, titles. Perhaps The Star Wars saga should have ended with one film. I love Empire Strikes Back but it doesn't really end properly and I have grown to hate Return of the Jedi with its retread of SW, its Ewoks and the weird ghosts of Yoda, Obi Wan, Annakin etc. I won't even talk about the prequels because in my universe they don't actually exist (like Alien3 and Alien4).
7. Star Wars is not my favourite sci-fi film (thats probably Blade Runner) but it is a good solid, family entertainment and without doubt a classic of the form.