Faulty Memory – Star Wars

A fond memory of my youth was watching Star Wars in the theater. 1977, and I thought that was the best-est movie EVAR!!!!1!!! Action, great special effects, space scenes, aliens, and the voice of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader. What was not to love about it.

I watched it a few times afterwards, but unlike some people I know, I moved on, and into other pursuits. I probably hadn’t seen the film since the early 1980’s.

Fast forward to today. I got a spot bonus at work, in the form of Amazon gift cards, and while browsing for some blurays to add to my collection, for less than $30, I tossed in the original trilogy (now episodes IV – VI). Got them, ripped them into my Plex server, and on Tuesday night, I turned it up.

First, the positives:

  • Special Effects – from the era before the insane capabilities of computer generated imagery, this was the pinnacle of the model makers art, and meticulous frame-by-frame effects. ILM knocked it out of the park, and the effects are just as amazing today as they were then. Would a remake today be better image wise? Likely, but the original is still mighty good.

  • Locations – A lot of the filming happened in some cool locales. Tunisia and Death Valley, and many other locations. Really cool local scenery. Today, a lot of that magic would be applied in the CGI.

And that is about it for the positives. I remember being shocked that Star Wars didn’t win “Best Picture” in 1977, and that it was robbed when Annie Hall won. Oh, how wrong I was.

The faults, and flaws of the film are shocking in hindsight:

  • The Acting – For the love of god, every time Mark Hamill opens his pie hole, his whiny voice, his immature tone, I honestly cringed. Carrie Fisher was better, but it still wasn’t world class. And Harrison Ford, who 5 years later would have an epic performance in “Blade Runner” comes across as a hack. Yes, early career, and all, and Carrie and Harrison went on to a much more polished future. It is difficult to determine if it was the acting or …

  • The Script – which is like a bad hair day. When I first saw the movie, I marveled in the dialog, the action, how all the parts played together. Now, it has childish dialog, inane humor, and feels like it was just crammed together. Of course, the story is like an opera, (or soap-opera), but one has to think that Lucas just can’t write …

  • Dialog – Seriously, from the early scenes in Tatooine, or the comportment of Leia who is supposedly a senator, or … well you get the idea. The future is pretty improbable, because people don’t talk to each other like that. I don’t expect my SciFi to have dialog like Pulp Fiction (certainly not the obscenities), but I would like to to sond less wooden, and more like real people talk. It is almost as if the story was grafted on a special effects vehicle.

  • Unrealistic Behavior – we are supposed to believe that mere hours after Luke Skywalker arrives at the rebel base, as the Death Star approaches the outpost, that Luke is able to get into an X-Wing fighter, and fly combat sorties? I call bullshit. Knowing a little bit of military protocols, and the training required for complex machinery, that is just so much hogwash. This is but one of many “leaps too far” in the film. A 12 year old can overlook that, but a 53 year old me is howling at the screen that this is so much bullshit that it really sinks the story.

Summary

While Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope is still an important film, the apex of the old state-of-the-art in special effects, it falls somewhat flat 40 years on. Not just for the progress in special effects, but the story and acting were subjugated to the effects. I still enjoy it, albeit with a slightly jaded eye.

I am sure a lot of people will disagree with me, but in the end, it is an important film, but it could have been so much better with more character development, better acting, and reasonable dialog. Just 2 years later we saw Alien, and 5 years later Blade Runner, where the story, dialog, and acting were a tier above, and on par with the effects of the genre.

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