Star Wars Running Commentary

Star Wars

Star Wars is one of the true iconic movies of Hollywood.  It is more than simply an institution, it is a juggernaut in history.  I’ve seen writer/director George Lucas’ film times too numerous to count. :03 I actually associate the […]

by Chris Neumer

Star Wars is one of the true iconic movies of Hollywood.  It is more than simply an institution, it is a juggernaut in history.  I’ve seen writer/director George Lucas’ film times too numerous to count.

:03 I actually associate the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare with Star Wars (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPkfLALLXKY&feature=related). That’s not to be confused with Ralph Wiggum singing the fanfare (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NDgUC3NPX4&feature=related).  When I hear Alfred Newman’s composition before other movies, I am somewhat taken aback when the slow crawl of Star Wars’ back story doesn’t immediately follow.

:31 John Williams’ score to Star Wars is amazing.  Sure he stole huge chunks of it from Gustav Holst—I can’t listen to Holst’s “Mars the Bringer of War” without hearing snippets of Star Wars dialogue—but this can’t camouflage the absolute genius behind this composition.  And the main title is the best of the bunch.

1:18 I’m reading the crawl and can’t stop thinking how stupid the Empire was to keep all of their Death Star blueprints in one place.

1:49 Having seen Star Wars numerous times during my life, I know that the Empire is evil—its leader dresses in black!—but for the life of me, I can’t quite figure out why the Empire is evil.  Yes, blowing up Alderaan with a giant space station is certainly a blemish on its name, but that doesn’t happen for another hour or so.

Granted, Grand Moff Tarkin does suggest that the Empire rules with fear, but this doesn’t really cut it for me.  So does Saudi Arabia.  To an extent, so does the United States.  Couldn’t Lucas have thrown some alien genocide into the mix or something to make this a little bit more, dare I say, palpatine-able?

2:36 Princess Leia’s space ship has to be at least 200 times smaller than the Empire’s star destroyer.  And yet, somehow, it isn’t escaping the larger ship.  I will stop short of mentioning The Spanish Armada and the year 1588 here and focus on more modern, tangible examples, like how hard it would be for a semi-tractor trailer carrying an oversized load to catch a Porsche.

4:02 The Imperial ship has overtaken Princess Leia’s craft and storm troopers are preparing to board.  The rebel soldiers set up an ambush for the storm troopers.  Interestingly, though the storm troopers can only enter one at a time through a small door, the rebel soldiers are instantly pushed backwards.

Worst.  Ambush.  Ever.

5:46 An Imperial officer informs Darth Vader that the Death Star plans aren’t in the ship’s main computer.  Just how stupid does the Empire think these rebels are?

9:13 On the surface of Tatooine, C-3PO is talking about how he’s made to suffer.  I find this intriguing because C-3PO is a robot.  There are many reasons to make an android; to have the feelingless creatures suffer is distinctly not one of them.

9:49 “Don’t get technical with me,” C-3PO tells R2-D2.  C-3PO speaks ten million languages but doesn’t want to get technical?  Oh the suffering!

10:55 As I’m watching C-3PO stagger around in the desert heat, miles from anything, I can’t help but wonder what his power source is.  Because he does mention ‘powering down’ at times, I find it strange that we never see him, you know, powering up.

12:22 Equally fascinating to me is why the Jawas are running around the barren desert with weapons in their possession that seem designed to incapacitate droids.  How many droids to they encounter wandering around in the middle of the desert?

I mean, there’s a reason that I don’t walk around my apartment with a SCUBA tank strapped to my back.

12:28 Oooooo-tanee!!!!

14:32  So help me God, there is a walking trash can in the Jawas’ transport.

15:26 Storm troopers have landed on Tatooine and have found the escape pod.  This marks the only time in the series that bits and pieces of droids just happen to fall off.  This is most likely a narrative device that is designed to allow the storm troopers to learn that there were, in fact, droids in the escape pod.  It’s ridiculous that Lucas included this because, given that there were no life readings on the scanners when the pod was jettisoned and there are footprints walking away from the ship, I’m guessing the storm troopers could have done the droid math without finding a large washer in the sand.

