Nostalgia post #4: Star Wars (1977 – 1983)

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

SW Opening_crawl

Ola: That’s the way fairy tales start. Once upon a time, beyond tall mountains and vast rivers, a mysterious hero was born who had changed the fate of his tribe/community/nation/humankind. Led by fate, S/He had many dangerous and tasking adventures, had to overcome many deadly foes, traps and tests in order to come back to Her/His home with a great boon of miraculous nature and redeem Her/His people.

Nothing original, really, especially considering the fact that George Lucas’s creation of his famous saga had been significantly inspired by Joseph’s Campbell The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The theory that most of the world myths conform to one, simple pattern modeled on the rites of initiation is as suggestive as is ultimately misleading – and yet Lucas in his creation of Star Wars universe managed to strike a chord with millions of people worldwide, envisioning a world like – and yet unlike – ours, just exponentially bigger and vivid.

Starships! Knights! Droids! Magic! Princesses! Scoundrels with hearts of gold! Vile emperors! Cuddly little creatures! Breathtaking vistas of planets and space! It’s all there, and more – and everything is suffused by Force, a mana-like, magical power binding every living thing in a net of awareness.

star-wars1-e1528123799905

Piotrek: It is a simple story, of a young man going from zero to a hero, discovering his heritage and coming to his power. A story like countless others, but in space.

Not a very realistic space, there aren’t that many attempts to pretend that, it is not hard science fiction that would try to propose a likely vision of space-travelling humanity of the future. This story takes place long ago, like the stories of Gilgamesh or Theseus, and takes a structure immediately familiar to audience from any cultural background.

Campbell is an obvious inspiration, and that’s something Lucas freely admits.

Ola: And as Campbell’s view is very simplistic, so is ultimately the philosophy of Star Wars. The idea that most world myths are nothing more than a countless, schematic iteration of individual rites of passage, i.e. a person’s journey from youth to maturity, is undoubtedly alluring. It would make things so easy! A hero is found and called to a journey, which s/he doesn’t want to undertake but ultimately is forced to. S/he undergoes a series of trials, prominent among which is a visit to Underworld, and finally returns, a wiser, more mature person, bearer of gifts of wisdom/freedom/magical artifacts. Sounds like the exact storyline of Star Wars :P.

But as with most simplistic things, it offers a very limited view of myths, cramming disparate narratives into one mould they don’t really fit. Ironically, Campbell plays here the role of Procrustes, Poseidon’s cruel son, stretching the myths on his bed of The Hero with a Thousand Faces and chopping off the unwieldy parts.

Piotrek: Sure. And he wasn’t even the most sophisticated source of myth theory when Lucas was preparing the movies. It’s powerful, though. Extremely readable, even for the general audience, and the simplified Monomyth can be easily transformed into thousand succesfull scripts.

Ola: Still, I enjoyed this rather novel view of space technology as something old and battered. In the original trilogy everything seems to have seen better times – Obi Wan and Yoda included πŸ˜‰ Things are patched up, rusted, look like “piece of junk”… It adds a curious veneer of realism to an improbable and yet believable story where a Chosen One is destined to… not to save the world, ultimately, but to enable the real, prophesied Chosen One to do it. It is a wonderful tale of good and evil painted in black and white. Called fascist by some of the more disgruntled critics, for me it consciously and unapologetically evoked the spirit of fairy tales with its rigid and symbolically enhanced distinctions between right and wrong. Though I freely admit that the information that the final medal awarding scene from New Hope was lifted nearly shot for shot from Leni Riefenstahl’s Nazi propaganda masterpiece Der Triumph des Willen is somewhat disconcerting…

 

As everyone and their uncle know original Star Wars, we’ve decided to change the format a bit and introduce a more personal section with a few questions/reminiscences. You’re all very much invited to share your SW stories in the comments! πŸ˜€

First encounters

Piotrek: The first time I saw Episode IV I was… perhaps 8 or 9? I liked it a lot, but to truly appreciate its greatness I needed I had to meet an older guy on a summer-camp next holiday, who was a great fan of the Empire and told me the plot of the next two movies. He did not succeed in bringing me to the dark side, but helped me put the Star Wars franchise in my Pantheon.

