Star Wars: A (Not Very) Brief and Awkward History.

Up until last month, I hadn’t seen the original Star Wars trilogy in their entirety.

HEAR ME OUT.

I say “entirety” because when I was in seventh grade my science teacher, in an effort to stay “hip”, brought in a VHS of A New Hope and showed us the scenes where the hologram of Princess Leia appears out of R2-D2 so we could learn about image projection. I was intrigued, and had my mom rent it for me that weekend. After the first twenty minutes, I got bored and turned it off. Remember the first twenty minutes of A New Hope? It’s R2 and C3-PO getting tossed around a Jawa dumpster. To a twelve-year-old girl who loved medieval epics and Titanic, this was boring as shit. Plus, robots? No thanks. I know they’re droids, but at the time I didn’t know the difference.

When I was 15 I saw the part when Luke gets attacked by the wampa in Empire Strikes Back and got so freaked out I ran out of the room. I saw bits and pieces of Return of the Jedi (so yes, I knew the whole twist with Darth Vader, and that Princess Leia gets in a gold bikini, etc.). I saw all three of the prequels – mostly due to Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen – and thought they were insanely boring, to the point that I thought to myself “Why is anyone into these movies?”

I never really minded the fact that I wasn’t super into Star Wars because I had tons of other super-geeky interests anyway – I own three DVD versions of each Lord of the Rings movie, for crying out loud, and I’m slowly getting more and more into Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Yet I always sort of liked the universe of Star Wars more than Star Trek. Star Wars seemed more historical than sci-fi, more like a western than philosophical pondering about the nature of the universe, which, to teenaged me, was boring as shit. Obviously, I was an idiot. But I digress.

The Star Wars thing remained a secret until three years ago, when Boyfriend and I started dating. We had a conversation wherein he mentioned his deep and unabashed love for Star Wars and how he owns nearly all of the novelizations, how the prequels made him want to bash his head into a wall, etc. Then I mentioned my deep, dark secret, and his reaction was similar to Ted’s.

The grammatical error on that .gif really irks me.

So finally, on Thanksgiving this year, we watched A New Hope. Then three weeks ago, we watched The Empire Strikes Back. And finally, this past Saturday night we watched Return of the Jedi.

Here are my honest thoughts.

note: we watched the George Lucas edited versions of these films, but Boyfriend pointed out all of the changes and alerted me to things that were cut or rearranged, so I’m not even going to make them a part of my review. The changes George Lucas made were perfunctory or, in the case of Return of the Jedi, super damaging to the film quality. Also – Han shot first.

Star Wars/A New Hope
1. Well holy shit, every single movie ever from 1977 to now has ripped off this movie. What with the Hero’s Journey Luke undergoes to the Strong Female Character Who Don’t Take No Shit to the Great Emotional Reveals to the Boy Who Becomes A Man to the Scrappy Sidekick to the Sidekick to the Sidekick to the Immovable Object That Is the Evil Antagonist. Every single cliche from then to now is because of this movie.
2. I still maintain that for a 12 year old girl, the first twenty minutes of this movie are sort of boring, with the robots doing dumb things and getting into trouble, and Luke being a whiny little shit. Although I will admit the entrance of Darth Vader is pretty awesome, and Leia kicks inhumane amounts of ass. She’s so sassy, I can’t handle it. “I knew I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.” YAAAAAAAS GIRL.
3. I was NOT PREPARED for the “Owen and Beru Lars roasted like barbecue chicken” scene. My goodness. I didn’t realize this movie got so dark.
4. I get the Han Solo adoration. One hundred percent. And if they made a whole movie about how he and Chewbacca started hanging out together, I would be into it. Also, Harrison Ford? YEOWZA.

5. This movie is way funnier than I imagined it would be. The whole running gag of Vader getting pissed at different commanding officers on the Death Star and Force-choking them and hiring another guy, then Force-choking them too, was really funny to me. I didn’t find Vader to be that threatening, I found him to be a guy slowly losing control of a very volatile situation. It made me even more pissed off that the prequels are terrible because I would have loved to have seen a really smart take on how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, in a more elevated way than Force-choking a robot Natalie Portman and being a whiny, petulant child. Then again, Luke is like that in A New Hope so I suppose that works?
6. I have to go back and watch this one again because we watched it on Thanksgiving, and therefore I fell into a food coma right around the time Han and Luke got to the Death Star and ended up in the compactor. So…my memories of the ending are hazy at best.
7. Figran D’an and the Modal Nodes is such a goddamn good name for a band.

The Empire Strikes Back
1. I don’t find the whole opening on Hoth with the wampa attack and Luke getting shoved into the steaming innards of a tauntaun to be really important to the rest of the film. I mean, I get why the Rebel Alliance is on Hoth, but what was that whole scene trying to show? That Luke was irresponsible? That Han has a soft spot for his friends to the point of self-sacrifice?
2. The AT-AT walkers are kind of horrifying and I loved them. I also loved how they looked like giant mechanical elephants that shoot lasers. Like if Mumakil were robots.
3. With all of the fan love Boba Fett gets I was expecting him to have more screen time. Not the case. It was sort of odd. But his outfit is great. Very threatening but functional.
4. YODA. Oh my goodness, Yoda is so wonderful. He was like the prototypical cantankerous uncle in every single 80s comedy. It was amazing. The puppet work by Frank Oz (along with a bunch of other people) was stunning. I just wanted to give him a hug. And at the beginning, when he’s just bullshitting like a confused idiot while Luke just gets more and more pissy? So great. I also loved the Rocky-like training montage of Luke doing eternal handstands WHILE trying to lift shit with his mind. And I know the prequels suck, but getting to see Yoda actually fight was worth it.

