Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What I Watched: Star Wars (1977-1983)

The first movies I started watching on the 100 Classic Movies list were those in the Star Wars film series, even though they weren't the first ones I wrote about. It took a little time for me to get through them all with the turnaround from Netflix on the one-disk-at-a-time plan and the fact that I was really lazy about watching them and sending them back in a timely manner. I love Space, but, to be honest, I was really not interested in watching these. Before watching them I was already familiar with the franchise because, well, who isn't? Star Wars references are very prominent in American pop culture. AND I've seen Fanboys, Spaceballs, and the Family Guy Star Wars episode.

Via Wikimedia Commons
When I worked at a bookstore there was a girl there who was a major Star Wars fan. She watched the movies regularly, read all the books, and won Star Wars trivia at DragonCon every year. She loved all things Yoda and had a shrine dedicated to him in her bedroom. She had to drive me somewhere once and we listened to the Star Wars soundtrack on her tape deck. Writing this out really makes it seem like I am making her up. Like this is a caricature of the stereotypical Star Wars fan, but I assure you she was real. And multifaceted. She did have other interests. At the time I found her insufferable and we didn't get along very well. We've lost touch and now I wish we hadn't.  Also, while researching for this post, I discovered articles about all manner of strange things, like how inefficient the Death Star's trash compactor is for the size of the ship, etc. Star Wars fans are serious, yo, and I think this is where my aversion came from.

I always assumed these were serious movies, along the lines of Star Trek, but my first impression was that they were much more comical than I expected. The overall storyline is serious, but there is a lot of comic relief and some really beloved characters. Here is a summary of my thoughts once it was all over:

1. C-3PO is the best character. Don't argue with me about this because there is no argument to be made. Actually, an argument was made, so let me fervently address it before moving forward. This article is poorly written, but aside from that the author states that C-3PO is a more annoying character than Jar Jar Binks. Blasphemy! C-3PO may not be the most useful character, but annoying he definitely is not. He is a charming companion for R2D2. He is so posh with his fancy speech, uptight mannerisms, and oil spa baths. Even his obvious anxiety disorder, if droids can have one, is precious. He has so much personality for a robot and provides many comedic moments in the narrative. I read the Wikipedia article about him to get a little more insight and discovered that one of his specialties is etiquette. Naturally. 

C-3PO at the San Diego Museum of Man via public domain.
2. Princess Leia is a bad ass. Everyone knows that Leia is Luke Skywalker's long-lost sister and the daughter of Darth Vader, but that is all I knew about her before watching these movies. She is also a member of the Imperial Senate and a spy for the Rebel Alliance. It should also be noted that she has expert aim with the plasma blaster guns, which seemed to really be an anomaly in these movies. She does not tolerate idiocy, fights alongside the guys, and she will f- you up. No wonder she was every Star Wars geek's wet dream.

I love this Princess Leia tattoo so much. skyemariah via HCSWS.  
3. Luke Skywalker is a whiny and incompetant moron. The fate of the universe depends on him and maybe that is a lot of pressure for anyone, but I almost couldn't stand him. In the beginning I was thinking he was really going to have to step it up if I'm going to get on his side. My co-worker has the theory that Luke Skywalker represents a cinematic Everyman. He is plucked from his ordinary, unremarkable like and thrust into an extraordinary circumstance in which he has to overcome great obstacles. He is a regular guy, but is also ultimately posited as the hero. This is probably how the viewer is supposed to feel, but I just could not get there with Mark Hamill. This article Why Star Wars sucks actually asserts that Han Solo is the everyman hero of the original trilogy and I wholeheartedly agree with that. Also, Luke ranks #14 on Empire Magazine's 100 Greatest Fictional Characters. Ack. Why does everyone like him so much? These are the only acceptable Luke Skywalkers:

4. Han Solo and Chewbacca are the cutest best friends ever. Frankly, if I had my way, saving the galaxy would have been up to Princess Leia with the assistance of Chewie and Han. Leave Luke Skywalker out of it. I completely get why Han Solo is a heartthrob: He is the quintessential bad boy. Ann C. Crispin's backstory of how Han and Chewbacca met (as depicted in the The Han Solo Trilogy) is so sweet. In this history Han is a pilot who is ordered by the Imperial Navy to capture and skin a Wookiee named Chewbacca who has commandeered a naval ship carrying Wookiee children to slavery. Han refuses and is publicly degraded and Chewie vows a life of indebtedness in gratitude. They become fast friends and go together into the business of smuggling. Also, he and Chewbacca are extremely capable fighters and space navigators and, besides, look how cute they are as a team: 

Calvin and Hobbes as Han and Chewie by Chris Wahl, Bill Waterson, Rabittooth via DeviantArt and Creative Commons
5. No one in the entire galaxy is good at shooting a laser gun, except Princess Leia. Or it is remarkable how poorly calibrated those guns are. Evidently, the problem is that they are shooting plasma gas. Everyone knows that plasma gas is unpredictable and
that "the inherent instability of plasma gas in blasters reduced the weapon's accuracy under sustained fire." I told you that fans were serious. I was looking for other articles criticizing the accuracy of these gun or at least commenting on how comical the gun fighting sequences are because lasers are flying but no one gets hit, but what I found were explanations. It seems to me that with all this advanced technology someone would have said, "let's not use plasma in guns since it sucks."

6. This is old news but a petition to the White House to commission the building of a Death Star received enough votes to warrant an official response. It is pretty hilarious and shows the Obama administration has a sense of humor. They officially decline building a Death Star citing the project's proposed cost ($850 trillion), the craft's fundamentally flawed design, and the administrations oppositions to destroying planets as reasons against the project. Lolz, White House. You guys are so clever. After the petition response is published Governor Wilhuff Tarkin of the Outer Rim Territories released a statement on the Star Wars blog stating that the inhabitants of Earth are too primitive and unpredictable to handle such a  powerful weapon as the Death Star and our possession of such a craft would be a "technological terror...used to upset the peace and sanctity of the citizens of the Galactic Empire." Touche, Star Wars geeks, touche. You, too, are quite clever. 

Bonus:: My favorite comment from Donnie: 

Me: What is Jabba and what is his role in all this?

Donnie: He's a gelatinous kingpin.

Anyway, I don't think I really need to include a discussion of why these movies should or shouldn't be on the 100 Classic Movies list, BUT I will state that all 6 movies in the Star Wars franchise have been nominated for or won Academy Awards, they have a vast and rabid fanbase, they are the basis of a rich and storied fictional universe, and Star Wars references are so familiar to Western collective consciousness that we get them whether we've seen the movies or not. So, do they belong on the list? Yes they do.

Do you agree?

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