matril: (matril)
And now we come to the finale. I was born in 1981 and this film came out in 1983, so it's the first Star Wars movie released in my lifetime. I don't remember actually seeing it in the theater, but I remember that Star Wars was everywhere. Everyone knew what an Ewok was even though the name is never spoken in the actual film. Everyone was playing with lightsabers and trying to imitate Darth Vader's deep tones. My sister and I would wear my parents' oversized t-shirts as makeshift costumes and pretend we were Luke and Leia.

Well, enough nostalgia. I still love this movie as an adult, not just because of the fond childhood memories it brings. This is the conclusion of a great saga, and it nicely resolves the conflicts and questions left dangling by previous films. Han is rescued, Luke's parentage is confirmed, he confronts Vader and the Emperor, the Rebellion triumphs over the Empire. It's such a optimistic, life-affirming story. It's not naïve. Evil does exist, and all too often it threatens to overcome us. But we can prevail. Goodness can and should win.

Oh, how I love Han's rescue. It's so subversive that most people don't even recognize it. Leia is the brave hero, boldly charging into the underworld to save her beloved from the clutches of his captor. Han is helpless, at least initially, feeble as a baby as he is reborn. They're living out a fairy tale but the roles have been reversed. How rare is it that we get to see a man playing the part of the vulnerable one needing help? It really transforms Han's character. It doesn't make him weaker by any means. It shows that he is no longer a loner, spurning any kind of connectedness. He has become part of a family, a community of friends, someone who understands the value of forming caring relationships and who is bolstered by those relationships in turn.

And the sequence in Jabba's palace isn't just about romance. It's also about friendship, about Luke and Chewie and Lando and Leia dropping everything else in their lives so they can rescue one man. They've been fighting to restore freedom to the galaxy (or in Lando's case, running an entire city), and they've had heroics on a large scale. But small-scale heroics are no less important. If they didn't bother to save this one man who means so much to them, we would think far less of them as heroes. It's great, too, how they all appear one by one in different guises, keeping us guessing about who's going to show up when and how. The droids as decoys, Leia's bounty hunter disguise, Chewie as her captive, Lando under the mask among Jabba's cronies, and finally Luke's ominous appearance, rife with imagery that hints at his potential darkness.

Jabba the Hutt is a fantastic creation, the very epitome of repulsiveness, greed and excess. If someone made me wear that horrifying metal bikini, I'd want to strangle him too. :P (Ever seen that cartoon of Leia in that humiliating outfit, protesting to a smirking not-Han and not-Chewie (because the real Han and Chewie would never do this) that they rescued her hours ago and should let her change? That fills me with such fury, I can't even express. First of all, SHE rescued HAN. Secondly, he would never demean her like that, and thirdly, if anyone tried to, hah - you don't want to be on the wrong end of Leia's wrath. They just don't get it at all.)

So then we get the build-up for the big final battle. The Emperor shows up in all his cackling evil, and we get a stronger sense of the power play previously established in his one conversation with Vader in Episode V. Luke is set up to be a pawn between them, at least the way the Emperor presents it. Vader's motivations are little more cryptic. But meanwhile, we have Yoda's acknowledgement that he is in fact Luke's father, and that he must confront him to truly become a Jedi. (It would appear that in lieu of a formal trial, dueling with a Sith Lord is a de facto way to ascend from Padawan to Jedi. It worked for Obi-Wan and Anakin, so why not Luke as well? ;) Yoda's death scene is heartrending. Even the ancient master still has weaknesses - a reluctance to admit the shattering truth about Vader, as he tries to avoid the question. Luke acknowledges and apologizes for his own weakness in acting rashly, before he was ready. It's clear that his first confrontation with Vader was a crucible that has changed him greatly - he is more sober-minded, more contemplative and careful. But of course he is still riddled with doubts, and so lonely.

Yet he is bold and unapologetic as he calls out Obi-Wan on the lie about his father. Obi-Wan, I believe, genuinely feels that he told the right amount of truth at the right time. Certainly for him, Anakin had died a long time ago. But he sure has to engage in verbal gymnastics to talk his way out of it. And then we learn Leia is the other Skywalker; at least, if you haven't already seen Episode III. It was never a spoiler for me because I don't remember learning it for the first time. I always knew it, just like I always knew Vader was their father. It feels very mythic to me, the twins separated at birth, their destinies somehow entwined even across galactic distances.

I love everything in the Rebellion battle plans. Mon Mothma - if only we could have had more of her! - Ackbar, delightfully alien yet so earnest and genuine even with a giant fish head, the unexplained tragedy of the Bothan spies, Lando being a fully-dedicated general for the Rebel cause, Han being the leader of the strike force, and all his friends gladly volunteering to serve with him. I just love these characters so much.

Oh, how I love the scene between Luke and Leia on the bridge. Luke knows what he must do, to protect his friends if nothing else, but he knows how hard it will be for Leia. The tantalizing mention of her memories of their mother was, for many years, the only knowledge we had of Anakin's wife. How does she know anything when she was born right before Padmé died? Eh, I don't know. I like to attribute it to some sort of mystic Force power, coupled with her adoptive parents telling her whatever vague things they could safely tell her about her mother.
Leia is heartbroken trying to process all of this. And then Han, showing his maturity, fights back the jealousy that would have previously driven him away, and instead gives Leia the unconditional love she needs.

Luke's connection to Vader has only deepened. He senses him right away on the command ship, and his greatest concern is that he's endangering the mission and his friends. That whole scene is fraught with incredible tension and emotion. They get through to the moon, but it seems it's only because Vader let them. Another trap for Luke? We're left waiting, wondering. We're offered a little hint of the Emperor's blind spot where Luke is concerned, revealed when he is surprised that Vader sensed Luke - "Strange that I have not." He has no inkling of the bond between parent and child. To him, the only relationships that matter are master and apprentice, and enemy versus enemy. This will prove his downfall.

He underestimated the Ewoks as well. I love what they do, thematically, in ROTJ. They are small, with no advanced technology, and thus immediately dismissed. What the Empire never accounted for was that they attacked their home. They don't understand what it means to have your very home threatened, what kind of fire that can light underneath you. And the power of will and courage can't be measured through usual means. Of course it's quite fanciful, even a little silly, to see technological behemoths taken down by rocks and arrows, but it's symbolic of something great. The Rebels don't make the Empire's mistake of disdaining and dismissing the Ewoks simply at face value. They recognize the importance of alliances, of connectedness, of never being too prideful to seek help wherever they can find it. It's symbiance all over again. Working with nature instead of against it. The Emperor, a parasite by nature, never saw that one coming.