Ola: I remember sneaking peeks of Empire Strikes Back when I was 5 or 6; I clearly remember the Hoth scenes and my first encounter with R2-D2 and C-3PO. I watched the whole trilogy when I was probably 8-9, and it made an enormous impression on me. The Thrawn trilogy, and The Lord of the Rings, were the books of choice I took with me when my family moved to the US πŸ˜‰

Favorite characters

Piotrek: Originally, I liked Luke the most. He was my hero, as should be in this story πŸ˜‰ I never liked rogues much, so definitely not Han Solo.

Ola: Yoda! Always πŸ˜‰ R2-D2 came close second, at least until Lucas gave him ability to fly πŸ˜›

Yoda

Favorite movie

Ola: No brainer. Empire Strikes Back :D. It is the best-made movie of all SW movies in my opinion, and the darkest, both tonally, with regards to camera shots, and spiritually, with all the manipulations, betrayals and loss. And yet it gives us a more mature, more centered protagonist, who through trial and error finally realizes his place in the world and the choices he faces. And of course, it introduces Yoda! πŸ˜€ And Lando Carlissian, the second-best scoundrel in the Galaxy ;).

Bespin duel

Piotrek: Obviously, Empire Strikes Back. All of the above and the courage to make the heroes lose. A chilling and wonderful movie!

Star-Wars-Easter-Eggs

I’ve seen the Solo movie on HBO recently, and how it fails, trying to recreate some of that magic… an utterly forgettable movie.

Prequels

Piotrek: as the first trilogy takes on the basic myths present in every human culture, the prequels try to tell a complicated political story – and still sell a lot of toys.

Ola: I’ll defend the idea behind those movies, even if the movies themselves are so badly made it’s cringeworthy. I really admired the scope of the story, the ambition to show the collapse of the Republic as something inherent, a pop-culture commentary on the roots of fascism. I still cannot comprehend the rationale behind the introduction of concepts such as midichlorians and immaculate conception, or characters such as Jar Jar Binks (not to mention the choice of actor for Anakin Skywalker!).

Piotrek: The prequels are nowhere near as great as the originals. Their CGI is inferior to their special effects, their toys are not as playable, actors are (with some exceptions) worse and the stories are so convoluted and full of holes. And the phalanxes of battle droids, dumber the the tactics in the battle of Winterfell πŸ˜‰

4659802-9284988037-battl

But yeah, it could have been so good, with the ideas behind so ambitious and important… which, originally, made me even more angry they failed. Now, thinking about the faults of the third trilogy, I’m kinder towards Lucas. He had courage and vision that the latest SW movies sorely lack. But I still don’t like the prequels.

Original trilogy pet peeve

Piotrek: The way droids are treated is totally unacceptable to me. We have sentient beings that are owned, ordered around, their memories and personalities regularly erased… and hardly anyone notices. Even in the recent movies its often, if anything, played for laughs. WTF?

Ola: Darth Vader redemption arc. I mean, you could be a genocidal maniac, killing indiscriminately children, women and every other living being, even livestock, for decades, and you’re entirely forgiven and rewarded due to a single, non-altruistic (because ultimately genetically motivated) decision. How totally unjust is that?

Music

Piotrek: I’m not even saying anything. No need to.

Conclusion

Piotrek: The original trilogy definitely deserves its place in a canon of the most important movies. Not for artistic or philosophical innovation, but for making the oldest story out there and re-packaging it for the new times. As with Tolkien, there are many epigoni who did not understand the lessons, just copied the visual side to make messy, empty spectacles.

Ola: I’ve seen it many times over the years. And even though I clearly see its deficiencies and stumbles, I still deeply enjoy the original trilogy. I appreciate its ambition and imagination, its youthful, brash cockiness in stealing and mashing up bits and pieces of various myths and tales, and the sheer Γ‰lan vital of the movies, led by outstanding performances of the main actors. I know part of that charm is the nostalgia, painting everything in brighter colors. Suffice to say that the next generation of geeks in my family is decidedly less enthusiastic about these movies, and unabashedly prefers Marvel/DC, Indiana Jones, and even Star Trek to Star Wars πŸ˜‰

Piotrek: Actually, I myself believe Star Trek is a bit superior, at least after we got the perfect LotR of the Rings movie trilogy to fulfil our mythical need. But that is another discussion…

Verdict: Highly recommended

31 thoughts on “Nostalgia post #4: Star Wars (1977 – 1983)

  1. Man, now THIS is a fantastic post!!!!

    To be honest, I don’t even know where to start commenting. I agreed on lots of points and disagreed on several points. I guess I’ll make broad sweeping points below πŸ˜‰

    I love the original trilogy. I have the Special Edition versions on vhs, then I bought the dvd’s when they first came out and almost threw up when they replaced Ghost Anakin with prequel Anakin in Return of the Jedi. I was seriously thinking of throwing the dvd’s out then and there. Then I learned of the mythical Gold Bordered dvds, an elusive unofficial release of the original trilogy on dvd in both theatrical and vhs release versions as originally shown. I say unofficial, but I’m not sure how accurate that really is. Needless to say, I tracked them down and now own them and THEY are the Gold Standard for me.

