Why “Episode IV” Will Always Be No.2 In The All-Time Star Wars Chart
“Suddenly the film starts, and every kid in the audience starts screaming!” – Irwin Kershner.
It’s over a month now since we were subjected to the travesty that is Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Not only has it lessened my attitude towards the saga (will probably never watch Episode VII again, now knowing that Episode VIII fails to develop the new characters in any way 😦 ) but – as you may have gathered this past few weeks – it has almost completely sapped my will to write! A staggeringly bitter irony to take, considering that the original Star Wars – with all its bewitching escapist fare, “done with all the energy and intelligence and thought that I could muster,” as its creator George Lucas remarked back then – inspired me to create my own science fiction.
Ahem, it has come to my attention that a number of fans have recently blogged their Star Wars rankings – in many such Posts, The Last Jedi has been ranked far too highly; but more surprisingly, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope appears far too low on these charts.
You probably wondered why no 40th Anniverwary Celebration appeared on this site last May. Here in the UK, “Star Wars” did not get its theatrical release until 27 December 1977, (cinemas – like everything else around the country – are closed on Christmas Day) and even then, it would take good ol’ word-of-mouth to convince us that something quite extraordinary awaited us at our local popcorn parlour…
So, to mark four decades since its release on the tea-and-scones side of the Pond, me writers’ block has been jiggled orf in order to cobble together some hopefully-entertaining thoughts.
By the mid-’70s, a more gritty, often brutal, realism had permeated the big screen; Star Wars brought a timely sense of magic and fantasy back to the movies. No matter how much the original cast and crew complained about the simple script and dodgy dialogue, there were no niggles to be had from yours truly. Besides, many of the lines have become immortalised in pop culture.
It will be forever intriguing to speculate who else could have played these iconic roles. We could be here all night discussing all the influential major and minor players, but for the moment, let me focus on a role that remarkably receives less treatment.
Star Wars helped convince me that Peter Cushing was one of the greatest actors. He could portray the fiendishly evil Dr. Frankenstein and create a fetching, grandfatherly Dr. Who with equal relish. A young Mark Hamill was in awe, and has confessed that – even though they shared no scenes together onscreen – he would visit the Hammer Horror legend in his dressing room to pick up acting tips.
And, of course, “dear little Carrie” simply could not bring herself to shout at this gentlemen even if he was playing “a rather frightful Edwardian chauffeur.”
Sure, today’s technology can recreate the likeness of Peter Cushing, but it will never capture his charm:
“I was absolutely knocked for six. I was riveted! Star Wars was a picture you had to see again… My only disappointment was that poor old Moff Tarkin was blown up at the end, which meant I couldn’t appear in the sequels” – Peter Cushing.
“I actually designed the sandcrawler. R2-D2 was my concept. Darth Vader was my concept. And the white stormtrooper costume was mine; George wanted a white costume, but that’s about all he said. Many people could have done them. I happened to be available and capable of doing the stuff when it was needed… It’s just a big happening” – Ralph McQuarrie.
Biggs Darklighter: “Luke, I didn’t just come back to say goodbye… I made some friends at the academy. When our frigate leaves for the central systems, we’re gonna jump ship and join the Alliance-“
Luke Skywalker: “THE REBELLION?!”
Biggs Darklighter: “Quiet down, willya? You got a mouth bigger than a meteor crater…”
On Christmas Day 1987, Star Wars (at last) received its UK TV premiere. Naturally, a brand new VHS tape was utilised – for the next few years it would have to withstand umpteen repeated viewings.
Also that year, Starlog magazine put out an amazing special issue celebrating Star Wars‘ 10th Anniversary; one of the numerous jaw-dropping facts to grab my attention concerned the deleted scenes. This section even published a still from the scene in which Biggs Darklighter returns from the academy to tell Luke of his intention to join the Rebel Alliance, and suggests that they go together…
Admittedly, most of these scenes (set on Tatooine) were rightfully deleted, but this scene in particular has long evoked a personal fascination. It offers some nifty dialogue between these best buddies; in addition, it reveals the effects of Imperial dominion on a domestic level (and would help give the emotional resonance that Biggs’ death requires.
