By: Akram Shaban
THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!
Finally, Episode VII is almost here! I can almost smell it (yes you can smell virtual objects, leave me be)! Many have waited years, some all their lives so far, to get just one more dose of the sweetness that is fictional interstellar warfare.
We will indeed review the new adventure and we will do it justice. But there is still some time to pass until that day comes. So for now, why don’t you take a much-deserved break, and treat yourself to our Star Wars review series. Following the order of release, we will begin with Star Wars (aka episode IV, aka the new but now old title). Disclaimer: I am a newcomer to Star Wars (yes, launch your proclamations of deprived childhood at me, I can take it). But this is a strength, not a weakness. Not only will I review the movie from a fresh perspective, but from the perspective of a converter. Yes, after my first viewing I was not entirely convinced the movie lived up to the hype. But then I watched it a second time by myself, years later, and without disturbance (in the force that is). How I felt after the second viewing is, I think, very relevant. Here is why.
First of all, you must know I viewed the recut version, with all the George Lucas-y quirks added to it. Second, there will be spoilers since, you know, the film was released in 1977. Third, Han shot first. Okay, let’s go!
The story begins with a large star destroyer, whose sheer size and length is emphasized by the long wide shot of it passing by, sort of like how a freight train seems to go on forever while you wait at an intersection. It’s chasing a Corellian corvette who pales in the size comparison. It is at that point that aspiring filmmakers should start taking notes because that is how you do an opening shot. Simple, elegant, but effective. Then in the following scenes, you are introduced to four of the characters you will fall in love (and hate, maybe) with for the rest of your life. Their names are R2-D2 (an astromech droid), C-3PO (a humanoid protocol droid), Princess Leia (who gets a more formal introduction later on), and one of the most badass, greatest, evilest villains of all of fiction, Darth Vader. As soon as he enters the captured corvette you know he means business. He wastes no time and orders his notoriously-bad-at-aiming storm troopers to search the ship. Meanwhile, the two droids are panicking trying to figure how to deal with the invasion. All of this is happening because of one important thing that the entire plot (kinda, sort of, not really, well, significantly at least) hinges upon, stolen blueprints of a planet-destroying space station appropriately called the Death Star!
Now to someone who has never heard of Star Wars, this may sound confusing. But it really isn’t. One of the many strengths of the film is that it sets up the universe exceptionally well. Before we meet the main protagonist, Luke Skywalker, we are already teased much about the context around which all of the events are occurring. There exists an evil Galactic Empire which has had gripping hegemonic control over the galaxy. They have constructed the Death Star, with plans to firmly establish their control by demonstrating the power of its destructiveness. Some people got a little bit upset and decide to rebel. After winning their first battle, the rebels got a hold of secret plans that would help destroy the Death Star. Princess Leia, a person of loyalty, doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty and is personally transporting the plans back to her home planet, Alderaan.
Bits and pieces about the universe are seamlessly revealed gradually throughout the film. This is thanks to the smooth and immersive dialogue between the characters. The script is well written and is just as well put into practice. This type of storytelling works particularly well because of the various entangling plots which eventually coincide. And within each character’s story, we get to experience their arches. This is especially true with regards to Luke. He starts out as an ordinary teen who wants to be with his friends, and to go to flight school to fight with the rebels. He’s whiny and bratty and quite immature. But reality quickly and harshly slaps him right in the face as he witnesses the sight of his aunt and uncle’s burnt corpses. His attitude begins to change into that of a serious, still light-hearted but determined Jedi in training.
