I mean, obviously I’ve heard the hype. I know how great it’s supposed to be, I’ve seen the comic-con weirdos and I’ve had to listen to endless rants about the moral and physical attributes of a wookie. For that reason I’ve always felt somewhat ostracised by my inability to comment on Star Wars. Perhaps it was some sort of display of personal individuality. But when it got to the point where I couldn’t understand references without having seen the films, I thought I may as well sit down and view the bloody things.
I’ve been assured that I simply must watch these films by starting at number four and watching to number six, and then returning to number one to catch up on what happened before number four began. I have no idea why. It appears that I won’t get the ‘full experience’ of the franchise if I don’t watch them in an incorrect order (the order they were made). I’m just saying, it would have spiced up my interpretation of the first Hogwarts Express ride if I’d known about Ron and Hermione’s rumpy-pumpy at the end of the Deathly Hallows, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Regardless, the DVD is in and I’m ready to go. I recognise the scrolling yellow text at the start from the iMovie credits template.
So there’s a ship with R2-D2 and C3PO on it (I recognise these from nerds’ t-shirts). But it’s been boarded by some Stormtroopers (are they clones or not? Is that a uniform?). The Nazi comparison is not nearly as subtle as might have been tasteful – this film was made in 1977 which is barely thirty years after the fall of Berlin. Hm.
Enough contextual musing, I’m missing the plot. Princess Leia (with the hair-ears that look like @ symbols) has given what looks like a floppy disk to R2-D2, and told him it’s key to the rebellion because it has the plans of the Empire’s space station on it. But she’s been taken by Darth Vader (definitely recognise him) onto the ship and back to the Empire. The robots have escaped in a pod and curiously not been shot down by the Empire who assume it’s a ‘computer malfunction’. Seems unlikely they’d be that chill about it all, but I’ll let it slide. I’m new to this, after all.
Now C3PO and R2-D2 are on a very sandy planet, and they’ve been taken by some sort of alien scrap-dealer on a massive bin lorry. I think the two of them work as characters because C3PO has been anthropomorphised – he’s an Manuel-like personal help character with irritating mannerisms – and R2 is a dog. But only C3 can talk to him, which gives a classic man-talks-to-dog, Wallace-and-Gromit vibe. I like it.
Anyway, there’s now a section with Luke in a sandy house with his aunt and uncle, who want him to work on a farm. Luke meanwhile wants to get out and see the stars, or go to uni or something. We’re meant to believe something mysterious is happening with Luke’s father, about whom his uncle is being immensely shady. This is kind of ruined for me though, because I know Darth Vader is Luke’s father because it’s quoted so often. Ho hum.
(Cross-franchise comparison note: oppressive and dislikable aunt and uncle hide truth about parents from young and mysteriously talented teenage boy? I’m onto you, J.K. Rowling.)
This is intriguing. It seems that Darth isn’t the leader of the Empire as I imagined, but his boss is a (very Nazi-esque) and surprise-surprise British guy who lives on the space station that Leia was talking about in the beginning. They’re not the Empire either though – that’s happening at some sort of Senate which has collapsed. Their main job seems to be to destroy the rebels so that they can rule the universe (?).
Note: Even after finishing the film I’m still under the impression that’s what they were trying to do, so hit me up in the comments if I’m wrong.
Leia is being interrogated by Darth in this cell about where the rebels are, but she won’t help him. Also, of what exactly is she a princess? If there’s a democratic Senate then do they have a constitutional monarchy, or is she a relic of an old system that she’s trying to resurrect? Obviously she’s the good gal here, but I’m not sure I like the idea of hereditary power
We’ve returned to Luke’s planet, where he’s met up with C3PO and R2, taken them home and they’ve escaped. I’m getting a bit bored of the uncle character, who seems like a bore, so it’s a relief when we get a surprisingly graphic view of his charred flesh after the Stormtroopers blast him. That clears the moral baggage away for Luke, who flies away with a hermit-Jedi and the robots. They’re piloted by Han Solo, who is Harrison Ford playing every other character Harrison Ford plays. In the meantime, there’s a horrible slimy thing that Han owes money, so the hermit promises him a lot of money for the trip. There’s also a Wookie there, who looks like a Robbie Savage who’s let himself go.
