Saturday, May 4, 2024

Star Wars

May the Fourth.... 

Quiet rainy Saturday, so Karen and I sat down and watched "Star Wars" this afternoon (at her suggestion!). The original REAL Star Wars, that is. It's the first time I've actually seen the whole thing in many years. I have thoughts:

It's delightful! The first film had a lightness of spirit that later films--and certainly Episodes 1, 2, 3, 7, 8 and 9--lacked. I kept coming back to the word "whimsy" and what a careful touch it takes to pull off. Whimsy isn't about jokes and funny characters; other Star Wars movies and series had jokes and funny characters, but remained as self-serious as a dirge. The tone of the first one was unique. I miss it. 

Everyone was so young. In three years, Star Wars will be 50 years old. Fifty years before 1977 was 1927, the black-and-white silent era of "Metropolis" and Charlie Chaplin. I'll just let you sit with that a bit.

Carrie Fisher was amazing. 

The first 30 seconds of Star Wars remains one of my greatest cinematic moments and memories. It's impossible to convey to someone younger what a thunderclap the Star Destroyer soaring overhead and going and going and going and going was. We'd never seen anything like it. Movies would never be the same. Narratively, those first shots also tell you a lot: we see a small spaceship desperately running from an enormous, angular, brutalist gray spear tip. Before we meet a single character, we know who the underdog good guys and tyrannical bad guys are, and which ship to root for.

In retrospect, the sequels and prequels (such as "Rogue One") just don't fit together with this story. To the extent they do, they depend on the subtle, nuanced performance of Alec Guinness. He was working on another plane than the other actors, and entire movies were wedged into a single sideways glance of his. When Kenobi says "I don't seem to remember ever owning a droid" or tells Luke about his brave betrayed Jedi father, he gives a look that suggests there's more to the story. At the time, there was NOT more to the story. That's all Guinness.

Half the look and feel of the Star Wars universe comes from its thoughtful sound design. This viewing I was especially struck by the sound of the Death Star, a kind of echoing thrumming mechanical heartbeat that makes it sound like you're in a moon-sized space station even though you only actually see little bits of it. The new Star Wars rides at Disneyland smartly use those same sounds to great effect, building whole environments around them, knowing that they're embedded in our collective subconscious. No other universe sounds like the Star Wars universe.

I really enjoyed my revisit to that universe. Although we watched the "Special Edition" with some modern effects, there was enough of the original look and charm left to take me back nearly 50 years. It's been a fun ride.

1 comment:

Bookworm said...

Thank you for putting my feelings into words! That first 30 seconds ... I can remember my feelings the first time I saw it -- total awe. And Guinness, such a exquisitely nuanced performance!

My 2 kids and I saw it the first time at the movie theater. The audience was very quiet, totally entranced. We went back twice more, and each time was more fun. The last time, we couldn't help ourselves, we clapped at the first really positive scene, the only ones in the theater making any noise. At the 2nd good scene, more people around us joined in with the clapping. By the end of the movie, the whole theater was clapping and cheering! So much fun!