It is pretty scary when he springs the trap, though. Any complaints that this attack on a second Death Star seemed too easy, too pat a solution, are addressed by the idea that the Emperor made it that way on purpose to lure them in. And while the large-scale struggle between Imperial and Rebel ships rages outside, he focuses on the deeply-personal battle for Luke's soul.

Does Vader give any signs of his own inner conflict? Out loud, he denies it, but little slips here and there indicate otherwise. On Endor's moon, he responds to Luke's pleas with sharpness, showing he's truly rattled. And why wouldn't he be? When Luke says "Come with me," he must see a shadow of Padmé's face saying similar words. And at the last he declares, not that he doesn't want to return to the good side, but that it is too late for him. As Luke is led away, Vader is left alone. In a bit of extraordinary non-verbal acting from David Prowse, we can guess at the turmoil hiding behind the mask.

Then, on the Death Star, Luke continues to plead, refusing to fight. He's not impervious to the Emperor's taunts. He struggles, occasionally lashing out, but mostly on the defensive. It is only when Vader probes and discovers the secret Luke most wanted to hide that his rage flares up. It would have made sense to Vader. Fear for his loved ones drew him to the Dark Side, why not the same for Luke? The moment with Luke's blade hovering at Vader's throat is heart-wrenching. He's so close. He's at the verge of the path his father followed. And then he sees the stub of Vader's mechanical hand - clenches his own - and everything becomes clear. He tosses away his weapon. He honors his father, the Jedi, and repudiates everything in opposition to that. He's already won. Of course we don't want Luke to die, but better that than the shackles of the Dark Side. He's so heroic here, so at peace, I can't help but cheer every time I watch it.

Anakin's reemergence is, of course, the crowning moment. Again some great non-verbal acting here, as he looks from his son to Palaptine and back for those excruciating moments of indecision, until he steps forward to save his son and save his own soul in the process.

It is never too late. It's always better not to choose darkness in the first place, of course, and better to turn back early if you do, but never, never give up. Luke's unrelenting hope is the crux of the story, the backbone of their victory. What a powerful scene between him and his unmasked father. "I've got to save you." "You already have. Tell you sister...you were right." Whoever would have guessed the bombast of the Imperial March would convert to a soft, mournful dirge? Perfection.

Leia and Han are stronger than ever. The "I love you" "I know" that echoes the one in Episode V is a great indicator of their deepening relationship. It's not a desperate and dramatic confession; it's a comfortable assurance of what they both already know. And when Han still isn't sure where he stands because of Luke, his willingness to step aside is wonderful. True unselfishness is crucial for their relationship to work, and Han has shown he has it. It's fun to see his realization and relief, of course.

After that, we have a beautiful wordless finish. The funeral pyre, the rising flames and Luke's serious but peaceful face always give me goosebumps. Then the celebration, the unapologetic joy and glee at a galaxy finally made free again. Friends draw close together, the spirits of loved ones past are watching, and the music soars into the triumph of the Star Wars march. Maybe I'll just go back and watch them all again. It's a galaxy I never want to leave.
matril: (matril)
This movie tears me into pieces. I can't say that watching it fills me with glee the way the other episodes do, because it's just too heartbreaking. As it should be. If the original trilogy is a traditional hero's journey, the prequels are more like a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy. It is the tale of a hero's downfall, of the fatal flaws that lead to his doom.

In Anakin I can see shades of all the big Shakespearean tragic heroes. Romeo - he acts rashly, letting his emotions control him. Othello - his jealousy over an imagined infidelity makes him monstrous. Hamlet - he is tortured by inner doubts and the inability to be sure of the right course of action. Macbeth - his ambition destroys everything of value in his life. Padmé could be similarly compared to Juliet (secret marriage to a guy who gets in serious trouble), Desdemona (unfairly accused of betrayal by her husband) and Opehlia (can't function anymore when the man she loves goes off the deep end). If you want to find Lady Macbeth, though, you'll see more similarities with Palpatine than Padmé.

In any case, the thing about a tragic hero is that they start out good. That's why their downfall is so painful to watch. And it comes about through a flaw that is initially a virtue, only to be twisted into something destructive. Anakin is passionate, fiercely loyal, and determined to be the best Jedi he can possibly be. Through a variety of circumstances and accelerated by Palpatine's machinations, those traits turn into wrath, jealousy, and violent ambition.

But first of all, what a fantastic opening scene! When we saw this at the midnight premiere, our son Luke was just two years old and we weren't sure if he'd be able to sit through the entire movie. Well, as it turned out, he couldn't, but that was only later when the dialogue-heavy scenes started. He was completely riveted during the beginning battle sequence. It's non-stop action, exciting and visually stunning and at times quite funny. There's some great character-developing moments with Anakin and Obi-Wan - Anakin is in his element, flying complicated patterns, while Obi-Wan would just like to get the job done and over with. But they make a great team, and it's clear they've been battle partners many times before. Anakin's stubborn insistence on not leaving Obi-Wan behind is particularly poignant.

Yet the whole daring rescue is a sham, as we know that Palpatine is never in any real peril from the puppets whose strings he holds. His responses to the Dooku/Anakin/Obi-Wan fight are subtler versions of the Emperor's gleeful cackles during the Vader/Luke duel in Episode VI. And how skillfully he plays Anakin. At first, it seems that Anakin has learned his lesson from the brutal maiming Dooku gave him in the last film. He doesn't try to attack him alone; he works with Obi-Wan. But when Obi-Wan is knocked unconscious, Dooku's taunts lead him closer to the Dark Side, and it's compounded by Palpatine's insistence that Anakin kill him. Oh boy, the look on Dooku's face right then. He's just now realized, too late, that he's about to be replaced. A large part of Anakin knows he should have kept Dooku alive to be properly put on trial, but Palpatine is there to soothe his tormented conscience and offer all sorts of justifications for why it was acceptable. Palpatine also knows that Anakin is much more vulnerable without Obi-Wan around to counsel him, and from this point on he will be making concerted efforts to get Obi-Wan out of the way. He doesn't succeed this time, with Anakin's fierce loyalty insisting otherwise, but Palpatine will find another way.