5. The Han/Leia kiss made me feel a LOT of feelings. Holy crap. I ship it forever. Their whole relationship was so much more energetic and fun than the Anakin/Padme one; that one was trying way too hard to be something it wasn’t. I mean, do you see the difference between this…

\

And this?

I’ve seen more passion in a colonoscopy prep.
6. The Luke/Leia kiss has been, I feel, taken out of context. Before watching the films I thought it was a legitimate passionate kiss, which makes the later reveal that these two are siblings really uncomfortable. But watching the scene play out, I realized it was actually a power play Leia is making to make Han uncomfortable. She kisses Luke to piss Han off, to spite him into action, because she knows that he loves her but he’s being a dick. That kiss says “I could get with anyone I want – even HIM – so quit being a douchebag.” Which is AWESOME and UGH LEIA FOR THE WIN.
7. The ending is the ending. I mean, I already knew what the ending would entail because I’m a human being, right?
8. I like how Leia is constantly in the Alliance’s equivalent of a Hilary Clinton pantsuit.

Return of the Jedi
Okay, this one I had major, MAJOR issues with. Not just because of the Ewoks. But there was just so much that went completely unexplained, with plot points that went nowhere, and I was full of questions the entire time.

Why does Leia devolve from an asskicking feminist superhero to a pair of breasts in a gold string bikini getting choked by Jabba the Hutt? (Although I did appreciate how she’s the one who ends up killing Jabba, and how she’s the one who rescues Han. So she’s got her moments, but still. Bad form, George Lucas.)
Why is Luke suddenly a Jedi ninja of the highest order with all of these amazing powers? He left Dagobah and the last time we saw him he was on a medical triage ship getting a fake hand grafted on, watching the galaxy float by. When did all of this superior mind shit start happening?
When the Empire falls, why does the added-in supercut of all the planets celebrating show us the city-planet Coruscant? According to Boyfriend, that’s the Empire stronghold, so wouldn’t they be, like, mad?
Why does the scope of the series get boiled down so much? The first two movies had epic opening crawls, talking about the Rebel Alliance, the Empire, etc. This one basically says “Luke has to find his awesome friend Han Solo!” It takes this amazing, sprawling premise and dilutes it to fan service.
Again, we watched the edited director’s cut version, so in the middle of the Jabba scene there was this CGI-filled cutaway to this lead singer of a band wailing away in some made-up dialect and it just made no damn sense. Also, at the end in this version they edited in Hayden Christensen as Anakin at the end, which caused me and the BF to boo loudly.
HOW DID LUKE BUILD A LIGHTSABER?! My conversation with my boyfriend went as follows:

Me: Where did he get that lightsaber?
BF: He built it.
Me: How?
BF: He became a Jedi Knight.
Me: How?!
BF: After he nearly sacrificed himself rather than join the Empire, he gained a greater understanding of the Force.
Me:…WHY DIDN’T THEY MAKE THAT MOVIE?!

I mean, talk about a missed opportunity! Imagine the movie that could have been – fuck the Ewoks, I want to see the moment where Luke had greater understanding of the Force, and realized his potential as a Jedi Knight, and built that lightsaber, and then went to rescue Han and Leia from Jabba. As it is, Luke just shows up looking like a Jedi samurai in that all black getup and goes HAM on everyone in Jabba’s palace while I’m staring at the TV like “HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!”

There were some lovely moments. The callback to “I love you/I know” with the gender reversal was a lovely surprise. Yoda’s death made me a bit teary (it speaks to the skill of these people that I got teary over the death of a puppet). Han’s joy at realizing Luke and Leia are brother and sister. Vader killing Palpatine to save his son was pretty sweet, and I loved the moment where Luke took off his helmet so Vader could see his son with his own eyes. Also, the Ewoks are sort of cute – that one moment where the Ewok mourns the other one that died in the AT-ST explosion was so sad!

I’m sure I have more thoughts on all of them. But these were the ones I had lined up at this moment.

On the whole, I greatly enjoyed the movies, but what’s more – I completely understood the fervor over them. The graphics hold up incredibly well, the scripts are smart, the acting is great, and you thoroughly care about all of the characters and want to see them succeed and beat the Empire and blow up all the Death Stars. And honestly, it was just fun watching it with someone who has clearly been so impacted by these movies. It’s like when he watched The Return of the King with me a few years ago, except by the end of that movie I was sobbing like a child and the Star Wars movies don’t really spur that reaction. But they were fun, and I really get why people got – and still get – so latched on to them as a cultural touchstone.

Please don’t take away my Nerd card. I need it to get into all the secret meetings.

ally

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