    I like Star Wars BECAUSE it shows such a stark dividing line between Good and Evil. People need to be reminded of that..

    Pio and Pet Peeves:
    Have you read the EU book that dealt exclusively with this issue? The New Rebellion by Rusch. I seem to remember it being on the lower end of the quality but it is ALL about this issue.

    Ola and Pet Peeves:
    OH. MY. GOODNESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I laughed and groaned so much when you related your pet peeve. I find that scene with Luke and Anakin 1000% inspirational as if someone like Vader can be redeemed, then there is hope for us all πŸ˜€

    I loved this post. I think between the 2 of you, you covered so many various points that it feels really complete. It’s friday morning, about 6am, it is raining out and I’ll be getting ready to go to work in half an hour and this was the pick me up to get me going. Thank you.

    Bringing it all around back to me (I seem to have a very bad habit of doing that and I’m becoming more and more conscious of it (see what I did there? even more self-referential statements)) you’ve inspired me to write my own Star Wars post this month. I’ve done so much complaining over the years about the EU, the prequels, etc that I need to write about my own Star Wars journey starting in the 80’s and why I actually WAS a fan.

    When I do, you ok with me linking to this post as my inspiration?

    Liked by 4 people

    • :D:D:D
      Glad we made your day! πŸ˜€ And thank you!! And we’ll be very happy to read your post on SW – link away! πŸ˜‰

      I hated the new Anakin ghost as well! The only reason why we kept the remastered version was the Empire Strikes Back scene with X-wing on Dagobah ;). Plus, I’m a bit sentimental because I got to see the whole original – albeit remastered – trilogy in cinema πŸ˜€

      I knew I’d garner a few responses about my pet peeve and feel I should elaborate my point a bit; to be honest, I was really awed by the Luke-Anakin scene when I was 9, along the lines of “oh, beautiful, there really was good in him!” – it is really well done from the cinematic perspective, and it also nicely shows that while there’s good and there’s bad, you are able to choose and your choice matters. At the same time, however, I feel that it would have been so much better if they haven’t shown his spirit next to Yoda and Ben. For me, this serves as a confirmation of the total remission of sins: do what you want provided you repent at the last moment, and all will be peachy. You’ll even get to stick around and glow, if you want – become something of a personal angel.

      By the way, I feel like we’re getting quite theological here, what with the concepts of Providence, mercy and justice – and that’s what I loved about old SW as well – you could argue philosophy and theology as well as droid slavery and emancipation, or the newest fashion in Coruscant πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 2 people

          • In regards to your pet peeve.

            I can completely understand why you’re not happy with the decision the movies took if you think there was no justice. Or if Redemption simply sweeps everything under the rug and we all pretend we’re in Happy Unicorn Rainbow land πŸ˜‰

            As you know, I’m a fundamental Christian and so Redemption is at the core. However, Justice and God’s Righteousness are also addressed. Jesus, God Incarnate, took the Sin of the World and bore the punishment. That is where Justice is and where I think a lot of people miss the boat. They think “God loves me, Jesus saves me”, it’s all good. There is a price that has to be paid, and was paid. Probably beyond our comprehension.

            Now, all of that wasn’t just to preach at you, but to show you where I’m coming from. For me, Anakin’s Redemption wasn’t about the Justice side of things (I’ll go there in a bit) but was simply showing that Redemption WAS possible for someone even as evil as him. For me, and I think the point being made in the movie was, that if someone even more evil than Hitler could be redeemed, then we all have that hope. It was hope during the height of the Cold War. Was it well thought out and laid out piece by piece? Ha! This IS Lucas we’re talking about and even while he wasn’t in complete control (thank goodness), he still had his greasy fingers all over it.