I think Grievous makes a great MacGuffin villain. He's really just a distraction - for the Republic and the Jedi, an excuse to keep the war going even though Dooku is dead, and for Obi-Wan, a wild goose chase to go on while Anakin is left, frustrated and confused, on Coruscant. He's an extreme example of the "more machine than man." Meanwhile, his defeat is temporarily satisfying but ultimately meaningless.

Palpatine really knows how to drive a wedge between Anakin and the Jedi Council. Constantly telling him they don't appreciate him, no one appreciates his powers except good old Palpatine - classic abuser language, isolating the victim from all other supports. Appointing Anakin as his representative on the Council when he knows the Jedi won't make him a Master, thus pushing the wedge in further. Encouraging suspicions on both sides, so that Anakin doesn't trust the Council, they don't trust him, and they're all so busy glowering at each other that they don't recognize the puppetmaster.

It's pretty painful watching Padmé and Anakin's relationship deteriorate as well. Palpatine has made sure he's become hypersensitive at the thought of being used like a tool by the Council, so when Padmé also suggests he talk to Palpatine, he responds with disproportionate anger. He doesn't communicate his problems to her, probably out of fear that the Council might be right about Palpatine, or about him, or any number of anxieties that he's just not dealing with a healthy way. Padmé is right that the war "represents a failure to listen" and that poor communication isn't just happening on a galactic level. It's right there between individuals, between Anakin and Padmé, between Anakin and Obi-Wan, and all over the place in the Senate.

Self-fulfilling prophecies. Ugh. This one's really hard. Anakin tries so hard to prevent Padmé's death he actually brings it about. Straight out of classical Greek tragedies. You can't stop fate; you can't stop the suns from setting. But what if Anakin hadn't turned to the Dark Side? Could he in fact have prevented that dream from becoming reality? "Always in motion, the future is," Yoda told Luke. Maybe if he had said that to Anakin, instead of insisting that he let go of everything, Anakin might have reacted differently. Who knows? Sure, you have to accept the reality of death, but that doesn't mean you can just happily cut off all connections to everyone. Judging from Yoda's anguished reaction when he senses the deaths of the Jedi during Order 66, he wasn't so blithely easy about all his friends dying either.

Palpatine's monologue at the opera is wonderfully chilling. He's starting to steer Anakin toward moral relativism. If you could prevent death, even create life, wouldn't you want to access that power? Who cares if it's called the Dark Side? The ends justify the means. And later, when Palpatine actually reveals himself as the Sith, he has that line that just makes me shudder about "understanding the mystery." It reminds me of Saruman, a good wizard whose studies of the enemy went too far and too deep, until he became himself a servant of evil. Pursuing evil studies in the name of knowledge sounds reasonable at first, but it leads down a path of destruction.

"Are you going to kill me?" Palpatine asks him forthrightly. And Anakin wants to; he is furious at being deceived, probably also recognizing that the Council was right in distrusting him. But he can't stop clinging to the chance of gaining power over death.

He fights it. He neither kills nor joins Palpatine, but leaves to inform the Council of the truth. That's the right thing to do, what he should have done with Dooku, and he wants to be satisfied with his choice. But he can't. Because Mace Windu responds in kind of the worst way. He tells Anakin he'll take care of it, and sends him away. Tells him that if and only if what he says turns out to be true, Anakin will finally have earned Mace's trust. No praise or thanks, just a grim "go sit in your corner and someday I might let you do grown-up things." Anakin probably knows that Mace intends to kill Palpatine. How it must gnaw at him that he's been criticized and mistrusted for so long, only to see a head of the Council go and do the thing Anakin forced himself not to do. And he sits there in the Council chamber, his thoughts inevitably going to the impending fulfillment of his nightmare, the loss of Padmé, and the terror that he's about to lose his last chance to save her. He's wrong, terribly, terribly wrong, but he's also confused and lost and needs someone to talk to him. Instead, he's alone with his dark thoughts.

So he springs into reckless action, arguing with Mace not to summarily execute Palpatine and getting nothing reasonable in return. He attacks in desperation, without deliberation, a bit like Hamlet stabbing Polonius through the curtain. He hasn't fully turned to the Dark Side yet because he's full of remorse. Remorse is a horrible feeling. There's only two ways to deal with it - either acknowledge your wrong and work to never do it again, which is a long, difficult process; or deny that it was wrong to begin with and kill your conscience. Palpatine makes sure to heavily encourage the latter approach. He soothes Anakin, tells him he did just what he should have, and thus promises instant relief from the pangs of remorse. Anakin seizes at it, and begins to embrace the death of his morality. Tells himself that if he can only save Padmé, it will justify everything else. So he does exactly what his Master tells him, clutching at that false promise as a shield against the horror of his choice.

Temptation comes in two forms, I believe. The first is the idea that it's not that serious, it's no big deal. Palpatine lays this on pretty thick for the first part of the film. But the second is more insidious (punny, hah hah). Evil is very serious, it's a huge deal, and once you've done it there's no going back. This is what drives Anakin, I believe, after his initial turn to the Dark Side. He just helped to murder a member of the Jedi Order. Could he ever go back from that? It's too awful. He's past the point of no return. All lies, but he believes them and considers himself irredeemable. Then, as he goes deeper, he begins to revel in it and doesn't want to turn back. It's only several decades later that his remorse begins to visibly reemerge, but he still holds to the notion that "it's too late for me" until Luke helps him see otherwise. But I'm getting ahead of myself!

This is the only PG-13 Star Wars film, but most of its horrors are emotional and psychological rather than visually graphic. Probably the most gruesome part is Anakin's mangled body, which is pretty nightmarish, but a lot of the other stuff is understated, implied rather than shown in all its horrible detail. We see Jedi fall, and it's a kick to the gut, but there's not lots of splattering blood and guts. Just Yoda, gasping in anguish, and the quiet, elegiac score in the background. Anakin killing younglings was horrifying, though we are left only to imagine it while Padmé's sobs provide a emotional backdrop for what just happened.

It's too bad Padmé's role in this film was curtailed so much (I definitely like the deleted scenes on the DVD of her meetings with the founders of the proto-Rebellion) but it's an effective symbol of what Anakin's increasingly unhealthy behavior has done to her. He's not abusive at all in Episode II; he's quite respectful of her space and never tries to trample on her wants and needs and emotions. But over the course of Episode III, he becomes increasingly monstrous toward her. First, he is only distant, reluctant to communicate with her. Then he shuts down her advice and suggestions, refusing to allow her side of the story. And by the time he has committed to the Dark Side, he treats her like a foolish child, only telling partial truths and offering hollow assurances.

