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Random Thoughts on Star Wars

Written by: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer

Last night, I watched Star Wars for the first time in a few years. I know, I know — what is there to say about it? Well, don’t worry; I’m not about to launch into a 10,000-word treatise on its many virtues, but I did have a few thoughts:

• Let’s raise our glasses to what a fully stupendous character Princess Leia is. Right from the start, she’s completely in charge, forceful and fearless. And it really hit me how desperate her mission was: “Hey, I’ll stuff the secret plans for the unstoppable space fortress into this rickety old robot, drop it on a remote world, and hope the senile old hippie wizard my dad used to roll with will know what to do with it.” Awesome.

It’s also worth noting how she immediately takes command the instant she’s rescued. When it comes to feminist imagery on film, locking her (a princess) in the evil wizard’s castle (the Death Star) ranks near the bottom of the list, but the moment Luke busts her out, she grabs a blaster and starts barking orders. I wish there were more female leads across the whole of the Star Wars universe, but I admire how the military leaders of the alliance in episode IV, V and VI are women. We see other male officers, but they all answer to Leia and (as we see in Return of the Jedi), everyone answers to supreme commander Mon Mothma. It’s not enough, to be sure, but it ain’t bad.

• I can’t get over how lived in this world feels. Every inch of it feels rumpled, rusty and ancient. As a child, I remember thinking that the movie felt a little like a documentary. Looking back, that’s a small comment on Lucas’ no-nonsense shooting style, but I think the general sentiment still holds — we’re looking at a fully realized world.

• “We don’t serve their kind here!” When the cantina barkeep refuses service to the droids, is it a metaphor for race? Or homosexuality? Just thinking out loud here.

• It’s funny — when you read Obi-Wan Kenobi’s dialogue on the page, it looks like garbage, but when Alec Guiness delivers those lines, it’s poetry.

• I really like how they describe the Jedi order as a religion. I’ve seen the movie a million times, but it feels daring in a way I hadn’t appreciated before.

• It’s hard to over-praise Harrison Ford’s performance. He’s commanding, cool, confident and sexy in a completely understated way. Getting back to the theme of religion, I also dig his skeptical worldview, even though he exists in a world where such a perspective isn’t really tenable: “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.” Amen, Han.

I also love how effortlessly Ford and Peter Mayhew interact with each other. Mayhew’s physical performance is easy to overlook — kind of like David Prowse’s — but the next time you watch Star Wars, pay attention to how utterly relaxed Mayhew is. When Han and Chewie first meet with Ben and Luke, Chewie’s sitting with his back to the screen, looking over his shoulder at these potential clients — or marks? It’s a small detail, but it registers well, and you get the sense that he and Han have really been working together for all these years.

• I’m looking forward to J.J. Abrams’ Episode VII, but looking back at the original, I like how every face onscreen was a fresh one. (I suspect Abrams’ movie will be an all-star lineup.) I remember when I tricked my poor mother into watching all three movies over the course of a weekend, she lamented the inclusion of familiar faces like Peter Cushing and Alec Guiness. Cushing, a veteran of many, many old horror movies, took her out of the world, she said. I get it.

• The jawas transport is such a wonderful riff on the Island of Misfit Toys. It’s hectic, eclectic and mournful, all at once.

• It’s easy to forget how leisurely the pace is for the first 30-40 minutes. I mean, can you imagine a scene like the one between Luke and Ben in the first reels happening today? You know the one – where Ben sits back and calmly explains the nature of the universe to Luke, all while pulling the curtain back on his past? I think J.J. Abrams has it in him — the scene between Captain Pike and James Kirk in the 2009 Star Trek works well — but I hope he’ll resist the impulse to plunge headlong into action without giving his movie the air and space it needs to let character bubble up naturally. (Side note: I still shake my head at the kooky structure of the first several scenes. Lucas begins his space opera with a bionic Laurel and Hardy, and one of ’em doesn’t even speak English. And there are no subtitles. And they’re not even the lead characters. Wow.)

That’s all I have for now. I welcome your feedback in the comments or on Facebook.