As a bargaining tool on the Death Star, the British chap has just killed millions of people to convince Leia that she should tell him where the rebels are. I’m surprised more of this isn’t made – surely that’s a major plot point, but other characters seem to ignore it. Leia returns to the cell.
I’m getting bored of Han Solo, who’s just being obnoxious on the Millennium Falcon with Luke and Obi Wan, and the initial amusement with C3PO and R2-D2 is wearing thin. What’ s more interesting is the ‘force’, which is allowing Luke to fight with his eyes shut in a practice session. They’re off to rescue Princess Leia from the clutches of Darth and also give the plans of the Death Star to the rebels. When they’re travelling, Han ‘makes the jump to hyperspace’ which I’m not sure is a technical term, but it seems that he can just travel really fast. I don’t know why they don’t use speed in a normal way – instead they cruise along for a bit and then ‘jump’ to the speed of light.
When they get to the planet they were going to, it’s not there because the British-Nazi destroyed it, so they instead have a fight with some fighters and get inside the Death Star.
An amazing rescue is staged where Leia emerges to be a great thinker (uses a rubbish chute to escape) and Han is a misogynist. They then get stuck in a rubbish crusher (which is funny because Harrison Ford played exactly the same scene in one of the Indiana Jones films, but instead it was a secret temple). Conveniently C3PO stops it, and they get out and head for the exit.
Meanwhile, Obi Wan has taken it upon himself to leave the rest of them, even though he’s the best fighter, to personally find Darth Vader. I’m not sure why.
They manage to get out of the Death Star, but in the process Obi Wan is killed by Darth Vader in a needless lightsaber battle. He doesn’t actually die though, he just disappears, and his cape crumples, which makes me think he’ll probably be back at some point. They go to the rebel base on Han Solo’s ship, which the Empire are now tracking so they find the rebels anyway. They start to move towards them to kill them all.
Now things are really hotting up. The rebels have concocted a plan to bomb a ventilation shaft on the outside of the Death Star, which will cause a ‘chain reaction’ and destroy the entire thing. This seems like a huge oversight on the part of whoever designed it, but apparently it’s hard so they need to take Luke who, surprise-surprise, is a really good flier. They’re also wearing ally-style jumpsuits in orange, in case you missed the WWII references throughout the entire film.
The Death Star is getting closer to the rebels, so it’s a race against time (original) to bomb the tiny ventilation shaft before they all get roasted. I don’t know why the Death Star can’t ‘make the jump to hyperspace’ at this point, because they could have killed the rebels straight away. In fact, the Death Star seems a bit shit really in all respects.
All of the pilots apart from Luke have been killed! So it’s only him that can save the day! This really is original stuff. It seems the reason why the other fighters can’t do it is because they don’t have the force, which Luke has only just learnt about. He also has Obi Wan whispering in his ear telling him to use it, so he does.
Also, in a totally unrealistic management move by Darth Vader, he decides to fight Luke himself. So it’s now father-versus-son, but not for me because I’m not supposed to know about that. The Death Star is now charging up to kill the rebels, so Luke needs to get his skates on. At the very last minute, who should come to the rescue but Han Solo? We all knew he wasn’t heartless all along! I’m kind of disappointed to be honest, since he was the only character who wasn’t very clearly good or evil. We haven’t had enough time to develop his character, but he’s the deus ex machina so he joins Luke on the good side.
In a nail-biting finish, Luke destroys the Death Star before the Death Star destroys the rebels, but since Darth is still in his fighter, he escapes! So all of the Nazis on the ship die, and he’s left spinning around in his cockpit like a deeply sinister Kylie Minogue. Luke and Han, now best mates, return to the rebels.
There’s a heartwarming finish where the leader of the rebels gives them all medals, and they celebrate that they killed the bad guys before the bad guys could kill them. They seem to have forgotten that Darth Vader is still out there, but maybe that’s a story for next time… (I’m sure it is).
Yes, it’s good. I’m not sure it’s as good as everyone makes out. It does seem to be filled with cliched characters and plot devices, but then I must remember it’s an old film so maybe it created the cliches of later films, and what I’m watching is actually highly original. In any case, I shall be watching the next one (Episode V), and perhaps returning to the prequels. It’s been educational.
Words by Tony Diver