We made arrangements to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Christmas Eve. The movie had been out for a week or two when we went to see it and, out in the hinterlands where we live it didn’t draw the same degree of crowds that it might in more urban settings. Still, it certainly is the big movie of the season, so we went ahead and got our tickets in advance. All in all it was a delightful experience, made even more so by the multiple post-game discussions on the Incomparable Podcast.
For my part, watching the movie and listening to the podcasts made me want to go back and watch the original movies. By original, I am, of course, referring to episodes IV, V, and VI - A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. I am led to believe there were some other movies, made later, that I might even recall having seen in the theatre at the time, that also purported to carry the name “Star Wars” but, out of respect, we shall not speak of those…
As an adult with an actual, full time (or slightly more than) work schedule, making time to actually watch the movies was somewhat challenging. We finally managed to get the first movie in this weekend. Though I have to admit it’s not the first time this has occurred to me, one of the primary impressions A New Hope leaves is one of just how quickly the world, apparently, can change.
Luke, our hero, comes across an old dude in the desert and, within the course of a half-hour or so, decides to entirely abandon his family farm and take off with the old dude to fight against the evil Empire. This is, of course, made somewhat easier by the fact that his guardians - his aunt and uncle, who are functionally the only parents he has ever known - are conveniently killed by stormtroopers. The fact that Ben - Obi Wan Kenobi - is completely unsurprised by the sequence of events is apparently lost on Luke. Of course Luke doesn’t know what we, the (unfortunate) viewers of The Prequels know: Ben could clearly have prevented their deaths.
But let’s not dwell on that.
Over the course of the remainder of the movie Luke manages to help negotiate passage on a freighter, fight his way into, and then out of, a detention center on an Imperial space station, and ultimately to be an exceptional pilot, blowing up that same space station. All based upon his skills as a moisture farmer on a backwater desert planet. And all of it appears to occur over the course of a few hours - maybe a couple of days, at best.
I’ve actually had these thoughts before, and none of this is to suggest that I don’t continue to dearly love these movies. Still, the turnaround for Luke in the first movie is truly astonishing. In our world he’d be the equivalent of a farm kid from Kansas or Nebraska - a hard life, to be sure, but with nothing in his background to suggest that he would suddenly become an expert pilot and a crack shot with military weapons. I didn’t question these things when I first saw these movies - but then I was six years old at the time. As an adult I suspect it’s a good thing that young Master Skywalker had a wise old Jedi Master, and a time-hardened smuggler, at his side to help him work his way through the world. It’s unlikely he would have made it on his own.
Let me note also, now that I’m winding my way thru the other two movies that, in Jedi Luke - undeniably the most powerful member of the Endor landing party - completely abandons his friends to go and have a confrontation with Darth Vader and the Emperor.
What a douche.
Ultimately he has virtually no impact on the final outcome of the movie. He’s busy arguing with the Emperor throughout the last half-hour or so of the movie. His friends are engaged in an assault on the shield generator, and the fleet above is getting torn apart because the Death Star remains protected behind a shield - both events which Luke’s involvement would have brought quickly to a close - while he is engaged in banal chit-chat about who will and who won’t be turning to the dark side.
This is, of course, one of the primary reasons one might choose not to live in an urban setting. It is true that we are somewhat less in the forefront of cultural events but, when they do occur, it isn’t necessary to crawl across the bodies of one’s fellow humans to access them either. ↩
In all fairness, MLW and LB managed to get the whole thing in on New Year’s Eve, and then were also subject to it on New Year’s Day, due to my personal inability to remain conscious. This has less to do with the movie, mind, than it has to do with a slightly ridiculous work schedule. ↩
Emperor Palpatine has to be, by far, the least convincing persuasive speaker ever. You wouldn’t buy a used car from this guy, much less join his little club of evil. ”Strike down your father and take his place at my side… What? These scars all over my face? The fact that your father has to wear biomechanical S&M gear just to breathe? Pay no attention to that - being a Sith is great…" ↩