Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review: Star Wars (1977), dir. George Lucas

The following review is spoiler free and is meant to be read BEFORE seeing the movie, as opposed to the upcoming podcast episode, which will contain spoilers and an in-depth discussion of this movie

There is nothing inherently wrong with clichés and tired conventions. Familiar situations and characters make us feel comfortable, and they also help to ease us into unfamiliar and strange settings. This is why so many fantasy characters are introduced as standard archetypes: we have an easier time adjusting to a strange and unusual fantasy setting if there are characters around who are easier to identify with. You have the farm boy, his mentor, the rogue, his sidekick, the princess, and the villain.*

Star Wars is one of the last classic movies because it takes on these clichés without ironically commenting on them or subverting them just for the sake of subverting them. Star Wars is a sincere adventure film in the spirit of old adventure films, and the setting, music, and atmosphere all serve to make us invest in the adventure taking place: stolen data tapes are the MacGuffin, a Death Star the main threat, and the freedom of an entire galaxy is on the line!

George Lucas’ dialogue is wooden at best and his direction is ingenious at times and infuriating at others (look at the framing and staging of any scenes involving humans versus the ones involving models and SFX and you may see which scenes he took more care in directing). And yet, much like Christopher Nolan’s films, I’m willing to forgive everything that’s wrong with Star Wars because so much of it is done so very well. After all, much like Inception is a conventional heist film wrapped in a psychological drama/sci-fi hybrid, Star Wars is a traditional adventure story wrapped in a sci-fi/fantasy hybrid. The common thread is that these films love their source material and never lose sight of why the original works were so good in the first place.

*Once we are acclimated to the strange fantasy setting, these archetypes are played with and turned around. But this happens in later films.


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