Star Wars (1977)
Reviewed on 2006 September 26
When I was a kid I remember going to see Star Wars with my family and hanging onto the edge of my chair. I loved everything about the movie — the effects, the story, good winning (for a while) over evil. It had heroes, villians, a Wookiee, and droids. What else does a small girl need? Oh yeah, and a role-model: a tough senator/princess with brains and big hair.
A lot of things lose their luster as adults, and I expected this to be the case when I popped in the DVD to watch the theatrical version one afternoon, when I was sick as a dog and not really capable of much else besides riding a remote. Crabby as I was, this thing was as entertaining as when I was child. On some levels even more so. Any kid could relate to Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, looking into the distance and wanting to leave his mundane life behind. Now as thirty, forty and fiftysomethings shackled to desk jobs and mortgages, most of us gaze out the window at work and feel the same way. (I suppose that would make the Sand People middle management.)
The beginning was almost as wonderful on my TV as it was in the theater too — the portentous scroll of words followed by the endless star destroyer gunning for the rebel cruiser. No subtlety here but who wants that in their outer-space westerns any way? Darth Vader and The Empire want to snuff out the rebels, and that’s that. Alderaan senator Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and other rebels band together to fight against the seemingly invulnerable empire. She manages to program a plea for help into a droid, or robot, and get it into a lifepod and off the ship before she’s apprehended. The droid, a little fireplug-shaped unit named R2-D2, and his fussy partner C-3P0 wind up on a desolate sandpit of a planet named Tattooine.
The droids are bought as farm help by Luke, who’s sick of farming and the aforementioned Sand People. While preparing the R2 unit for another dull day of harvesting space cabbage or whatever grows there, he triggers the message from Leia, and sees a need to help as much as an excuse to bail. He follows her plea and finds Obi-Wan Kenobi (the wonderful Alec Guinness). When he realizes there’s nothing left for him on Tattooine, they hire a mercenary pilot, greedy but clever Han Solo. Harrison Ford was the perfect mix of hero and bad boy for this role, and a great counterpart to Hamill’s wide-eyed character. Han has a fast ship and a Wookie that would cheerfully pull the arms off an Empire trooper, so the crew sets out to rescue the princess. The whole ride and rescue is punctuated with still-cool special effects, culminating in one of the best battles ever filmed.
It’s also what I call a great “everybody movie”. I have some DVDs in my collection — Titus, Elizabeth, Midnight Cowboy — that are brilliant but I can’t exactly pop in the player when my small nieces and nephews are over. I can play this without my nephews rolling their eyes at me or their parents freaking out.
Star Wars gets four morsels, no question.