Before I watched Star Wars for the first time, I was already familiar with the universe. I already knew that there were the evil Sith on one side, and the good knight guardians called the Jedi on the other. I knew that both had the ability to manipulate the force, and I knew what the force was. Perhaps most importantly, I knew one of the biggest plots twists, and therefore, spoilers, in movie history. And because I was exposed to these concepts in broken, incomplete little bits, I never truly got to appreciate them. I thought lightsabers were cool, but I never dreamt of having one, or playing with the toy version, or anything like that. I knew the Millennium Falcon existed and that it could jump into hyperspace and travel great distances, but I didn’t really care. I thought the force was kind of cool, but without seeing the movies, it didn’t appear all that impressive. And when I did finally see it for the first time, I didn’t get all that invested in any of it. Part of the reason was my attitude, and part of it was all the reveals I already knew.
The Family Guy parody of Star Wars was well done, almost too well. It went over most of the major plot events, and even the Easter eggs and plot holes. Upon first viewing, I would point things out to my friends and they’d be astonished that I already knew mostly everything. My attitude didn’t really help either because I thought “well it’s just a movie, I don’t really care about any of this stuff… it’s not interesting.” Major mistake. I was dismissing everything that was so great. I dismissed the acting, the plot, the character development, the groundbreaking animations and effects, the score by John Williams, the themes about temptation and ideology and politics and religion. If all I saw was a bunch of flashing lights and mumbling dialogue, of course, I would dislike it. But then I saw it again, and I experienced it all.
I saw Luke pick up a small piece of metal and release the light energy out of it in the shape of a sword and thought “wow, I want that! How practical, how useful, how dangerous!” I saw Obi-Wan Kenobi use the force to mind trick some imperial troopers and thought “YES, I want to do that!” And I saw Darth Vader choke somebody with his brain and thought “holy fudge, this is FEAR!” Then I witnessed Han Solo be a badass, with his witty banter, his self-assuredness, and pure confidence. His teaming up with Luke and Leia is masterful storytelling. The contrast is as clear as night and day (or Sith and Jedi). The juxtaposition of the wealth-based motivation of Han, with the justice-based motivation of Leia, and pure hearted redemption based motivation of Luke is excellently delivered. Each has something to teach and learn from the other. This makes for a perfect grouping, a grouping which I glossed over the first time I saw the movie.
Another thing I found to be just amazing is the entangled storylines of each character; they’re all connected somehow. Obi-Wan lives on Tatooine, where the two droids are sent to deliver Leia’s important message to him. They get captured and happen to be bought by Luke’s uncle, who (spoiler alert) is Anakin Skywalker’s stepbrother. Anakin used to be Obi-Wan’s apprentice before a series of unfortunate events occurred. Just like that (without knowing other, more glaringly obvious connections between the characters), Luke, Leia, and Obi-Wan are connected. Then Luke and Obi-Wan hire Han to pilot their journey to Alderaan, and now he is automatically entangled in the plot, whether he likes it or not. But don’t worry, he grows as a character too, becoming more sensitive to the importance of the force.
The sound effects and music are just remarkable and memorable. Even before I knew Star Wars existed, the iconic music was familiar. Even the sound of the lightsabers being waved and struck had me believing “yeah, that’s what it would sound like if it were real!” Somehow, I felt like I knew exactly what R2-D2 was communicating through his beeps and boops. No movie before has ever elicited from me as many human emotions and feelings of pure anxiety as Star Wars did with the droids. Whenever there was some sort of strife or struggle with the droids, I felt it.
For me, the movie was more than just a must watch classic, which exceeds expectation and lives up to the hype. It was an epiphany. How much desensitization can one withstand, and still enjoy Star Wars? Well, none! Because experiencing Star Wars is not desensitizing, but the opposite. The more you watch it, the more you experience the characters, the more you see the lights and hear the sounds, the more of you want. It is sensitizing to the fullest extent of the word. It makes you anticipate the next movie. It makes you appreciate Sci-Fi and makes you want to create your own stories. YES, I do want a light saber! (nudge nudge, wink, wink).
And with that, I declare this phenomenon of a film a masterpiece and grant it an A. (Although I have not seen the uncut version, most agree that it was a better experience overall. Since it would theoretically get our highest score, A+, it only makes since this less great version receive the second highest score).