And the confrontation on Mustafar. Sob. Anakin has been quite twisted by the Dark Side at this point, so everything Padmé says is filtered through his anger, suspicion and jealousy. He has become the prototypical abuser, and it ultimately leads to a physical attack. Obi-Wan does choose the worst possible moment to show up, of course. The guy means well, but he has no idea how to deal with a Dark Side Anakin. He tries to reason with him, to prove logically that he's followed the wrong course. But Anakin doesn't need accusations; he needs love and concern. Though honestly I don't know that there's anything anyone could have done at that point to help Anakin.

Obviously Obi-Wan is in a bad place too. He's just found out that his apprentice, a man like a brother, has massacred the Jedi at the temple and sworn his services to a Sith Lord. He's hurt, horrified. He doesn't want to kill Anakin. But seeing him strangle Padmé, I'm guessing, fills him with fresh purpose. He probably convinces himself that the Anakin he knew is gone, and now he must fight the enemy. It's the only way he can bring himself to fight against his old friend.

I think Ewan Mcgregor does a fantastic job of channeling Alec Guiness in this film. He was already well on the way in the previous episodes, but it's here that he truly becomes the Obi-Wan we know from Episode IV. From the voice to the mannerisms to the reserved, thoughtful demeanor, he is Obi-Wan, with all his strengths and flaws. One of my favorite bits from him (because it breaks my heart) is when they realize the younglings were killed with a lightsaber and he says "Who?" in this broken voice. "Who could have done this?" Gets me every time. And then of course when he cries out in anguish, "You were my brother, Anakin! I loved you!" Past tense. Anakin is dead. He can't stay and watch him burn. Yoda probably would have told him to stay and make sure he was dead. Maybe Obi-Wan regrets that in the years to come as Vader becomes a figure of dread in the galaxy, but I don't think he ever could have taken the final blow to kill him.

I'm iffy on Padmé's death - lost the will to live? I'd rather they had something about her heart giving out; her systems shutting down, because extreme emotional blows can have devastating effects on the body's ability to function, particularly with the added stress of pregnancy - and childbirth doesn't look that way, lying flat on one's back - but I do very much appreciate the intercuts of the twin's births and Vader's birth, her death and essentially Anakin's death. Also, "there is good in him" with her dying breath, an emotional birthright that is passed on to her son. I've always thought that, in many ways, Luke and Padmé are more like each other, and Anakin and Leia, rather than the other way around. But that's probably a discussion for another time.

I was a big fan of Bail Organa after this film. His opposition to Palpatine's ascension, his immediate support of the Jedi when they are betrayed, his determination to do the right thing no matter what - we can see Leia inherited a lot from her adoptive parents as well. And it makes it all the sadder that we know Alderaan will be destroyed.

The Yoda and Palpatine duel was great as well, though of course not as emotionally riveting as the companion duel on Mustafar. Destroying the Senate chamber is a pretty obvious metaphor for Palpatine's rule of the galaxy. And he's in full open evil mode now, cackling and glorying in the violence. No more friendly, mild-mannered Chancellor, no more subtlety. When Yoda gets a genuinely scared look, you know things are serious.

The ending. Ah, the ending. It makes the end of Episode V look bright and cheery. Padmé is dead, Anakin has become Vader, the Jedi are few, scattered, forced into hiding, and the twins who will ultimately bring hope are only babies. But there is hope, and the concluding scenes on Alderaan and Tatooine are perfect. The music, the visuals, the wistful faces and the gazes toward the horizon - yes, yes, and yes. And then I must immediately go and watch Episode VI. It's just too unbearable otherwise.

One more to go!
matril: (matril)
There were only three years of real time between Episodes I and II, but within the storyline ten years had passed. This is a much larger gap than any of the others within each of the trilogies. And I like the details that show us what has changed. Padmé is a Senator now, still passionate about politics but now on a galactic level. Anakin is a teenaged Padawan, moodier than he was as a cheerful child, and far more consciously skilled in the Force.

The elevator scene that introduces both him and Obi-Wan shows a glimpse at their ten-year history, the dynamic of Master and Padawan that has improved greatly since Obi-Wan first took him as his apprentice only to satisfy Qui-Gon's dying wish. It's still problematic, though. Obi-Wan seems to see Anakin more as a brother, while Anakin really needs a father figure. Hence his susceptibility to Palpatine's influence, who's only too glad to play the role of a benevolent fatherly mentor. We also find that Anakin hasn't seen Padmé since the last film and he's quite nervous about this meeting. So it sets up both the beginning of his inner turmoil as well as his romance with Padmé. Not bad for a couple of minutes in an elevator.

I like that Jar Jar is in the Senate as well. It indicates that the Gungans are no longer isolationist and that their alliance with the Naboo wasn't just a temporary emergency measure. The planet of Naboo ought to have representatives from both its sentient races, after all. And the fact that Palpatine will manipulate Jar Jar into granting him emergency powers - the powers that will lead directly to the establishment of the Empire - is just so wonderfully ironic. Jar Jar is led to believe that he's doing what Padmé would do in her absence, and he is sadly mistaken. This "little bitty accidenty" is far more serious than the one that got him exiled from the Gungans. I've had vague plans of writing post-Episode III fanfic about Jar Jar, agonized with guilt as he realizes the role he played in Palpatine's rise to power, and wandering the galaxy as a perpetual exile. So, yeah. Anyway.

Once again, I think the title is fantastic. We were all anticipating clones, what with Obi-Wan's mention of the Clone Wars way back in Episode IV, but Attack of the Clones? Heh. Marvelously cheesy. And a nice parallel, I think to The Empire Strikes Back. Both very pulpish titles. And once again we have a dual-stranded plot, with a Jedi going off on a quest alone while the other two key characters go into hiding and fall in love. Nice symmetry!

I like Anakin and Padmé's romance. A lot of their dialogue is kind of goofy, but I think it suits their characters. Padmé has been surrounded by well-speaking politicians her whole life. She would find it refreshing for someone to talk to her in stumbling, uncertain in-eloquence, wouldn't she? They're both of them socially weird. Padmé started training to serve in the political arena before she was even a teenager. Her last kiss was when she was twelve, and it was quite a short-lived romance since they parted ways to pursue different career paths. At age twelve. Anakin, meanwhile, spent his childhood as a slave before being sequestered within the Jedi Order and trained to cut off all connections to everyone and everything. It's going to be an awkward courtship; there's just no way around it.

