Recently I was irreligiously reading plot spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It made me want to revisit the originals. My sister and I are what you might call Star Wars purists. We like the original three to exist within the purity of our own minds – no prequels, no sequels, nothing but what we imagine ourselves. It’s made me a little wary of seeing the new film, despite the many positive (even rave) reviews I have heard from all sides. I will see it, though…with a wide-open mind! But those plot spoilers really did make me nostalgic for the originals.
1) Like King Kong, the more I see it the more I appreciate it – its pacing, the actors, everything. The scope may be expansive – intergalactic rebellion against oppressive emperor; good vs. evil – but the story is focused relatively tightly on three characters: Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo. Lucas never lets the big picture get in the way of the essential story he is telling, thus preserving that giddy feeling of adventure.
2 ) It was a lot of fun to see Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin now that I’ve seen him in films other than A New Hope – mostly his Hammer Horror output. But wow did he look stressed during the latter half of this film. He did not like Darth Vader’s plan to let Leia escape and lead them to the rebel base. He must be an inherently conservative tactician who is opposed to all risks while Darth Vader favors bold strokes.
3) I used to think Luke was kind of whiny, but the more I see the film the more I think his character really works. As it was pointed out on If It Happened Yesterday, It’s History, Luke is just a normal kid, dreaming of something bigger. He’s a great contrast to the other characters – the regal confidence and complete dedication of Princess Leia and the snarky cool of Han Solo – and he actually gets the most character arc of anybody. He’s a much more confident and mature person by Return of the Jedi.
4) Obi-Wan Kenobi and Uncle Owen really don’t like each other (perhaps they should have exploited this in the prequels). Owen dismisses him as an “old fool” and Obi-Wan sounds distinctly bitter about Owen’s attitude of not getting involved. According to Obi-Wan, Owen blames him for luring Luke’s father away on an idealistic crusade. Also, Obi-Wan sounds like a pretty tired, disillusioned idealist himself. This should have been in the prequels!
5) When Leia and Darth Vader first speak in the movie, they sound like they are picking up on an ongoing conversation. Darth Vader mentions mercy missions, she complains about his bold defiance of the Imperial Senate. Did this happen a lot? Would he periodically board her ship and not be able to prove that she was doing anything other than mercy missions and have to let her ago while she angrily reprimands him? She must have been driving him nuts. He knew she was a rebel and he couldn’t do anything. He and Grand Moff Tarkin were understandably very eager to finally terminate her. She has the same vibe with Grand Moff Tarkin; they snip and snipe and exchange insults like this was a long-standing thing they do.
6) If you think about it from Leia’s perspective, she gets rescued by a couple of screwballs – a kid, a cranky smuggler, a walking carpet. It takes a while before she even catches sight of her droids, let alone Obi-Wan Kenobi, who dies the moment she sees him. No wonder she looks so nonplussed and skeptical when Luke bursts in and says he’s there to rescue her. Presumably the rebels she works with are a little more professional.
7) I have always been a big fan of Princess Leia, which is why I get slightly miffed when people insist that the original Star Wars was a boy’s world and that the new film finally offers an empowered female character to the mix as if this was somehow novel. Carrie Fisher was perfectly empowered – like Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck and other great actresses – who brought her own poise and empowerment to a film, quite apart from anything the script bestowed on her character, though she could do anything the moment required of her, whether it was using a blaster or flying a ship or unsentimentally setting aside her grief to focus on the matter at hand. And I love that moment when Leia lifts a finger to her minion to indicate he should stand back while she goes forward to talk to Luke. She doesn’t even look at him to see if he caught her imperious sign; just assumes that he will see and obey.
8) My sister and I have a theory (ignoring all prequels, of course) that Leia is really the one who is like her father and Luke is like his mother – after all, it is Luke who eventually gets Vader to turn and it is Luke who Vader cannot kill. Vader sees Leia all the time without it ever apparently stirring memories. She probably annoys him because she’s just like him. Luke seems to bring out tenderer feelings.
9) So I finally realized why the storm troopers just stand by and let C3-PO and R2-D2 simply walk out of the room (I used to think they were remarkably stupid). They had to. If Darth Vader’s plan was to track Leia to the rebel base, then he needed to let the droids go, because she would never return to the base without the plans. This is also why he goes out of his way to kill Obi-Wan. He thinks he can deal with Leia, but the last thing he wants is for a re-emergent Jedi helping the rebel cause. He needed to deal with him separately from the main group.
10) With this plan, Darth Vader is gambling (which Tarkin does not seem comfortable with: “I’m taking an awful risk, Vader. This had better work.”), but Leia is gambling even more that the rebels will be able to destroy the Death Star first. Father/daughter both rolling the dice (she more desperately so) with no one around to appreciate the family drama inherent in it.