16:02  Oooooo-tanee!!!!

18:43 The red R2-D2 unit has a bad motivator.  I had a roommate in college with this problem.

19:06 I’m not sure how the PC police haven’t come down on the Jawas yet.

19:55  I can’t help but wonder if it’s pure luck that causes R2-D2 and C-3PO end up on Tattooine.  I mean, Leia records a message to Obi-wan Kenobi, puts it in a droid, has him jettison her ship to the nearest planet and, lo and behold, it’s the one that just happens to have Obi-wan on it?

Assuming that the galaxy in the Star Wars universe is somewhat similar to our own—not only do both worlds seem to obey the laws of physics, but the universal language in both is english—that means that it has somewhere in the vicinity of five billion planets (and countless more moons).  Obi-wan is on one of them.  The odds are not pretty.

20:51 While cleaning R2-D2, Luke finds an abbreviated portion of Leia’s message.  “Help me Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”  Minor point here, but wouldn’t Yoda have also been an available source of hope?  Or Space Barack Obama?

21:15 Watching Leia’s holographic message, Luke exclaims, “Who is she?  She’s beautiful!!!!”

Eeeeeewwww!  That’s your sister, you sick bastard!

23:54 Luke is drinking blue milk.

25:43 This is a great ‘hero’ shot of Luke looking directly into the, uh, two sunsets.

26:04 While Luke’s step parents, Owen and Beru, are talking, they state that he has no clue about his Jedi lineage or the amazing potential he has within him to use the force.  It’s obvious that Luke can feel the force—he says so on the Millennium Falcon while wearing the blast shield—are you really telling me that there wouldn’t be one moment in his teenage years where he’d reach across the table for the space salt shaker and it would come flying into his hand?

I guess in a broader sense, this means that the only way for a person to become a Jedi is to be stumbled upon by another Jedi.  Seems like there could have been a use for  a Jedi D-League or something.

27:09 Beru is putting random things from her space kitchen into her space blender.

27:37 R2-D2 has taken off in the night to try to find Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Luke and C-3PO take off after him in his speeder.  In a strange twist, C-3PO is controlling the velocity of the speeder while Luke handles the steering.  This is evidenced by the fact that Luke tells C-3PO to “hit the accelerator” at one point in their conversation.

28:26 I’ve never quite understood this logic.  When Luke learned that R2-D2 was missing the night before, he cited the abundance of Sand People as one of the major reasons not to go after him at that time.  The next morning, the minute Luke sees signs of Sand People, he picks up a weapon and goes out looking for them?

29:25 I’m not sure how the PC police haven’t come down on the Sand People yet.

29:54 Enter Alec Guiness  Guiness had a long and very distinguished career on stage and screen.  He could easily be considered one of the twenty best actors of the last century.  Sadly though, all anyone knows him for today is his performance as Obi-wan Kenobi.  These are the breaks.

31:09 Great line, great delivery.  “Of course I know him… He’s me!”

31:46 Um, so the Sand People beat up Luke, tear C-3PO apart, limb from limb and don’t steal anything?  They don’t hop in the speeder and drive away?  They don’t take Luke’s binoculars?  Nothing?

32:29 I still find it intriguing that Luke was raised by Anakin Skywalker’s stepbrother.  This is a pretty ballsy move, all things considered.  You’re telling me that no one ever worried that Anakin might swing by the old homestead, meet Owen and Beru’s child, and feel something that alerted him that it was actually his own?  No one?

35:00 No matter what subterfuge, obfuscation or revisionist history Lucas tries on me in interviews, I will never understand how Obi-wan doesn’t recognize R2-D2 in this scene.  R2-D2 is single handedly responsible for saving Obi-Wan’s life at least five times in the prequel trilogy.

36:19 Obi-Wan is encouraging Luke to learn about the force.  Yes, because this worked out so well the last time a Skywalker got involved with the Jedi lifestyle.

