I grew up with Star Wars, but I’ve held off showing it to my kids, because, frankly, I’m sick of all the remakes and reboots, but I finally watched the original trilogy with my 8-year-old, and I have to say, it was okay!
Here are 10 unoriginal, probably unnecessary, and definitely unsolicited thoughts:
1. The original Star Wars is fun movie. It’s fun because it’s something we’ve never seen before, and neither has the main character: we learn about this new world as he does. It moves, but it has a rhythm and a pace. People discuss religion and hang out at a bar and play chess. It’s a movie made out of other movies that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Empire is a film, and a very good one. Jedi is…meh.
2. Of course, Star Wars is a mashup and a remix, but one thing I forgot his how much the first movie lets its seams show: one minute it’s a space adventure, the next minute it’s a western, the next it’s a samurai showdown, the next it’s a WWII dogfight. Lucas stole from everywhere. (Joseph Campbell told Bill Moyers that George Lucas was his best student.)
3. The fact that you can’t watch the original theatrical releases of the first trilogy remains ridiculous and stupid, and one of the great erasures in contemporary art. It’s a slap in the face to the audience who made Star Wars a phenomenon and it’s a fundamentally bad take on how art works. The audience is a 50-50 (at least) partner in the making of art, once an artist puts work into the world, that work no longer fully belongs to them anymore. (I really wish I’d kept my original VHS box set from when I was a kid.)
4. If you watch all the behind-the-scenes miniature photography and puppetry work in the 1983 documentary, From Star Wars To Jedi, or this excellent video essay about how the movie was saved in post-production editing, you realize that the special editions not only take away from the audience, they erase a ton of work by the people who originally made the movies so good.
5. Ralph McQuarrie’s original paintings that Lucas used to pitch the movie to executives are jaw-dropping. So much of the world is right there.
There’s a Bb to F line in “Bruyères” that sounded familiar to me… a disturbance in The Force, you might say! pic.twitter.com/pWTH5ffSyK
— Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) April 20, 2021
6. John Williams’ score is fantastic, and also a kind of mashup, and it’s amazing that he’s still with us and making music.
7. When are we going to get a Marcia Lucas memoir? She’s described by a biographer as the “secret weapon” and Mark Hamill as “warmth and heart” of the movies. (This is the first clip I’ve ever seen of her speaking, excerpted on this podcast.)
8. Harrison Ford, 1980-1982: Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blade Runner. I mean, damn.
9. I read George Lucas as a tragic figure, in the classical sense of a “character attempts to bend the world to his (and it’s always his) image” and his success “is also his undoing.” (His friend, Francis Ford Coppola, thinks Star Wars is the worst thing to happen to him.) He is a prime example of the need for eyerollers in an artist’s life and a reason to be suspicious of the idea of genius.
10. One of my favorite takes is that the entire Star Wars cycle is about bad parenting, which makes it supremely ironic that so many nerdy dads are so eager to show it to their kids.