In anticipation of the brand new Star Wars films, I will finally be expressing my thoughts on the original trilogy plus its prequels. Let’s start where it all began, a long time ago and such:
How could I possibly review what has got to be the one film that every human who’s ever lived already knows everything about? How could I bring anything new to the table that hasn’t been said already? How could I do this film justice? Well, I guess in order to celebrate (we’ll see about that) the impending arrival of new Star Wars movies, I might as well just tell you my own personal relationship with these films and what they meant to me growing up.
Firstly, I was actually introduced to Star Wars via the FanFilms (Ryan vs. Dorkman; The Empire Strikes Backyard; Pink Five; Broken Allegiance; you name it) my father always used to watch. I thought it looked cool, inventive and exciting as all hell, so I asked him if there was more. And thus he showed me his treasured VHS copies of the original trilogy in their original form. I mean it. No needlessly enhanced effects. No pointless digital additions. No Greedo shooting first. Just Star Wars. Pure, true, untarnished Star Wars.
I saw Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, a young man who lived with his aunt & uncle on the desert planet of Tatooine, as he encountered the two droids C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) who came bearing a holographic message from the beautiful Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), kidnapped by the evil Empire that ruled their galaxy. I watched as her distressed message lead Luke and the droids to the home of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), a wise old man hidden on Tatooine under the alias of “Ben” and a former Jedi Knight. I stared at the TV screen as Obi-Wan told Luke about the now extinct Jedi Order, how they would fight evil using the mystical “Force” and how he once fought the Empire alongside Anakin; fellow Jedi and Luke’s long dead father. I saw Luke as he activated his awesome lightsaber for the first time.
I also remember meeting all the great additional characters. Harrison Ford‘s legendary badass Han Solo I grew to like almost instantly, even if my limited English skills at the time made me unable to understand all of his smarmy snarks. His relentlessly hairy Wookie co-pilot Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) I also enjoyed. But I think we all know whom it is that everyone who’s even so much as heard of Star Wars remembers the most: Darth Vader. He could use The Force too, but he was using the “Dark Side”, making him a Sith lord. As in, not nice like the Jedi knights.
With the intimidating size of David Prowse and the first-rate voice work of James Earle Jones, it is no mystery that Darth Vader has evolved into one of the defining icons of sci-fi villainy. Even if he in this film answers to the command of Grand Moff Tarkin, a governor of the Empire, played by horror film legend Peter Cushing, who is also the highest rank aboard a moon-sized doomsday weapon/space station known as the Death Star. With it, Tarkin intends to destroy the base where Leia’s band of rebels are planning their revolution. Before this, Luke, Han Solo, Obi-Wan, Chewie and the 2 funny droid sidekicks must make their way to the Death Star, rescue the princess and destroy the station. It is an adventure for the history books and that’s exactly where it will forever be located.
Truly, with performances that are still gripping, characters with relatable personalities, tropes borrowed from immortal classics (Westerns and samurai flicks especially), groundbreaking special effects that still hold up (no matter what George Lucas will have you believe) and a timeless story that still works to this day, obviously this isn’t a film that’s going to be forgotten any time soon. Sure, it will be harder with each money-grabbing remastering to find the version of Star Wars that started the legacy, but the fact remains that the franchise is always going to be with us; much like The Force, I imagine.
If you were exposed to the Star Wars saga more recently, chances are you’ve seen one or more of the remastered versions. You might have seen the extra scene with slug-like ganglord Jabba The Hutt, not looking much of anything like he does in Return of The Jedi. You might have beheld an eye-shatteringly ugly re-edit of a scene where Han shoots down an alien bounty hunter named Greedo, now made to look like it’s Greedo shooting Han first. Basically, you might have watched this movie after being told it is actually called “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope“.
The sad thing is that most of the things that seem stupid or pointless to us are probably things that George Lucas legitimately wanted in his film. He visibly didn’t have the same amount of control over this project as he would later have over that asinine prequel trilogy, and even so I’ve read that we actually owe most of what came out as a great film to its editors: Paul Hirsch, Richard Chew and even George’s wife Marcia Lucas. They divorced the same year Return of The Jedi was released, in case you couldn’t tell by how Lucas has been making Star Wars films since then.
But no matter what version you’ve seen, you have still seen Star Wars. You have still glimpsed the detailed, hand-made models of spaceships like the Star Destroyers and the Millenium Falcon. You have still experienced the lovely sets and filming locations and, of course, the John Williams music. You have still seen parts of one of the most beautifully crafted movie productions in filmmaking history and no amount of digital polishing is going to destroy that for you or any of us.
The following trailer explains that somewhere in space this could all be happening right now. Strange. I could have sworn this was all taking place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Or in the future. Who even knows for sure anymore?