But what I love is that Padmé never hesitates to tell Anakin what is acceptable or not, and he always respects it. She expresses regret for kissing him; he apologizes and backs off. She starts flirting with him again, the mood turns more serious, and he confesses his feelings. She tells him it can't happen, with plenty of reasons why. He is unhappy, but he accepts it. He doesn't pursue her again until she confesses her love before their entry into the arena.

I love that their obstacles aren't external. Padmé could retire from the political sphere; she's certainly put in enough years serving her people. And Anakin could leave the Jedi Order and lead a private life with Padmé. Those are real options, but they never consider them. They care too much about following their life passions. And yet those same passions are keeping them from the one other thing they want - each other.

They aren't interested in having a fling, either. Neither of them would consider that an acceptable outlet for the depth of their feelings. When they do decide the risks are worth it, they fully commit to it, in the form of getting married. Nothing less would satisfy them.

Obi-Wan's plotline is fun too. Solving a mystery isn't really something that comes up in the original trilogy, because evil is right there out in the open. No hidden conspiracies to uncover. But here, we descend into seedy underworlds of assassins and bounty hunters, to a planet that has been removed from a tampered archive. We glean little bits and pieces of the mystery - supposedly a Jedi ordered a clone army? - Jango Fett is the template for the clones, hired by an unknown "Tyrannus"? - and then he's in league somehow with the Separatists on Geonosis where their droid army is manufactured. But how do all the pieces fit together?

Palpatine only shows up in his Sidious guise at the very end, and it's chilling to finally see all the pieces coming together. That he actually fabricated an entire war - that he is playing both sides against each other - that he uses the greed of entities like the Trade Federation to generate discord - that he arranged the clone army to be created because it would just be too much of a temptation not to use it and engage in full-scale war against the Separatists - and that every battle, whoever wins or loses, is a victory for him. He can't lose, as long as the war persists and he accrues more and more power. Sheesh. That's one scary web. What a spider.

The sequence on Tatooine is heartbreaking and chilling. As Anakin speeds against the backdrop of the suns dropping below the horizon, I can't help hearing Shmi's words from Episode I: "But you can't stop the change, any more than you can stop the suns from setting." He didn't heed her warning. He is determined to fight against death, fate, whatever mighty powers he opposes. And it leads to a very dark path. That scene in the garage with Padmé is gut-wrenching. I can see her wavering, wondering if she should comfort him or run as far as she can. And maybe she should have run....but at that moment, reminding him that he has more light than darkness is the thing he needs to pull him back from the brink. His son will do a similar thing decades later. Sniffle.

Anakin is whiny. Yes, he should be. Darth Vader comes across as awesome and imposing because he's so powerful and striking...but a lot of his behavior could really be seen as Dark Side-enhanced temper tantrums. I mean, come on - there's nothing mature about strangling his underlings every time they make a mistake. It's petty, and that side of him is beginning to manifest in Episode II. At this point he's still trying to fight it, to be the better version of himself, but when the Dark Side allows him to enact his whims with apparent impunity, the temptation is too great. Just one temptation of many that will be his downfall.

Foreshadowing! When Anakin is willing to jeopardize their entire mission to bring down Dooku during the battle of Geonosis, so he can go back and rescue Padmé. And his bitter "she would do her duty" to Obi-Wan's question of what Padmé would do in his place - it's just so fraught with all the implications of their relationship and their conflicting priorities.

Of course I greatly enjoyed seeing Yoda fight, but Obi-Wan and Anakin's duel with Dooku is also crucial for characterization and foreshadowing. Just a great contrast of Anakin's rashness and arrogance with Obi-Wan's more careful, reasoned responses. Neither of them are a match for Dooku, alas. I'm intrigued by the Master-Padawan chain established here: Yoda - Dooku - Qui-Gon - Obi-Wan - Anakin.

The ending gives me goosebumps. We start on Coruscant, the center of the galaxy, where massive starships and thousands of soldiers are gathering to begin a vast, far-reaching Separatist war. (Bail Organa's role in this movie is much smaller than his expanded part in Episode III, but I adore the moment he gets here, just a quiet expression of sad regret and foreboding while everyone else is looking on in triumph). But then we cut to the wedding, a quiet ceremony on a remote obscure planet with no one but two droids as witnesses. And yet this moment, this beginning of the Skywalker famiy, will have much farther-reaching consequences than any galactic war. This is the crux of the saga - a little family that dooms and then saves the galaxy.
matril: (matril)
And here we have the much-maligned first prequel episode. I'm pretty sure after all that build-up and anticipation, it would have been impossible to meet anyone's expectations completely. But I'm not going to dwell on other people's complaints. I've seen this movie probably about 50 times, 10 in the theater (we had a super-cheap theater at college that had showings of the film several months after its initial release - there's no way I could have afforded it otherwise). I was always a Star Wars fanatic, but this movie and the promise of more launched me into new levels of crazed fandom.

By sheer coincidence, my own life kind of mirrored the events of the prequels. In 1999 I started college, leaving home with mingled excitement and trepidation just like Anakin (though thankfully several years older, which explains why I didn't turn to the Dark Side ;) In 2002 I got married just like Anakin and Padmé (except we didn't have to hide it from our family and friends) and in 2005 Emma was born, bringing our family to four just like the Skywalker family (with the slight difference that no one went nuts and joined the side of evil, leaving the rest of us to die or go into hiding). Okay, maybe it's kind of a stretch. Whatever, it resonated with me.

I like that Anakin is an innocent little kid. It sets up his downfall much more subtly than if he were a punk who liked shoplifting and pushing old ladies. Why would we care about Anakin's downfall if he started out bad? And the fact that he's at such a vulnerable age explains a lot. He's old enough to have formed a powerful bond with his mother, but young enough that he's not really ready to be separated from her. Because of his huge potential and the possibility that he's the Chosen One, Qui-Gon thinks it's worth it to make an exception. And maybe he's right. But the situation is so far from ideal. And I know that child actors can have uneven performances, but there's some moments from Jake Lloyd that, I think, are pitch-perfect. When he says goodbye to his mother, it gets me every time.

