Telling a Star Wars fan that you’ve never seen any of the films is akin to telling a devout Southern Baptist that you don’t believe in God – they will regard you with horror and disdain, and immediately start praying for your soul. Star Wars is one of the few films that you can write about without a spoiler alert because everyone and their grandmother has seen it. Everyone except me, apparently. So I decided to break my lifelong abstinence and give you all a front row seat to my experience of finally watching Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.
Before I sat down to watch it, my knowledge of the Star Wars franchise primarily consisted of Toy Story references (“No Buzz, I AM your father!”) and people making bad jokes on May the Fourth (be with you). I know people talk in disjointed sentences when mimicking Yoda, who I’m pretty sure is the guy who looks like a cross between E.T and Dobby the house elf, lightsabers are glorified swords, and George Lucas once guest-starred in The O.C. What I did not know was that you are supposed to watch Episodes IV to VI before you watch Episodes I to III, which made for a stressful start to my intergalactic journey.
“I had envisioned [Vader] as the villain to top all villains … not just a dude in a mask who strolls down corridors having relatively amiable chats about his evil plans with unremarkable minions”
I have mixed feelings about the film. The first time I started it, I didn’t finish it. I was bored. I found the awkward pacing of the script disconcerting, and felt the filmmakers were too heavy-handed with the dramatic music in order to compensate for lacking suspense and believability in the action itself. Most films would struggle to live up to the hype which surrounds Star Warsand I was never going to love it as much as those who grew up with it. I decided to watch it again and, with my expectations greatly lowered and my phone now switched onto aeroplane mode, I did end up enjoying it.
On the off-chance that I am not the only person in the English-speaking world who has not seen Star Wars, here’s the low down. There’s a civil war raging between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Forces. Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) has information on how to destroy the Death Star (the space station capable of reducing entire planets to dust) but her ship is invaded by Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers (or Emperor Zurg and an army of Stigs fromTop Gear). She hides the information in an android who ends up in the hands of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). They enlist the help of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness), a Jedi knight, and, along with pilot Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his giant furry pal, they rescue Princess Leia and destroy the Death Star. Throw in an awkward attempt at a love triangle and some half-heartedly delivered one-liners by Harrison Ford, and you’ve got one of the greatest films ever made, or so I am told.
“the filmmakers were too heavy-handed with the dramatic music in order to compensate for lacking suspense and believability in the action itself”
My biggest qualm with the movie was Darth Vader. As a wise movie critic wrote,”each film is only as good as its villain” and I found Vader to be seriously lacking in the fear and loathing department. He has no identifiable motive for his killing and conquering (though I assume that is where Episodes I to III come into play) and as a result, comes off as a distinctly two-dimensional character. With my limited prior knowledge of the franchise, I had envisioned him as the villain to top all villains, so evil he has become inhuman in nature and appearance – not just a dude in a mask who strolls down corridors having relatively amiable chats about his evil plans with unremarkable minions. Zurg was a more impressive villain and he’s not even the primary antagonist of Toy Story 2.
However, the film wasn’t all bad. On the whole, I liked the general storyline and thought it opened itself up well to the sequels without lessening the quality of the ending. Though Harrison Ford would disagree, having allegedly denounced his character to be “dumb as a stump”, I liked the characters, both human and non-human. For me, believable and likeable characters are always the most important factor to the success of any movie and, while Vader might be outshone by a minor character in a children’s animation, the protagonists salvaged my opinion of the movie.
So, while I probably have die-hard fans clamouring to burn me at the stake for my Vader comments, I consider it a successful second viewing. I even watched Episode V the following night. I’m not a total born-again Star Wars fan but at least I’ll never have to hear “HOW have you never seen Star Wars?!” ever again. I won’t bother recommending you all to watch it, because I’m sure you already have.
First Published on Impact Magazine here