Star Wars Without Nostalgia: Intro and the Original Trilogy

Index

My blog hasn’t been very active for a while and there’s a very simple reason for that: I’ve been binge-watching Star Wars instead of reading. For the first time.

Because yes, despite being a lifelong, massive SFF nerd, I had somehow never watched Star Wars before. This is not surprising: I live in a hole when it comes to pop culture. If you ask me about anything, the likely answer will be “nope, haven’t seen it” – I watch like one movie a year, my TV watching habits are limited to cooking shows and documentaries, and I didn’t watch The Lord of the Rings until 2010 either. As for Star Wars…I have simply never been interested. The toxicity I saw online around the release of The Last Jedi did not help either. And besides, there’s no movie you have to watch or book you have to read without which you can’t consider yourself a SFF fan, so there might have been some (misplaced) hipsterish pride involved too.

My usual disinterest lasted about until I saw my first Baby Yoda gif. I got more and more intrigued. I sought out The Mandalorian. And I found myself, unexpectedly, completely obsessed. I wanted more of the world, what the hell do you do after binging all the available episodes within a day and you need more but there won’t be more until a week later?

You start binging the movies, of course.

The first problem was what to start with. There’s a lot of conflicting opinions on what the best order for watching the movies in is. After asking around a little, I decided on strict release order, a specific version of the original trilogy without later alterations, and at least attempting to watch every single one (yes, even the prequels). I want to get the full experience and form my own opinions.

Now, onto the movies themselves.

A New Hope (1977)

My first thought was: my god, this is so cheesy.

My second thought was: bring it on 🍿🍿🍿

It grew on me a lot, but the first impression was not favourable. The dialogue was embarrassingly bad. I lowered the volume whevever C-3PO spoke especially and kept to subtitles because his voice grated horribly. And I was surprised by how it started too – I expected neither the scrolling text intro, nor that it’d start with Leia and the droids. Nor, indeed, the cheesiness. Still, cheese was apparently exactly what I needed and persisting very much paid off.

The worries that it aged badly visually were, luckily, mostly misplaced. The special effects are obviously not on the same level as modern ones, but aside from some of the aliens (which look rather rubbery), most of it isn’t too immersion-breaking. In fact, it worked so well that I had to look up how exactly did they do it (space scenes, blasters, and lightsabers in particular!) – because obviously, it was filmed way before CGI was a thing, and it’s honestly impressive.

The base plot and the character seemed cliché, but that’s probably because it’s fairly by-the-numbers epic fantasy that’s been, by now, done to death. There are not nearly enough female characters, but then again, the movie is old as balls, so I’m willing to give it a pass for that too. Though I did like Leia a lot. One thing I found entertaining was spotting all the phrases and lines that have since entered common use: “I find your lack of faith disturbing,” “wretched hive of scum and villany, ” “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” “I felt a great disturbance in the Force,” “use the Force, Luke,” “the Force is strong with this one” to list a few. If you’d make a drinking game out of it, you’d have gotten blackout drunk halfway through.

And it was fun. It was a shitload of fun.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

The second movie proved to be more frustrating than the first and, in my opinion, aged the worst out of all three. As usual, I greatly enjoyed the space battles, but the rest…

The first thing I was annoyed with was Luke. He was just…so damn dumb. He made poorer choices than Fitz and if you ever read The Farseer Trilogy, you know that’s quite an achievement. And watching a character fuck up over and over again in incredibly preventable ways isn’t exactly fun, even if you know nothing too terrible will happen to him. If anything, that makes it even worse.

The second, and much more significant, was Han fucking Solo. He was a sexist douche in the first movie, but here it was dialled up to 11. Every scene involving him and Leia was…well, sexual harassment, let’s call it what it is. She clearly says no in most explicit ways possible, and he goes ahead and continues anyway. It was painful to watch, especially since it felt like the viewer is supposed to like him at least on some level. Me, I wanted to punch him in the face. And Leia eventually starting to like him back was bullshit (You’re too good for this asshole, girl!). Did she really need a romantic interest? Much less an asshole one?

What surprised me the most was that the big plot twist about Luke’s father, you know, the most famous spoiler on the internet, was in this movie – in retrospecitve, it makes perfect sense, but for some reason, I thought it’d be in the last one. And I thought Yoda would make an appearance in the first, and that Obi Wan would make it at least to the second (mentors always die, it is known). In short, what little I did know going in, was all chronologically wrong. As for the revelation, if it was news to me (which it wasn’t), I’m pretty sure I’d have thought Vader was lying and that Obi Wan was the real dad. Because lying is what villains do, and my expectations were skewed from having read Eragon (commonly called a Star Wars rip-off).

And that’s a minor complaint, but I also wasn’t quite as impressed by the special effects either – for example, Yoda is a fun character and a master troll, but the scenes involving him just…looked and sounded off to me.

As for spotting iconic moments, the Imperial March finally pops up!

