Star Wars (1977)

Director: George Lucas

And FUCK YOU, it’s called Star Wars. We’ll have none of this “A New Hope” nonsense here! Anyway, I haven’t seen this in… years, I don’t even want to think about how many, and this is the first time I’ve also seen it after rewatching the prequel trilogy. And a few things were immediately apparent:

One: Carrie Fisher. Wibble. I mean, seriously.

Leia-carrie-fisher-34075948-500-333 princess-leia-570x428star-wars-set-photos-11

Two: No matter how much Lucas may have tarted it up with new CGI effects in the 90s, the new technology still couldn’t entirely disguise that this film was shot in the mid-70s. Some hairstyles and sideburns just can’t be covered up.

Three: There’s just so much more character to the whole thing. Even allowing for the CGI touch-ups, you’re still looking at practical effects and sets. Something about that opening shot of the Star Destroyer swooping in from the top of the screen is still a lot more “fucking hell” than the much flashier digital extravaganzas of the prequels. I’m sure that’s partly down to nostalgia on my part, but not entirely; Lucas wanted what he called a “used future” aesthetic for this film that he’d evidently forgotten or stopped caring about 20 years later. You can’t accuse Coruscant of looking “lived-in”.

Four: Star Wars is, by itself, a lot more fun than the whole prequel trilogy combined. It’s pretty unabashed about essentially being a vintage pulp space opera throwback (Lucas’ original plan had apparently been a remake of the Flash Gordon serials but he couldn’t get the rights), which is what the prequels also were but they… I don’t know. It’s like they were pretending they weren’t kind of comic book stuff or something. The original film accepted that it was, basically, that sort of thing. Similarly, Lucas’ fascination with effects and comparative lack of attention to actors was just as strong here as in the prequels, but the cast here is far more charismatic and interesting (Alec Guinness gives a dignity to proceedings, and gives no hint of how much he disliked the film), and so are the characters (Leia is far more spiky than I remembered).

And five: …continuity? I’m not sure how to explain what I mean. Look, basically, I really got the feeling that Lucas still didn’t know entirely what he was doing at this point in the creation of the whole saga. Which, as we know, he didn’t, but I think for the first time I actually felt this fact while watching; I don’t think I’ve read a completely coherent account of what he had planned early on, but at any rate the film wasn’t expected to do much at the box office, so an umpteen-volume saga wasn’t really on the cards. Accordingly, Star Wars necessarily stands somewhat alone in the saga that did result; all the sequels and prequels depend upon it, but it doesn’t need them. It’s self-contained. And that’s why, when you do watch it after the prequel trilogy’s laborious set-up, certain details of this film seemed a bit… odd. I suppose you can kind of retcon things like, you know, Darth Vader and Luke’s father apparently being two different people, but then there’s Obi-Wan addressing Vader as if “Darth” were the latter’s actual first name. And then the Death Star, retroactively implied as having taken nearly 20 years to build. Makes the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi look like it was being built with comparatively indecent haste…

Anyway, be all that as it may. I’ll be honest and admit I had no particular desire to rewatch the Star Wars series—it’s just that they’ve been on TV so why not—and though I would at least have rewatched the original trilogy cos they’re all on the 1001 Movies list, I didn’t view the prospect with much enthusiasm. So I was actually kind of surprised by just how much I enjoyed revisiting Star Wars tonight. Maybe I’m not as over it as I thought I was, maybe it’s just been long enough between drinks. Either way, I look forward to the two remaining films through the week…

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2 thoughts on “Star Wars (1977)

  1. Joel Bocko November 22, 2015 at 7:08 am

    Pretty much sums up my feelings about the film as well. I love it’s sense of fun and creativity, and that odd sense of it as a standalone piece that is oddly only heightened when watched immediately after Revenge of the Sith. You mention the prequels, but increasingly I’ve come to feel that even Empire and Jedi kind of compromise what was so special abou the film. I mean I like those movies (I’m more or less ok with Sith as well, despite some really cringeworthy moments), Empire especially, but there’s something a bit belabored in their attempts at worldbuilding. I like the first film’s sense of not giving a fuck about its place in the larger mythology. I wrote about my own experience rewatching ep. 1-6 here: http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2010/07/notes-on-star-wars-saga.html.

  2. James R. November 22, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    That’s a great piece and I don’t think I can seriously argue with anything in it. And you definitely hit upon the differences between the first/fourth film and its prequels in that phrase “infectious, boyishly enthusiastic good cheer”. Maybe if the series had been an ongoing thing like the Bond films (i.e. how Lucas did in fact envisage it at one point), the whole issue of having to actually show the events of background mythology would’ve been less of a consideration…

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