AFI Countdown Challenge #15: Star Wars

I seriously considered skipping this one.

See, this is Star Wars, one of my all-time favorite films, one of the things that made me the Geek I am, and a frequent tropic here at Gabbing Geek.  It’s probably the film on the AFI list I have seen more often than any other.  It’s full of iconic images and scenes.  I could probably quote the whole damn thing without trying.  Why would I skip it?

Well, maybe because I really don’t want to say too much I haven’t said before, or that anyone else here has said before.  I doubt I will say much, if anything, better than what so many who have come before me because, you know, it’s Star Wars.

So, let’s question how a film like this actually came to be.

I mean, really.  The odds were so against Star Wars in so many ways.  The studio barely OK’d it.  Writer/director George Lucas had to take a chance on the accepting a piece of the licensing as payment, something that was far from a guarantee of anything.  He ran an early edit for his director friends and only Steven Spielberg thought it had any potential.  Alec Guiness hated the film.  Harrison Ford hated Han Solo.  Carrie Fisher for years would recite lines from the film as an example of clunky dialogue that looked good on paper but was incredibly difficult to say out loud.  None of the actors seem to be slacking off for this one, but that doesn’t mean they were happy to be there.  As for George Lucas, he’s made multiple changes to the film himself to “perfect” it in some way with newer special effects and Han shooting second.

So, did anyone who made this film actually like it?

And yet…it’s Star Wars.

I probably don’t need to say much of anything about the plot to Star Wars.  Anyone likely to read these words already knows the story.  As far as this series goes, I likewise don’t want to talk about the many sequels, prequels, extended universe, comics, toys, spin-offs, cartoons, and the many other myriad things that came from it.

But what I will talk about it the influence of Star Wars.  Many of the films I’ve covered in this series are no doubt included for their storytelling or technical achievements.  Star Wars didn’t really invent any of the concepts, plot ideas, or character types.  There’s still reluctant hero Han Solo, aspiring hero Luke Skywalker, and already-involved hero Princess Leia.  Obi-Wan Kenobi is the wise mentor, and Darth Vader may not be the main villain, but even with less than 20 minutes of screen time, the seven foot guy in the black samurai armor, toting an iron lung while talking with the voice of James Earl Jones, well, even if Lucas intended to make Vader a pathetic figure, he sure failed miserably there.

Yeah, I actually don’t think Lucas ever got his own story.  I’ve said that many times before.

Pictured: not a pathetic figure.

Star Wars wasn’t hard sci-fi.  In fact, it’s sci-fi elements are often very basic.  The general design makes the universe of the film looked lived in.  Clothing is mostly practical, a lot of equipment and living spaces are dusty, and while the Empire may have a lot of shiny surfaces on their bases, ships, and equipment, the Rebel Alliance’s ships have a general look like they may fall apart.  That sets the film a little bit apart from its general sci-fi inspiration where everything looks sleek and new and impractical.

OK, some of those droids strewn throughout the film have impossible to guess functions, but that’s not here for now.

This is a film that has attracted generations of fans.  My father will stop if he’s channel surfing and finds this (or any of the movies, really) on the TV.  My brother is the biggest fan I know, with a five foot Yoda statue in his house.  His son is a chip off the old block.  It’s one of the few films that not only do my brother and I love, but also my sisters.  It was probably one of the few universally loved films in the schoolyard, and what kid of my generation at some point didn’t pretend he or she  was swinging a lightsaber?

We knew the music, we knew the ships, we made the jump to hyperspace, and we wanted to be Jedi.  We watched the droids appear on Sesame Street and in anti-smoking commercials.  C-3PO even had his own breakfast cereal.

This will probably be my shortest entry because, well, it’s Star Wars.  Star Wars is a big reason why I am even typing these words in the first place.  It showed me what a film could do when I was a small child, an appreciation that grew over time, matured, and found more satisfaction in more complex films beyond the simple pleasure poke to the inner child that Star Wars provided.

I know this entry may not have provided much, but really, I don’t know what to say here that I haven’t said before.  It’s Star Wars and whatever it has since become, what it started off as was pretty special even if so many people responsible for it didn’t seem to care for it.

NEXT UP:  We have ourselves a bit of crossdressing comedy in the 1959 Billy Wilder comedy Some Like It Hot.

tomk74

Defender of the faith, contributing writer, debonair man-about-town.

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