P.S. While watching, it was pointed out to me that transitions between scenes are basically powerpoint effects. I could not unsee and laughed every time it happened. (Steve, if you’re reading this, damn you 😂)

Return of the Jedi (1983)

Return of the Jedi was a rollercoaster. Honestly, I started out hating it and wondering if I’ll be able to get through at all. Most of it was personal preference – I don’t like grotesque things and the rescue mission to Jabba the Hutt’s lair to get Han unbricked is all about grotesque. And Leia’s capture…that has not aged well at all. While I was reasonably satisfied with the symmetry of her showing up to rescue Han and that she ended up strangling Jabba herself while her friends helped with drawing the rest of the bad guys away, it feels like picking at crumbs.

Also, Boba Fett being eaten by a hole with teeth was a waste of what could have been a perfectly interesting Mandalorian. But then again, I’m biased when it comes to Mandys.

Still, after the Jabba part was over, I ended up enjoying it more than A New Hope. It’s basically two movies in one – the resolution of Han Solo’s conflict with Jabba, followed by the actual trilogy finale, which creates a very strange, uneven split when it comes to pacing. And the latter was much better than the former. I liked that Yoda confirmed that Vader is Luke’s Father. And the ending, the final confrontation with Palpatine and Vader, tied everything together nicely. Overall (and this goes for all the previous movies as well) I never got attached to the characters enough for any deaths to feel impactful. I suppose it comes with the medium. They’re movies and limited in time – in books and tv series, we get far more time to get attached, more space for development. And there are too many characters I wished we got to see more of.

My red guard fanart!

Another bright point (heh) of the second part of the movie that deserves a special mention because of the impact it had on me are the red imperial guards. For something that basically stands around for the sake of decoration in one or two scenes and is a bad guy besides, I love them weirdly much. As in fanart. As in crazy amounts of research into cosplay (as soon as I have the money…). “Weirdly much” doesn’t cover the extent of my fixation by half, and I can’t give much more of a reason besides “fuck me, if this isn’t the coolest fucking thing I have ever seen 😮” But then, I’m a dork. Zeroing in on some detail is par for the course.

Verdict

This post is probably the hardest thing I have ever written, and probably also the longest, and I still don’t think I can do the complexity of my feelings justice. Vast enjoyment on one hand, the critical part of my mind I can’t ever shut up on the other. The more I write, the more I criticise, but at the same time, I’m in love with the aesthetics of it all, enjoying myself, and unquestionably a massive fan. And while finally internalising that love and criticism are not necessarily contradictory is very freeing, how can I expect to be able to get across the paradox of it all? It usually is contradictory.

It would be even longer if I was willing to talk more in detail about plot. But dissections of the plot have been done to death. I didn’t want to get too nitpicky with my criticisms and only mentioned things that directly impacted my enjoyment in the sections about the individual movies, because ultimately, none of it mattered much. They are not very “good” movies – the shallowness of ultimate good vs evil, the Force as deus ex machina at points, bad guys being stupid so that the good guys can win, giving chosen ones great power despite the inexperience, a fairly forgettable plot, extremely poor handling of female characters, ignoring basic physics completely, there is plenty to criticise – but I did not expect a timeless cinematic masterpiece. And I think approaching it as such would have been a mistake. It’s iconic and influential, and it has perhaps been built into something it isn’t, part by nostalgia and part by the impact it had, but the fact remains, it’s space cheese. Top tier space cheese.

I wanted fun, I wanted a world to get immersed in, and damn right I got both, even if the critic part of myself isn’t something I can’t ever shut off. I came away satisfied, a very new and very excited fan, eager to squee and complain my way through the rest, especially since the fact that there are new movies gives me hope that the issues with datedness and the handling of female characters will gradually improve as I go on. Originals and prequels have to be done for the full experience, but it’s the new stuff I’m in for.

To get personal for a bit: I’ve been increasingly unwell as far as mental health goes since the start of November. I’ve been failing classes, my blog has been less active, I’ve had no will to even read. Star Wars has brought me some much needed joy and solace, unexpected but not at all unwelcome. I did not know how much I needed it. I feel lucky to have seen The Mandalorian first (a post on it will follow as soon as the series is completed and I have watched the last episode!) because it could not have been a more perfect entry point at a more perfect time, and I’m lucky to be in a proper mindset to appreciate the rest.

What I love the most about my mad quest, however, is the sense of community – for the first time, I could talk about that awesome thing I just found and share my excitement with anyone and they would at least know what I’m going on about. Since I don’t usually get obsessed with mainstream things and I wasn’t as ridiculously online the last time it happened (The Lord of the Rings, around 2010), this is a new and exciting development. Plus fanart! Cosplay! Maybe fanfic! The freedom of being blissfully unconcerned with canon! Lots more to explore when it comes to the world!

And even though I’m concerned about being annoying and too much in the heights of my excitement, I haven’t dared to go and look for the fandom proper online since I doubt I’d be very welcome there. Luckily, I’ve been blessed with friends who are the best and very courteous with regards to spoilers even when it comes to something “everyone has seen” (I love y’all so much, seriously), tolerant of my endless rambling in the movie channels that sometimes spills over into other channels (sorry), and being more of a dork about red guards than anyone has the right to. It wouldn’t be the same without y’all.

Now, onto the infamous prequels!

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