Qui-Gon is an intriguing character. He's not a cynical scoundrel like Han; he's very principled and determined to do the right thing. But he's a maverick. He doesn't follow the establishment just because it's the establishment. He goes his own way, whatever the consequences. I've often thought that while Luke Skywalker is an avatar for young George Lucas, Qui-Gon is an apt older version of Lucas. The establishment acknowledges him as accomplished and impressive in his field, but just can't figure out why he won't conform. And it's very telling that Qui-Gon doesn't survive the movie. His way is not a safe one. It stands as a warning to the Jedi Council in their complacency, so certain that the Sith were extinct. If they had been more vigilant, tragedy could have been averted.

It also sets up why Anakin finds himself apprenticed to Obi-Wan, an inexperienced Jedi who was only just a Padawan himself, who might have a teensy bit of jealousy that Qui-Gon was ready to dump Obi-Wan to start training the supposed Chosen One, whose training of Anakin is born more of loyalty to Qui-Gon's dying wishes than any attachment to Anakin himself. It sets into place all their troubled dynamic, and though Qui-Gon does not appear directly in subsequent episodes, his influence colors a great deal of the storyline.

I really do like the title. It's evocative of the cheesy, over-the-top titles of the old serials. Phantom and menace were both very commonly used terms. And it's quite accurate of what's going on in the story. There's some kind of menace and everyone knows it, but they can't quite pinpoint it. They keep getting fooled by distractions - Darth Maul is an imposing foe, but no one seems to recognize he's just a puppet. The Trade Federation is really a front for a far more devious enemy. Everything is shrouded in shadow, and the true evil isn't defeated at all - he's standing right there at the victory celebration, having just attained a major step in his plot to take over the galaxy! The parade music is in fact a cheerful, bouncy, major key riff on the Emperor's theme. Oh, the delicious irony.

The podracing sequence, I acknowledge, goes on a little long, particularly the extended cut on the DVD release. However, as a symbol it provides a great bit of foreshadowing regarding the arc of Anakin's character. Sebulba's sabotage gives him a late start through no fault of his own, just like his birth into slavery impedes his training as a Jedi. But then, thanks to his extraordinary skills, he zooms forward and begins to surpass everyone else. Things are looking pretty good until something goes wrong, and he has to make repairs mid-race. The increasing pressure of his Jedi training will begin to wear on him, forcing him to reevaluate his choices and priorities. He even gets a little trouble from the Tusken Raiders, which is, ahem, quite horrifyingly important in the next film. And then he gets snagged on Sebulba's racer, trapped by his enemy, like he will be trapped by Palpatine. But just before the race's end, he manages to pull free.

Since this is a prequel, released after the original story but taking place earlier in the narrative, they can have some fun with hints of future events. Some are funny, like Threepio saying they'll never get him onto one of those dreadful starships, and some are heartbreaking, like Anakin's "No one can kill a Jedi" or his first meeting with Obi-Wan. The first time we saw Episode I, we watched Episode IV the very next day, and Obi-Wan and Vader's meeting on the Death Star was fraught with so much more meaning. Sob.

Now we must come to Jar Jar. I like Jar Jar. I know why he's hated with so much vitriol. He has an obnoxious voice and lots of slapstick associated with him. Also, he's kind of what we all fear we might be - a panicky, graceless fool. Well, I have the feeling that if I were put in the sort of perilous situations found in Star Wars films, I'd end up behaving a lot more like Jar Jar than anyone else. Honestly, it surprises me how much energy people waste on hating Jar Jar, fifteen years after the fact. Just let it go! And maybe give him just a little bit of credit as a technological advancement, if nothing else - some years before Gollum got his big break, Jar Jar was already a fully realized, highly convincing CGI character. For all the complaints about him, people don't seem to complain that he looks fake. Their loathing is so powerful, in fact, you'd think they were talking about a real person. And making-of accounts indicate that Ahmed Best was much appreciated by the cast and crew for keeping them entertained during the grueling filming in Tunisia. I like to see that side of Jar Jar rather than focusing on the hate.

Anyway, Jar Jar is part of an ongoing theme in the prequels, particularly Episode I. Symbiants (Qui-Gon's trademark word referring to symbiosis), life forms working together for mutual advantage. This is very much in keeping with the concept of the Force, but it's especially true of Qui-Gon's creed. Even most of the characters of the movie are dismissive of and annoyed by Jar Jar, but Qui-Gon doesn't dismiss anyone. "This Gungan may be of use to us" he says early on, and though it takes some time for this to come true, his words are truly prophetic. Without Jar Jar, the Queen could never have formulated her plan to take back Naboo. The two peoples have lived apart, spurning each other and therefore denying themselves the strength that comes from mutual support. When they finally form an alliance, they become powerful enough to regain their freedom from the Federation. Obi-Wan, as Qui-Gon's student, knows this truth as well: "What happens to one of you must affect the other." They tried to live separately, thinking they'd be better off, but it almost led to their destruction. And I just love that the one to bring their peoples back together is Jar Jar, the exile, rejected by his own people and an outcast among the humans. Yet he is the only one uniquely qualified to bridge the gap between Gungan and Naboo. Maybe his clumsiness, the cause of his exile, was the best thing that could have happened. The Force works in mysterious ways. ;)

This theme, of course, also includes the oft-reviled midichlorians, which never bothered me. They're hardly a scientific explanation - little beings inside your body that speak to you in some metaphysical, ethereal way? Sounds about as mystic as you can get. And it gives a tangible way to indicate Anakin's potential, plus a sort of mystery about his inexplicable conception. I don't know. It just works for me. The Force was always about the connectedness of living things. Life creates it, right? And symbiosis is the essence of the good side. The dark side, in contrast, is parasitic.

Now I must mention the costumes, the glorious, insanely awesome costumes. They really embrace the whole concept of Star Wars as a sort of way-ancient-history period drama, rather than super-futuristic sci-fi. Every time I see a film that tries to make the costumes look futuristic, I can tell that in less than a decade it's going to look incredibly cheesy and dated. But going the historical route - taking cues from various cultures and time periods - is much smarter and so much more evocative. It's rather absurd, of course, just how many costume changes Queen Amidala has, but it makes me chuckle when they're stranded on Tatooine trying to scrounge up money for repairs and Obi-Wan mentions the queen's wardrobe as something they might sell. It's clear that on Naboo, the ceremonial trappings of royalty are considered crucial for maintaining the queen's authority and, probably, her safety.