36:40 As the Imperial leadership convenes in a conference room in the Death Star, I can only think of one thing: this is the worst collection of hair cuts ever put together in the same room.  Don’t they have hair cutting droids?

38:09 In the pantheon of bad ideas, talking shit to Darth Vader has to be near the top.  Talking shit and belittling his religion?  What’s wrong with you?  Why don’t you just start talking about prescription psychiatric medication with a Scientologist?

38:48 So the Empire’s plan is to find the Rebel base, blow it up and be rid of them once and for all.  Yes, because all the rebels (and terrorists) convene in the same place and once they’re destroyed, no one ever replaces them.

39:22 Remember this for later: Obi-wan mentions that the storm troopers are incredibly precise shots.

39:52 After doing some unpleasant math, Luke realizes that if the Empire killed the Jawas in an effort to find the droids that used to be in their possession, they probably tracked down his step parents as well.  He takes off for home and sees that Owen and Beru have had better days.

Strangely, while having a parental figure horribly killed on Tattooine by hostile forces is enough to turn Anakin Skywalker to the dark side, it isn’t enough to turn Luke that way.

On the heels of this line of thinking, I wonder whether young Jedis ever experiment with the dark side while in college.  “It was late, I was kind of drunk and—I’m not really proud of it—tried the dark side a little bit.  I can control it though.  It’s not like I’m a Sith lord or something.”

40:40 It just dawns on me that we still haven’t been introduced to Han Solo yet.

42:07 Not knowing where else to turn after his devastating loss, Luke returns to Obi-wan and says, “I want to become a Jedi like my father.”  Yeah… About that…  Maybe not exactly like your father…

42:55 I’m not sure exactly why this scene is so wonderful and iconic, but it truly stands out in the mythology of the Star Wars universe.  Stopped by storm troopers in Mos Eisley, Obi-wan waves his hand at them and tells them that, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”  Obi-wan is truly badass.

43:16 “I can’t understand how we got by those troops!” Luke says excitedly.  He’s not exactly the sharpest tool on the moisture farm.

44:42 Obi-wan meets Chewbacca in a space bar.  The two work out an agreement to be transported to Alderaan.  I only have one question: how does Obi-wan understand Chewbacca?

45:09 Enter testicle face.

46:59 Han Solo!

47:10 “Is it a fast ship?… It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.”  One problem.  A parsec is a unit of distance, not speed.

50:03 Greedo does not shoot first.

50:22 While Alien taught us that no one can hear you scream in space, Star Wars taught us that you can hear tie-fighters.

51:00 The storm troopers are, uh, searching for the droids?  Looking for Obi-wan?  Who knows what they’re looking for, but the important thing is that they are going door-to-door looking for something.  When they get to a locked door, they make note that it’s locked… and move on.  Apparently, the storm troopers have a greater respect for personal privacy laws and warrantless searches than several branches of the US government… and they work for the evil Empire!

52:37 The storm troopers have been alerted to Obi-wan’s presence in the Millennium Falcon’s docking bay.  They are in such a hurry to get there that they walk slightly faster than usual.

52:40 When the storm troopers see Solo, they immediately start blasting.  It seems like there was a slightly better way to handle this whole situation.

53:22 I’ve never noticed this before, but Chewbacca has a mustache.

54:45 Hold on, hold on, hold on.  Wait.  Stop.

Okay, Leia is in white, Dark Vader is in black and Grand Moff Tarkin is in dark grey.  Who is good and who is bad again?

55:42  The first planet the Death Star blows up?  The completely defenseless Alderaan.  As Princess Leia points out, Alderaan doesn’t have any weapons. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is taking notes.

58:40  Luke is slightly upset that Han doesn’t believe in the Force.  Yes, the same Force that Luke hadn’t heard of when he woke up that morning.

1:02:04 How does no one know about the Death Star?  If Han truly has been from one end of the universe to the other—the fact that makes him believe that the Force is a, uh, farce—how hasn’t he heard of this huge, galaxy wide effort to make a Death Star?  According to Wookiepedia, the Empire enslaved whole planets—including Chewbacca’s home planet of Kashyyyka—in order to have cheap labor on the project.  So thousands upon thousands of Wookies have been forced into slavery and Chewbacca and Solo know nothing about it?