            Moving on the justice side of things. I’ve always found his death to be the Justice. Yes, he became a Force Ghost but since we didn’t have the prequels, Lucas hadn’t pooped all over that particular idea yet. Bad guys went kablooie and went into oblivion and good guys got to go to Force Heaven, as it were πŸ˜‰ This is very much a fairytale movie where ideas and ideals are simplified down to the very basic principles. Bad guys get punished, good guys get rewards and there is hope even for the bad guys. Once you start poking things with the stick of reality, it can quickly fall apart. But it was never meant to withstand that stick in the first place.

            And ALL of that is just explanation of why your pet peeve never bothered me. And just to be clear, I’m not trying to argue that you shouldn’t have that pet peeve, just explaining why it isn’t one for me.

            I’d love to hear what your views on Justice should be in context of the movies. How would YOU work that out? With only the original trilogy, evil’s end was complete cessation of existence. It wasn’t until later comic books and whatnot that this idea of Sith continuance cropped up.

            To wrap this up. Once again, fantastic post. I’ve been thinking about this all day while at work and I’d like to thank you for that.

            Liked by 2 people

          • I’m so glad you enjoyed it and I’m pretty happy with our discussion πŸ˜€ You’re very welcome 😁

            As for the pet peeve and the concept of justice in the movies, I always had a feeling that Jedi we’re privileged – and because “with great power comes great responsibility” I thought that the Jedi we’re judged by higher standards. Because evil that Vader has done was so enormous, I didn’t feel that his one final good deed evened things out

            Liked by 1 person

          • Aand my comment was cut short when I accidentally hit “send” πŸ˜‰

            Anyway, being raised in a Catholic country I still have ingrained concepts of somehow “earning” redemption: a form of reparation is necessary in addition to repentance, and offing your former master doesn’t seem enough to warrant entry into Jedi heaven πŸ˜‰
            I’d just not show Vader as Force spirit, I guess. I like the fact that his funeral was a private ceremony and only Luke attended; I was quite sure that his body had to be burned because it didn’t disappear as Ben’s or Yoda’s. Lucas’s meddling with that later only peeved me further πŸ˜‰

            Liked by 1 person

          • I love the Stick of Reality πŸ™‚ I fully agree, not all movies/books should be prodded with it…
            Where we differ… I like the idea of different, much more grim and realistic second trilogy, I’m just mad execution was screwed up…this one deserves getting the stick πŸ˜‰

            Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks πŸ™‚ We’ll be honoured, obviously!

      Starting on that post, I was afraid we’ll end up with a review of a very old movie everyone knows anyway πŸ˜‰ But I believe we managed to share something personal about a piece of culture that is really important to us, and you, and almost everybody. I’m looking forward to reading your post on the issue!

      Never heard about an EU book concentrated on the droid cause, but if you say it’s on the lower end quality-wise… I’m hesitant, EU novels were very uneven.

      I remember also having SW on VHS, but a pirated copy – VHS was soo expensive in Poland in the early 90-ties, nobody bothered with legalities. Now I have a very official set of DVDs, but in the restored version, I’m afraid.

      The theological differences between the original trilogy, prequels and the new stuff – fascinating topic πŸ™‚ They are multiple “Philosophy of…” books, there is place on a market for more “Sociology of…” and “Theology of…” πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

      • If I’m feeling in the writing mood tomorrow I’ll probably toss something off and then schedule it for an open space in the next 2 weeks. So don’t hold your breath πŸ™‚

        I’m all in favor of reviewing old movies. Most of these are watched as a kid (Ghostbusters for example) and the difference between then and now not only shows the movie itself in different lights but shows a lot about us as people as we age.

        I looked and I do not have a review of The New Rebellion. Which means I read it before April 2000 and that means even my 20’ish old self thought it sucked, if I can remember it all these years later πŸ˜€
        Now, here’s the GR link:
        https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/700095.The_New_Rebellion
        People seem to love it over there. And I’m not seeing one mention of droid rights. So I might be completely out to lunch. I don’t think so though πŸ˜‰

        The philosophical differences between each set of movies definitely shows how culture shifts, at least here in the US. Even a novice like me can see the shift away from a hard Right & Wrong stance to a nihilistic “Nothingness”…

        Liked by 2 people

        • I have a feeling it’s not the last oldie we revisit πŸ™‚

          The New Rebellion has 3.45 on GR, and for a book probably only read by fans of the franchise… still, I might go for EU buying spree one day, after I read all the Star Trek novels I bought two years ago πŸ˜‰

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not so nerdy as you two or Bookstooge, I’m afraid, there’s just so much obsessive stuff that I can hold in my head and SW is just overload! But I will say that I enjoyed Episodes IV-VI purely as a roller-coaster ride, as visually and narratively arresting as the first two or three Indiana Jones films and as entertaining; even the anachronisms, implausibilities and wholesale borrowings made me smile more than grind my teeth. And of course the music, with its witty recalls of early 20th-century classics, is timeless: I’ve played the orchestral piano part in concert for extracts from the various episodes (including Episode VII) on three occasions and it was wonderful to immerse myself in the midst of a band of musicians playing those tunes.