I don't think anyone was fooled that Padmé and Queen Amidala weren't one in the same, but that dichotomy makes some nice symbolism about the two sides of her character which will come into play in the next film. Meanwhile, I like her childhood friendship with Anakin. It's nice to have a relationship start out with a simple and innocent foundation, even if it's a little bit of a stretch to see Padmé as a fourteen-year-old. One of my favorite scenes is their conversation on the ship, when they both gain some comfort in acknowledging the other's sadness.

I love it. And for me, the worst part of Episode I was that I had to wait three years for the next installment. Now I just pop in the next episode whenever I want. Hooray! :)
matril: (matril)
The first Star Wars sequel was, to make a massive understatement, a big deal. There had certainly been sequels to movies before; in fact the concept of a sequel is pretty much inevitable when lots of people love a story and want more of it. But what made The Empire Strikes Back so special is that it was an expansion of the story rather than just a re-hashing, a natural continuation of the first film. Because Lucas had wanted to tell a bigger story all along, and now he had the enthusiastic support he needed to do it.

People usually cite Empire as the best Star Wars film, but I don't think it's as simple as that. I think it's the best second act of a story told in movies. It's a fine film on its own, but much stronger when considered in the larger context of the trilogy or the saga as a whole. We care about these characters because we already know them from Episode IV, and the unresolved issues at the end would be infuriating if there weren't more to come.

I love the way the beginning of the film offers a subtle look at the development each main character has undergone, assuming that some amount of time has passed since the Battle of Yavin. (It occurs to me that I've never written fan fic for the gap between Episode IV and V, and I'm not sure why - it's rife with opportunity, particularly with regards to the history of Han and Leia's relationship. Hmm.) Luke and Han are both captains in the Rebellion. Luke has developed some serious skills with the Force, including our first look at a Jedi's telekinesis. Han is mostly his usual sardonic self and plans on leaving the Rebels, but it's clear he's conflicted about it. And then there's the whole bit with Leia. Something must have happened between them, but both are too stubborn to admit their feelings. That exchange has quite a few good lines, including the marvelous, "I'd just as soon kiss a Wookiee."

I've talked about Han and Leia's bantering before, and I acknowledge that Han's aggressiveness could be considered inappropriate, but context is important. Signs seem to indicate that she's responded favorably before, then pushed him away. This fits with her character as someone who's learned to grow a tough exterior and not form too many attachments. Leading the life of a outlaw freedom fighter whose entire planet was massacred can do that to you. Han has that sort of exterior too, and I'd like to think that his pursuit of Leia is his way of trying to open himself up and not be such a cynic anymore. In any case, I love their romance and I can recite most of their exchanges from memory. (My husband and I even acted out a modified version of the first kiss scene for a talent show in college, heh.)

Another striking feature of Episode V is the cutting back and forth between two story-lines. This was already done to a certain extent in Star Wars, but it's pretty much the major shape of the narrative in Empire. While Han and Leia lead the Imperial fleet through a terrifying game of hide-and-seek, Luke trains with Yoda. The concept of the Force is fleshed-out and expanded upon quite powerfully. First we see Obi-Wan actually appearing in vision, no longer just a disembodied voice. Then we meet Yoda. It's great to introduce him as an impish little swamp-dweller and watch Luke fail to recognize him. It's his first test, and he's failing miserably. I love the moment when he learns who Yoda actually is and tries to convince him he's ready, smacking his head in the course of his impatience. It's a great symbol of how very unready he is.

Lots of credit to Mark Hamill here for acting pretty much all by himself, next to a puppet and a metal box. Frank Oz's performance can't be over-praised, but it's also Luke's interactions with Yoda that make him so believable we forget he's talking to a glorified Muppet. Besides R2-D2 and a brief bit with Obi-Wan, no other characters ever interact with Yoda in the original trilogy. But we totally accept him as a real being.

And what awesome lessons he teaches us. Don't judge anything by its appearance, size, or apparent abilities. Violence begets violence, peace begets peace. If you don't believe you can do something, you've failed before you've ever tried it. The scene wherein he lifts the X-Wing from the swamp is a perfect combination of music, cinematography, dialogue and acting, building up to an inspiring climax.

I just love the settings. The ice world, the asteroids, the swamp planet, the city in the clouds. I love the symbolism of Bespin - a beautiful city hiding a dark, sinister underbelly. From the moment the Falcon arrives at the planet we're given hints that something bad is coming. Then Vader shows up and it's just one horrifying reversal after another. Lando is a traitor. Vader yanks the blaster right out of Han's hand. Han is brutally tortured, but they're not trying to get information. Vader wants Luke. And we already know it's working, because Luke had the vision of their pain and suffering. Then they decide to freeze Han, just to test the machine in anticipation of Luke's arrival.

The carbon freeze sequence is another example of visuals, words, acting and music all coming together. If you ever have the chance to read up on the making of the movie, you'll see that this scene was a huge headache to film. Getting the steam just right, making sure no one fell backwards off the platform, working out the dialogue - and you'll find several varying accounts of just how they arrived at that famous "I love you" "I know" exchange. But it worked. It gives me chills to watch Leia let down her guard and confess her feelings just as Han is ripped away from her, to see him descend into the pit while the music swells tortuously from their love theme into the Imperial march. Genius.

Luke and Vader's confrontation. Just, so powerful. I wrote an essay about Vader as an abusive father, the figure that Luke despises and yet longs to prove himself to. And somewhere within Vader's cruelty is the twisted notion that attacking him, insulting him, offering only the faintest of praise, is the best way to teach him and help him achieve his potential. Yikes. Then the heartbreaking revelation, the massive spoiler that everyone knows nowadays even if they know little else about the films. Vader is Luke's father.

It's open-ended, but I think it's pretty clear that Vader is telling the truth. Luke as much as acknowledges it when he responds to Vader's telepathic call with "Father?" But there's another intriguing connection he has with Leia, who can sense him calling for help. I honestly never really got huge romantic vibes between the two of them. Luke seems to kind of have a crush on her in the first film, but I think it's largely stemming from awe at meeting the mysterious princess who pulled him into his hero's journey in the first place. They don't have any of the charged interplay that Leia has with Han. And that kiss on Hoth that everyone goes crazy about? It was entirely to make Han jealous. Even Threepio knows it, looking at Han afterwards. Pretty much the least romantic kiss ever.

But I love the friendship of the trio. The fact that Han will charge out into the deadly cold of a Hoth night on the slightest chance of finding and saving Luke. That Leia screams that it's a trap as soon as she spots Luke on Bespin, and that he ignores the warning entirely, partly because he's a headstrong kid who wants to confront Vader, but also because he'd never abandon his friends. That Leia just about verges into Dark Side territory, encouraging Chewie to strangle Lando because she's so furious about what happened to Han. And then the lesson of the dangers of succumbing to anger - hurting Lando delays their chance to rescue Han, and they're too late.