Such a shame: a poor copy can be found on YouTube, but most likely, you probably never heard of it.
In 1997, when news broke of a Special Edition – released to herald the movie’s 20th Anniversary, chances of finally getting to know Biggs looked more promising.
Well, what a swiz…
Instead, we had to watch needless – not to mention mindless – animated inserts; at least the remastered climactic attack on the Death Star got spruced up rather well. Although we got only one previously unseen moment with Luke and Biggs meeting up at the rebel base on Yavin, this still did not help explain Luke’s line: “Biggs is right, I’m never going to get out of here!” which, curiously, was still left in.
“Much of my personality has gone into Chewie, and people can pick those bits out. There are quirky movements that nobody else does. I feel that I’ve put a great deal of Peter Mayhew into Chewbacca” – Peter Mayhew.
“We were very worried about credibility. We wanted everything to come across as if it existed in the real world. The film’s whole style was dented, rusty and realistic” – Ben Burtt.
From Tatooine, to the Death Star, and then onto Yavin, the pace never lets up (unlike The Last Jedi where, at some points, staring at my watch – or my cinema’s exquisite early 20th century décor – proved to be a more engrossing spectacle than anything delivered onscreen).
Perhaps, the moment in the trash compactor aboard th Death Star is Episode IV’s slowest, least appealing moment? A few times my infant self felt propelled to fast forward to that gripping TIE fighter attack.
With the climactic battle against the Death Star, both my interests in Second World War aerial dogfights and sci-fi action were spectacularly combined, but this next sequence always excited me more.
Stuff the ridiculous video game effects of the prequels! And that bland bombing run with which The Last Jedi begins – THIS is Star Wars!:
So, let me get this straight:
you really believe that Benicio Del Toro is more important than Ben Kenobi? That the salt of Crait is more precious than the sand on Tatooine? And that Canto Bight (ugh) is more awesome than Mos Eisley?!
You may put forth your arguments defending what is no more than a 150-minute Disney commercial in the Comments section below.
“I’m going to cut across the axis and try and draw their fire!” 😉
And please don’t tell me you’ve already forgotten this magical scene:
“In six weeks, we set up shop, made 30 aliens – some were my designs, some were Ron Cobb’s… I’m very proud to have done something on the picture. I wish to God I had spent a year on Star Wars rather than King Kong” – Rick Baker.
This clip brings us nicely to my last – and arguably most endearing – point.
Seeing how anybody could have written this Post – let me add my own 25-satangs-worth.
While everyone wanted to be Han Solo, or a Jedi, my time – and ebullient imagination – became captivated by those Tusken Raiders aka Sand People, those nomadic, primitive crack-shot ruffians of the Jundland Wastes who – when easily startled – could be guaranteed to “be back, and in greater numbers…”
Instead of clamouring for a (decidedly naff) plastic(?!) lightsaber, this innovative moppet improvised with a Tusken Raider mask (remember it being so brittle it could have torn like paper). Found a fallen branch from the small pear tree in our back garden – miraculously just the right size for me, AND with one end unbelievably curved exactly like a a Tusken gaderffii stick; to complete this “transformation” Mum wrapped me in that small, sand-coloured blanket from the airing cupboard under the stairs (besides, it was pretty nippy outside at that time of evening!).
Sadly, there are no photos of me in my very first dabble with cosplay – ‘twas a time in which having photos of you doing anything and everything was not essential. Perhaps people were too scared to take a snap of me, fearing the prospect of stealing this pint-sized primitive’s virtue, or somesuch.
Beware of the Bradling?!
Loved wandering around outside the corner store up the road, in character, for hours, as a formidable liddle Sand Person, waving my homemade gaderffii menacingly at any outsider who dared venture into that establishment…
Ask anybody in that neighbourhood at that time and they would testify to that end..
“They had a guy wandering around in a dog suit. It was ridiculous” – Harrison Ford.
“I got the job of this movie with the caveat that I lose ten pounds… I was terrified they were going to look at me and say: ‘Bring in Jodie Foster and get that fat girl outta here!'” – Carrie Fisher.