By Craig Joseph
I owe George Lucas an apology.
I haven’t seen this movie for twenty years, since a few of us gathered in a college dorm room and watched episodes four through six. I’m sure I intended to view them all again when the newest episodes were released but I was so disgusted with The Phantom Menace that I threw in the towel. Still haven’t seen two and three. I know; I’m not a real fan. Least of all because I allowed Jar-Jar Binks to retroactively revise my impression of the good films that came before him which, I realize this week, was a mistake.
What I find most refreshing about A New Hope – ironically – is its predictability. I spend a lot of time watching films with intentionally muddled chronology, subtle symbolism, and characters whose motives and intentions are murky and shrouded in mystery; it’s a hard job being a pretentious art-movie snob, but we all have our crosses to bear. So there was something gleefully simple and wonderful about watching something that I inherently “get.”
· Of COURSE that guy is evil incarnate; he’s wearing all black, his entrance music is intense and he even breathes terrifyingly. And guess what? That young guy in white? He’s good and they’re gonna face off sooner or later.
· Han Solo is bad-ass. He has a quip for everything and can even talk smack to a princess. You don’t suppose it’s because they’re going to fall in love at some point, do you?
· Each scene will undoubtedly top the previous one with something weird. It starts with the Jawas, explodes into craziness with Greedo, Hammerhead, Snaggletooth and everyone in the cantina, and then – wait! Jabba the Hutt is in this movie now? OK…
· Come on, come on, get on the Falcon, they’re coming fast! Take off! Take off! Hurry up! Warp speed! Whew, that was close. Shit! Asteroids! Come on, come on, look out!
· And let’s be clear, Ben Kenobi will die before the film is over, and Luke will have to use The Force at some absolutely critical moment if we want to see the huge explosion we are all jonesing for.
I say all of this not to be glib or reductive, but to highlight that the movie’s success is in part due to some sort of shared experience we all have around it, created by the fact that it does exactly what it feels like it should do. The music swells when it should, the heroes narrowly escape just in time, another henchman will get sassy even though it’s clear Vader is going to choke him, and on and on. And we go along for the ride, which is why the whole series, I imagine, fares better watched en masse and in toto. There must be a communal energy that develops and rallies everyone around the story; you can probably even make it through that stinky first episode for the promise of better things to come.