Yet they don't lose hope. Before Episode III came out, this was the darkest ending of a Star Wars film. All we have is the relief that Luke isn't currently in Vader's clutches and the hope that the friends might be able to rescue Han from Jabba. But it's still up in the air. It's a movie with no real ending, a second act that promises the resolution of a third.
matril: (matril)
So I've been thinking. I know that I'm in the minority for unapologetically liking the prequels. Prequel bashing is so omnipresent that I'm constantly having to suppress the knee-jerk inclination to pop in and explain why I'm not an idiot for liking them. But then I realized - why fill someone else's space with explanations? The tone comes across like I'm an apologist, and I'm not - as I just said, I unapologetically like them. So I'm going to talk about my love for the prequels here, in my own space, unabashed and non-confrontational. Just happy positivity. And I'll include the original trilogy too, going in the order that I think the saga is best viewed: IV, V, I, II, III, and VI. Here we go!

Episode IV, from any analytical standpoint, should have failed. It was full of risks, of storytelling and moviemaking choices that had never been attempted. But somehow it works, and I think it's because the film gives the sense of trusting its audience. Don't worry that this is a little strange, it seems to say - you're smart enough to figure it out.

For starters, the main protagonist doesn't show up for a good portion of the movie! We know from the opening crawl that Princess Leia is important, and we follow her through her capture, but the other narrative focuses on two droids. One of whom speaks only through beeps and whistles. The studio was so sure this was a mistake they made Lucas film some extra scenes with Luke hanging out with his friends. And Lucas immediately cut them as soon as the editing started. Because following a pair of bickering droids? It absolutely works. We care what happens to these two hunks of metal. By the time Luke shows up, we're already invested, because we know he's going to get sucked into this plot. And we start to get little bits about his backstory, hints of his father, as well as his impatience to get off the farm and go somewhere important. We can guess that sooner or later, his story and the Princess's are going to collide.

Star Wars doesn't waste a lot of time on info dumps. When Obi-Wan comes along, he gives a brief history of the Jedi and a explanation for Luke's father's death. Of course we know it's only a half-truth, but on first viewing, the whole "bad guy killed my father" storyline is enough to grab you. Now, as the cliché says, it's personal.

Star Wars also doesn't dwell over-long on emotional beats. Luke discovers the death of his aunt and uncle and the destruction of his home, and his head goes down and the music swells, and then we move on. We understand. It's the brutal event that pushes him over the threshold into his hero's journey. We don't need ten minutes of Luke sobbing. The same is true when Obi-Wan dies. It's sad, we're sad, but the film trusts that we don't need a prolonged slow-motion sequence with close-ups of everyone's anguished faces (am I possibly referring to another film saga that's ever-so-slightly heavy-handed in its emotional beats? Hmm).

The cantina scene is iconic, particularly remarkable considering a lot of the shots were filmed in a sort of desperate session after the principle shooting when Lucas was thoroughly dissatisfied with the original footage. Some masterful editing makes it all come together, and we're truly transported to another world where humans might just be the minority. Han Solo's character is established very quickly with his mercenary attitude, his focus on money, his cynicism and braggadocio. (I have to say, if you think just one alteration of his behavior - shooting second - ruins his entire character, you're not giving much credit to the loads of character development that still remain. As Harrison Ford himself said to the question of who shot first - I don't care.)

Chewbacca. He never says a word in a human language, and yet we understand him. Peter Mayhew's superb body language (the man wasn't even an actor when they found and cast him!) and Ben Burtt's sound design for his growls and shouts cannot be praised enough. What a fantastic creation.

Vader, of course, is the ultimate villain. Even before we get a bigger glimpse of his backstory in the next film, there's something intriguing about this masked terror - he's brutal and violent and controlling, yet deeply religious, as it were. He calls the ability to destroy an entire planet "insignificant" next to the Force. If we judged the Jedi solely on the basis of his attitudes, we might conclude it was a group of terrifying fanatics. But we have Obi-Wan to provide the contrast, a serene, monk-like mentor whose primarily uses his skills to cast confusion over weak minds and sneak around unnoticed. When it's time to fight, as in the cantina or against Vader, he's undoubtedly skilled. Yet he doesn't glory in it. He puts away his weapon after, er, literally disarming someone, and returns to his usual serenity. And when he sees what he must do for the greater cause of the Rebellion, he puts up his saber and lets Vader strike him down. His cryptic words are so intriguing - more powerful than you could possibly imagine? How? The first hint comes immediately, when we hear his voice speaking to Luke. But we're still left wondering exactly what he meant.

The Force. It's generic enough that it can be universal, this sort of power that the Jedi can draw upon. The actual powers it lends are the stuff of fantasy, of course, but the notion that by clearing our minds, ignoring the distractions of our senses and remaining calm, we can access great power? That sounds pretty close to reality. And what a thrilling moment in the battle of Yavin when Luke switches off his computer and lets the Force guide him. I still get excited seeing that victory, even after all the many times I've watched it.

Princess Leia is a landmark character, and even thirty-plus years later, she is rarely surpassed in terms of well-developed, compelling females in movies. Of course it's too bad she's practically the only female character, but anyway - she's tough, assertive and fearless, but still capable of warmth and compassion. Even when she's a prisoner, or when she's being rescued, she never gives the sense of being passive, of filling the prototypical princess in the tower role. I love it. And I routinely put my hair up to imitate hers. :)

The music. Everyone knows I adore John Williams, and my husband helped fulfill a glorious dream of mine a few years back when we went to see him guest-conduct the Boston Pops. The man is such a genius. The themes from Star Wars are instantly memorable, evocative and, though I've probably overused the word already, iconic. They were the soundtrack of my childhood, and Star Wars would be only a fraction of the film it is without its music.

Oh, and also - this movie is hilarious. So quotable, so funny. Sure, some of Lucas's dialogue is clunky, but sometimes that's half the charm of it. "Curse my metal body!" Hah. Luke is and always will be my favorite character, but Han definitely provides a lot of the humor. He's too cynical to take things seriously all the time. He changes in later films...though that's for a future post. I feel like I've only scratched the surface of what makes the first Star Wars film so awesome, but it's a good start. Next time, Episode V!

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