    Suffice to say I was sniffy about the first three episodes (I enjoyed the Ben Hur homage though) but have at least watched them more than once, including the overlong lightsaber fight in Episode III. And I’m less sniffy about Episodes VII and VIII (haven’t seen any more yet) than some have been. (See? Not a true aficionado!)

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’ll treat it as a compliment, Chris, and for what it’s worth I think you’re plenty nerdy yourself, just in different directions πŸ˜€

      I really consider the age factor an important one here – the movies I watched and enjoyed as a kid have always a bit different weight.

      Oh, Indiana Jones is definitely on our nostalgic list πŸ˜‰

      Wow, playing the music with a band must have been a great experience! πŸ˜€

      I am totally miffed by episodes VII and VIII, even more so than by I-III πŸ˜‰ The prequels had at least decency to try telling a compelling story πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Another awesome nostalgia post! πŸ™‚
    While I was aware of SW as a child, I wasn’t actually able to see the movies until I was 16 and somehow they never stuck for me. I think I’d already seen plenty of other things that riffed on SW ideas/images by the time I finally saw episodes 4, 5 and 6 so I didn’t feel that I was seeing anything new. My brother, my junior, is far more of a SW fan than I am. (Star Trek on the other hand, was on my radar from a very young age – I adore Star Trek completely!!)
    I’ve watched all the newer SW stuff (mostly accompanying my brother) and I still feel neither enthused not dismayed by any of it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks!

      Yeah, I feel SW are one of those movies you need to see as a kid to develop a certain level of affinity for them… There are other similar movies which are better made, with better special effects, more congruent and realistic plot, etc. – but most of them were ripoffs of SW πŸ˜‰

      As for Star Trek, when I was a kid I avidly watched Next Generation πŸ˜‰ I am quite nostalgic about it, and honestly, Star Trek optimistic and more nuanced message seems to suit me better these days πŸ˜‰ I can sense a new nostalgia post coming! πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fantastic post! I think it would be a mistake to ever say you both weren’t fans of the original movies hahaha I actually hadn’t seen any of the SW movies till I was around 20 (like almost 4 years ago) and now I’m up to date with the franchise. I’ve seen the last movie, Solo, and was pretty disappointed in the direction Disney has been taking the series… But hey, I do also have to admit that the franchise as a whole doesn’t exactly stand the trial of time UNLESS the person watching the movie takes into consideration the context and time when it was first released! The Last Jedi was also probably one of the worse movies I’ve ever seen in my life, and the only thumbs up I’d give it is for its cinematography (visuals) but that alone would never save that movie.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks! πŸ˜‰
      I think the age of viewing really affects the perspective on this particular franchise… I know that if I were to see it later in my life I would never enjoy it as much as I had as a kid. My feelings for the original movies faded somewhat with time anyway, and now it’s mostly nostalgia – but I do appreciate the boldness of the original idea and the fact that Lucas actually read a non-fiction book and was inspired by it – seems not to happen anymore in the movie industry (well, except for biographies and movies based on real life events) πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks! I largely agree, although I’ll always feel nostalgic about the original movies.
    Disney definitely mismanaged this property, maybe they’ll wise up…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Do you believe it, though? That they will wise up? Sounds too good to be true… The best thing they could do is not to interfere with either Marvel or SW…

      Like

  6. Such an interesting post- I liked reading about the inspiration for star wars. And in my book it’s no wonder this struck a chord with so many viewers. Empire Strikes back is my fave too, no contest. hehe have to agree about LOTR being perfect though πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks!
      Star Wars is a flawed but wonderful thing, yet I am totally certain that if I watched it as an adult I would have not liked it overly much πŸ˜‰ And the LoTR movies I hate with a passion πŸ˜€

      Like

  7. Pingback: Bookstooge & Star Wars: A Tragedy of Shakespearian Proportion | Bookstooge's Reviews on the Road

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