So, I Just Watched Star Wars for the First Time
I’ve finally completed a cultural rite of passage: I watched Star Wars.
To my peers who still haven’t seen Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope (a note to you indignant commenters: there are more of us out there, happily living our lives and pretending to get your references, than you think), let me offer a word of warning: The hokey fade transition effects and the deep V revealing Harrison Ford’s chest hair can’t be unseen. But mostly, I say this: Watch it!
Earlier this month, I offered you my best, uneducated guess as to what Star Wars was about. I finally saw it last week, and I got the characters all wrong, and they’re so much more fun than I thought they’d be. I imagined that A New Hope would revolve around the noble young hero Luke Skywalker, defending the galaxy from his evil (unbeknownst to him) dad, all while sporting a feathered haircut and martial arts outfit. But instead, Luke is an angsty, restless teenage boy. Luke whines about having to do his chores before going out with his friends. Luke sulks at the dinner table when his aunt and uncle nag him. Luke storms off and stares longingly into the wind at a binary sunset. Our hero has a curfew! Throughout A New Hope, Luke is a sweet, well-intentioned, overeager kid play-acting at being a hero, and I love it. When Leia asks him, “Aren’t you a little short to be a stormtrooper?” he responds, “I’m Luke Skywalker, and I’m here to rescue you!” Aww, Luke!
Which brings me to the real hero of this movie: Princess Leia. Yes, she is a princess who needs to be rescued. But rather than being a boring love interest (yeah, yeah, I’m sure this will change), she takes shit from no one, knows how to wield a weapon, and is generally a resourceful badass leader. You go, Leia: Han, Luke, and I all have a crush on you.
Also, A New Hope‘s hokey visual effects alone are worth the two hours: The sliding transition between scenes! The goofy creatures the residents of Mos Eisley ride on! The holographic chess game that Chewbacca and C-3PO play! The 2-D night sky!
Even more than the visual effects, I was struck by how all of the creatures are so … human. Other than Leia and Aunt Beru (side note: amazing 1970s jean jacket and collared patterned shirt), every character seems like a white guy in various stages of dress-up. That goes from the rebel fighters in their retro NASA uniforms to the groaning sandpeople to Darth Vader. (Does his unwieldy cape conveniently hide his ventilator?) My personal favorite is the proper British butler, C-3PO. He’s anxious, easily offended, and bemoans his tarnished armor. He even actually uses the word “twerp.”
The white-guys-playing-dress-up is most apparent in the scene at the Mos Eisley Cantina, which looks like Halloween in a freewheeling, 1970s hookah bar. And the charmingly bad makeup and prosthetics of the Cantina’s customers just serve to highlight the amazing Stud of the ’70s, with his signature vest, a yellow collared shirt, and the braggadocio to match: Han Solo.
(Also, how is it possible that the bartender doesn’t card Luke?! If any high-voiced teenage boy ever needed a fake ID, it’s this one.)
So there you have it. I expected A New Hope to be an outdated, straightforward sci-fi movie. Instead, I got to watch a delightfully campy adventure where an angsty teenager, a fierce princess, and Harrison Ford’s gratuitous chest hair take on a father with respiration problems—I can’t wait to see what this motley crew of heroes takes on in the next five movies. In the meantime, here are some of the other lessons I learned and questions I still have, after my first experience with Star Wars.
• The Force is what gives a Jedi his power.
• Sideburns and mustaches were somehow cool not only on Earth in the 1970s, but also in the Death Star.
• “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”—a quote that I have heard for years—IS A LIE. Those were the droids they were looking for! (The greatest trick Obi-Wan Kenobi ever pulled was convincing the stormtroopers they didn’t exist…)
• Will Leia and Han Solo have a romance? She deserves so much better than his sexist bravado: I hope she’s always as dismissive as when she orders him “Into the trash, Flyboy!” Also, I know Luke has his little crush, but I can’t imagine anything happening between them besides that lovely kiss on the cheek. (I am not going to look up what happens ahead of time, even if it makes me look like an idiot to the whole internet, so don’t ruin this for me in the comments, please.)
• If Darth Vader isn’t in charge of the Galactic forces, who does he report to?
• What are George Lucas’ political messages about American imperialism?
• Why do some species get translators, some speak English, and some require the viewer to learn Jawaese?
OK, that’s all for now—I hear I have to go watch five more of these. If you’re up for a real Star Wars Challenge, join me in watching Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back this week!