1:03:32  When the Death Star tractor beam ensnares the Millennium Falcon, the bridge has it on good authority that the ship’s markings match a ship that blasted out of Mos Eisley earlier in the day.  I find this interesting for several reasons:

1)    Prior to this, the Millennium Falcon has been traveling for quite some time at light speed.  Even if Solo and company were only doing so for ten minutes, they’d still have traveled more than 100 million miles.  This means the Empire’s communications not only would have to be faster than that the speed of light, a concept that is basically theoretical in nature and would require a warp in the space/time continuum to work, but the Empire is so organized that, within minutes, they can connect the dots on a smaller freighter ship appearing near Alderaan with a ship that blasted off from another planet hundreds of millions of miles away.  This is beyond remarkable.

2)    It also puts Princess Leia’s decision to physically put the Death Star plans in R2-D2 and send him down to Obi-wan Kenobi in a much different light.  Why didn’t she just use send the plans to the rebel base with the same method of communication that the Empire used to communicate the fact that the Millennium Falcon matched the description of a ship that blasted out of Mos Eisley fifteen minutes earlier?

1:03:43  You want to know how stupid the rebels are?  Princess Leia jettisoned the Death Star plans from her ship during the Imperial raid at the opening of the movie.  She included a message to Obi-wan Kenobi with the plans to take them precisely to the location where she was already heading.  Alderaan.

At first when I heard Darth Vader explain that, “They must be trying to return the stolen plans to the princess,” I thought he was crazy.  It made no sense.  I actually wrote, “How stupid is Vader?” in my notebook.

Upon further reflection though, Vader was spot on with his analysis, it was Leia and the rebels who were ridiculously out of touch.  Why risk life and limb to send the Death Star plans away from you and then, in the same breath, instruct someone else to bring the plans to the precise location where you’re headed?  How about, “Years ago, you served my father in the Clone Wars.  I beg you, take this droid to anywhere but Alderaan because that is exactly where they would expect you to take it.”

1:03:45 The Death Star docking bay sets are fantastic.  What makes them all the more impressive is that they aren’t computer generated in any manner, shape or form.  They are right there.  I don’t know how Lucas and his production designer, John Barry, came up with gold like this, but it is very impressive.  Star Wars won the Best Art Direction-Set Direction Oscar when it came out and I can’t think of a more deserving winner than John Barry and his crew… you know, other than John Williams and his win for Best Score.

1:05:50 “TK-421, why aren’t you at your post?”  I still call my brother TK-421 at times.

1:06:31 I never quite realized what a little bitch Luke is.  “Between your blasting and his howling, it’s a wonder the whole station doesn’t know we’re here,” he says angrily to Han.  Yeah, that’s a great way to make friends.  I just hope Luke never puts himself in a position where he’ll need Han to knock a TIE-Fighter out of the way or save him after he’s passed out in the middle of an ice storm in a frozen wasteland.

1:10:08 R2-D2 and C-3PO are left alone in the control center.  If only they had a flash drive!  Just imagine the possibilities!

1:10:35 Little known fact: the Death Star is 100 miles in diameter.  That’s more than twice the distance between Baltimore and Washington DC and more than the distance between Chicago and Milwaukee.  And yet, Obi-wan takes one glance at a computer monitor and instantly knows how to get from the control room to the tractor beam controls.  Maybe the Force is guiding him.

1:12:49 If there was an egregious snub in the award category, it was with the fact that Harrison Ford didn’t even get nominated for a Best Supporting Award Oscar.  His performance in this scene is what makes this movie great.  Ford’s insouciance and devil-may-care attitude are so integral to the success of Star Wars, it’s hard put it in words.  His VORA (Value Over Replacement Actor) is higher than almost anyone’s other than Bill Murray in Ghostbusters.

