So, it was a wet afternoon, and I sat down and watched Star Wars again. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, and for some reason this viewing reminded me very strongly of sitting in a nearly-empty cinema in Liverpool in 1977 and being utterly overwhelmed. Remember, I was a movie buff of the 30s and 40s kind, although I’d seen a large amount of current releases over the previous few years thanks to being a film reviewer for my college newspaper. And I can truly say that I had never seen anything like it.
First, it was a BIG screen— there weren’t many studio-type movie theaters back then. And then this humongous ship filled the screen, and it went on and on and on… The sheer scale of it was something completely new, and it gave me a cinematic rush that I never felt again until The Fellowship of the Ring. Likewise when the Millennium Falcon went hyperspace: Things went fast in that universe. I still want a skimmer like Luke’s. And a lightsaber! And as for the X-Wing squadron targeting the Death Star, well, hearts were in throats and hands were clammy, and everyone cheered when the bad guys went boom.
The characters, too, were all new or give a new twist. Luke may have been a fairly typical example of his kind, but C3PO and R2D2 were something new. Robots were, well, Robby from Forbidden Planet, or clanky boxy things with mechanical voices. These two had character. And so did the aliens… oh, the aliens! So many, so varied, so absolutely unexplained. They were just there, part of the rich background. Alec Guinness, though he was famously disdainful of the role, gave Obi-Wan a distinguished gravitas. Han and Chewie were a fine example of the roguish shady guy who comes out good in the end, but his sidekick was a great big hairy alien with fearsome teeth. Darth Vader, of course, was also an innovation as a bad guy, leaving Peter Cushing to occupy the Evil Commander part. And Leia was quite a feisty heroine in days when such a thing was virtually unknown. She was organizing an entire rebel army, for goodness’ sake! She fired a blaster! She was snarky and sarcastic to her would-be rescuers!
Things that struck me the other afternoon: Darth Vader was far less wheezy than I remembered, but that’s most likely due to hearing several hundred imitations of his voice. How did R2D2 trundle across the desert without getting his wheels clogged with sand? What (other than plot contrivance) made Obi-Wan the only person who could go and disable the tractor beam? And why, oh why did George Lucas think it was a good idea to put in that scene with Jabba the Hutt?
I came to the conclusion that the Force is still strong. To quote an old joke, it’s like duct tape: it has a dark side and a light side, and it holds the universe together.