“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
“I have a very bad feeling about this.”
I was born in 1980. So while that means I never got to see the original Star Wars trilogy in cinemas, it means I was of an age where I grew up with myself, and pretty much all of my friends, having the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS and watching them constantly. I had the toys, though not nearly enough of them, a few books, a t-shirt or two, and even thought the Ewoks movie was good. I’m of an age that I will always love the originals, was too old to like the prequels, yet still can’t help being a little excited about JJ Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens. What is it about these movies that grabbed a generation, and never let go?
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a rebel spaceship is boarded by a band of menacing Imperial storm troopers and their leader, the black suited and black helmeted Darth Vader (voice by James Earl Jones, body by David Prowse). Before he is able to capture rebel leader Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), she is able to dispatch an escape pod holding two droids, the pretentious and particular C-3PO (Antony Daniels), and the adorable little scamp, R2-D2 (Kenny Baker). They land on the desert planet of Tatooine, where they are eventually bought by farming uncle and nephew duo, Owen and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
When R2-D2 escapes from the farm, Luke tracks him down at the home of grizzled old hermit, Ben “Obi-Wan” Kenobi (Alec Guinness). Here, R2-D2 plays a message left in him by Princess Leia for Kenobi. It turns out, Kenobi used to be a big deal, a Jedi warrior. It also turns out, his living this close to Luke may not have been a coincidence and that Kenobi knows more about the young farmer than the young farmer knows about himself. When Luke and Kenobi arrive back at Luke’s farm to find his aunt and uncle brutally murdered, they set off across the galaxy to help save Leia. And they do this aboard the Millennium Flacon, a smuggling ship, captained by charming rogue, Han Solo (Harrison Ford).
George Lucas has copped a lot of shit in the years since Star Wars for his clunky, terrible, awkward, corny dialogue. But in this movie, I think it’s kind of perfect. Star Wars has to deal with a lot of setup and world building, filling the audience in on millions of years of myth, political intrigue and legend. We have to learn about Jedi knights and their religious beliefs. We have to learn about the evil empire controlling the galaxies and the noble rebellion fighting it. We have to learn about the underbelly of this world and people like Han Solo and his black market dealings. With so much exposition to impart, and so much mumbo jumbo to be spouted, Lucas’ obvious, on the nose dialogue is actually kind of perfect.
I’m a big believer in the original Star Wars being so great because it was a kids’ movie I saw when I was a kid. And the prequels are probably perfectly fine if you see them as a skid too, but I saw them in my late teens and early 20s, so they weren’t made for me. I’m not angry with George Lucas for making the prequels, and I’ve never understood the nerds who think the prequels somehow effect their enjoyment of the originals. Re-watching Star Wars again for this review, it only cemented my thoughts.
I still really, really love this movie, but I can also recognise that it’s for purely nostalgic reasons. If I saw it for the first time today, I’d probably think it was dumb, obvious kids’ stuff with some cool effects. But I didn’t see it for the first time today. I saw it for the first time when I was so young, I don’t even remember seeing it for the first time, it’s just always been there. And it’s just always been amazing.
Best Picture (nominated, lost to Annie Hall)
Best Director (Lucas nominated, lost to Woody Allen for Annie Hall)
Best Supporting Actor (Guinness nominated, lost to Jason Robards for Julia)
Best Original Screenplay (nominated, lost to Annie Hall)