Not going out on a big limb here predicting Star Wars: The Force Awakens will set all sorts of box office records (people are probably lining up RIGHT NOW!) and it will end up making more money that the current box office champ, Avatar. It will be nominated for Best Picture, but that’s it: no noms for directing, acting, writing—but it will sweep the technical awards (Sound Design, etc.).
The first trilogy (second, if you’re doing them—forget it, it’s too labor-intensive) should perhaps be called the First Trinity, so sacrosanct are these films (not Yoda-talk there). They have that whole Joseph Campbell-thing going for them (something never applied to the second (?) (first?) trilogy, but there is something that’s never been discussed, a plot hole so big you could fly a Death Star through it, the bantha in the room no one (to my knowledge) has ever talked about. Forget “Who shot first?” and the Kessel Run: this is the one that pretty much makes you question everything in the series. And, ironically enough, it occurs at the most dramatic point of the “best” film in the series (so far).
It is conveniently located in Chapter 46 of both the Blu-ray and DVD editions of Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Don’t know where it is if you’re watching a bootleg. If you’re watching a VHS… DVD players are not that expensive anymore.
Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader are fighting on the inexplicably-placed and functionally-dubious balcony-ledge underneath Cloud City. Luke’s gotten a few good licks in but Darth gets the upper hand (all puns intended). Luke is clinging to a spire, for once where being whiny serves him well, and Darth says, Okay, Stumpy—I mean Lefty-I mean, Luke, come to the Dark Side. We have full medical and dental—look at me! Plus a 401K, tuition reimbursement… Luke says no and Darth says, “Obi-Wan never told you about your father” and Luke says, “He told me enough! He told me you killed my father!” And Darth says—
We remember this line delivery as all over-the-top dramatic, and that’s the way everyone says it, but unless it’s (another) George Lucas retcon, the delivery is soft, calm, quiet, matter-of-fact, almost casual. Darth leans toward Luke and says—
—“Luke, I am you father…”
What did Darth know and when did he know it? And how did he know it?
For as we learned from the
prequels/sequels/other three movies, great pains were taken to keep him from knowing he had children. So who else knew?
Obi-Wan, of course; he was the one who hid them, in the worst twin study ever. (One child is adopted by royalty, the other by… moisture farmers. On a desert planet. Not saying you can’t make a living that way, not saying it’s gonna be easy.)
Said adoptive parents. (How does Luke get and aunt and uncle when he father was an only child—the original Little Orphan Ani.)
The Emperor. (Did he tell Darth?)
Yoda. (Who must have subscribed to the Twitter feed.)
Now, before we continue, we must discuss “reel life” verses “real life.”
In “reel life” we have The Star Wars Saga, (almost) worshiped by some as… something to be worshiped. In real life we have a series of movies that (some) people have come to (almost) worship. Fact is, George Lucas originally envisioned a series of nine movies but the studio wasn’t sure what to do with even one. So they said they’d let him make one movie and see how that worked out. So of the nine ideas GL chose one from the “middle” of the story and he chose to play things both ways: if there were to be more movies, he’d leave things loose enough so there’s be a launching pad for sequels. And if this was going to be the only movie, then things would be pretty much wrapped up. (Luke gets his wish, Han redeems himself, the Empire is destroyed (presumably), the budding love triangle gets resolved somehow, off-screen. Everything that followed was an attempt to tie up all these loose ends.
The biggest of which is…
What to do with Leia.
Examples: Obi-Wan knew who she was, but he never told Luke, nor made any attempt to check him when Luke was gushing about how beautiful she was in the hologram. (Sure, you might think your sister is beautiful, too, but you ain’t gonna say it like that.)
When Luke flies off to “meet his destiny,” Obi-Wan says, from the Great Beyond, “Well, there goes our last hope, we’re boned now,” and Yoda says, “No, there is another.” Like Obi-Wan forgot all about her.
Leia is constantly trying to keep Han off-guard, usually by kissing someone. Most often, her brother. (When Darth tells Luke (Chapter 46) to look inside himself and he will see what he says is true… Why didn’t Luke sense something about Darth before? Why didn’t he and Leia sense “something” about each other? In the first movie when Darth says, “The Force is strong in thins one” when he couldn’t get a fix on him in his TIE fighter, didn’t he sense something then? (And why didn’t he just turn off the computer—since he had such a casual view about technology anyway—and use the Force to cap Luke? And since it was obvious Darth and Leia had crossed paths before… If DV could sense the Force in Luke who knows how far away in a dogfight, he couldn’t sense it in his own daughter, standing right in front of him?
(And as long as we’re talking about the Force… if Obi-Wan could sense “millions of voices” suddenly crying out “OH SH*T!!!!!” halfway across the galaxy so sharply it buckled his knees… How come Luke just goes, “Huh? What was that?” and if it could pimp-slap Obi-Wan at that distance, how come it didn’t do anything to Darth and Leia and they were in orbit right above it?)
Leia is the descendant of one of the most powerful Jedi ever; yet her powers are so latent they only emerge when the plot calls for it: she senses Luke hanging below Cloud City, she can grab Han’s blaster with her mind, without formal training. This makes her a more formidable Force-conduit than Luke. But does she get her own lightsaber? Does she get to go off to Jedi School?
If Star Wars was The Brady Bunch, Luke would be Marsha and Leia would be Jan. even on his death bed, DV said nothing about Leia, not even a “Tell you sister I’m sorry about the needle droid. And Alderaan.”
It’s been said that the true appeal of Star Wars is that it’s modern-day mythology. It touches upon and teaches universal truths—the hero’s journey, the rogue’s redemption, the triumph of right over might—and that is what we respond to: “Along time ago, in a galaxy far away” is just another way of saying, “Once upon a time…” Myths have their own logic, not bound by the cause-and-effect we deal with in our everyday lives. Why does Cinderella keep running away from the prince? Because she wants him to want her for “who she really is,” not just because she’s the fairest maiden at the ball. But in real life, how long would you let a rich guy chase you before you let him catch you? (Exhibit A: Janet Jackson. Exhibit B: Eve—her husband’s name is “Maxi-million!)
In the end, though, it’s all a matter of did you get caught up in the story? Whether it’s a mind trick or a mind meld, in a far-away galaxy or on the final frontier, what really matters is that, for a couple of hours at least, you were part of something special. What you do with it after the credits roll, well, that’s another story.