After Luke, Han and Chewbacca storm the detention level, Han picks up the microphone and says, “We had a slight, uh, weapons malfunction.”  Pure gold.

1:13:15 Han shoots the microphone and says, “It was a boring conversation anyway.”  He is so very good.

1:14:33 Darth Vader seems to know what Obi-wan wants.  He tells Grand Moff Tarkin, “Escape is not his plan.  I must face him alone.”  I find this bizarre because Obi-wan doesn’t even know what he wants to do.  If you’re telling me that Obi-wan woke up that morning thinking that he’d be battling his old padawaan to the death that day, I’m going to have to disagree.

1:15:50 Harrison Ford ratchets it up a level.  “He’s the brains, sweetheart!”

1:16:09 “I don’t care what you smell, get in there!”

1:16:45 “What an incredible smell you’ve discovered!”

1:18:05 Just what the hell is the Empire throwing out?  The garbage all appears to be pieces of foam and rubber.

1:18:30 Mark Hammill looks considerably better (and modern) with his hair wet.

1:19:52 While entering the control room where R2-D2 and C-3PO are holed up, one of the storm troopers bangs his head on the blast door.  Precision indeed.

1:20:23 C-3PO tells the storm troopers that the crazy madmen are going down to the detention level.  90 percent of them then leave.  Weird.

1:26:09 Say hello to the Wilhelm scream.

1:26:22 As Luke and Leia are being chased by storm troopers, they end up teetering at the edge of a giant chasm, Luke having accidentally destroyed the bridge’s control mechanisms.  He rifles around in his utility belt and pulls out an extra-strong, 40-foot long piece of string/wire and a grappling hook.  What the hell else does he have in that belt of his?

1:29:28 Darth Vader and Obi-wan Kenobi are fighting.  The storm troopers see this and run over to Vader.  They don’t shoot at Kenobi, they don’t yell encouragement to Vader, they just stand there and watch.

1:30:24 The storm troopers aren’t exactly as precise as Obi-wan made them out to be.  They can’t hit Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, the droids, any remotely important parts of the ship or anything.  If there was a broad-side of a barn running around, they’d miss that too.

1:32:19 “Don’t worry, she’ll hold together!  C’mon baby, hold together.”

1:33:32 Han destroys the last TIE-Fighter.  This is my favorite on-screen explosion in all of cinema history.  It is symmetrical, colored perfectly and has just the right level of curvature to the cloud of smoke.  Simply perfect.

1:35:50 Leia explains to Han that their escape was too easy and mentions that the Empire is probably tracking the ship, which is 100 percent true.  The Empire has put a homing device on the Millennium Falcon.  Despite these concerns though, Leia gives Han the directions to the location of the super top-secret rebel base on Yavin IV and they fly directly there.  When they arrive, the base seems highly advanced and well-financed.  Certainly well-financed enough to have had another ship without a homing device on it meet Leia somewhere else and then transport her, Luke, Han and entourage to Yavin IV.

1:40:35 Leia kisses Luke on the cheek.  Eeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!

1:40:50 “That droid and I have been through a lot together,” Luke tells one of the members of the rebel flight crew.  Had he wished to be slightly more accurate, he would have said, “That droid, the one I got yesterday, he and I have been through a lot together.”

1:42:45 You apparently don’t need to go to the Academy or any kind of institution of higher learning to fly for the rebellion.  I’m guessing if a drunken Randy Quaid had been present, the rebel leaders would have outfitted him with a space bi-plane or something.

1:44:03 The Empire not only has “super lasers”, but they also have “turbo lasers”.

1:44:03 You apparently don’t need to meet any physical fitness requirements to fly for the rebellion.  Better yet?  The fat guy who hasn’t shaved in four days?  His name is Porkins.

1:44:35 Goodbye Porkins.

1:45:05 To save the Death Star, the Empire sends out six TIE-Fighters.  To put this in perspective, they sent out four TIE-Fighters to go after the Millennium Falcon when it had a homing device on board.  When Vader and two extra pilots enter the fray, the total goes up to nine.  Nine ships against an attacking force of 30… to save a multiple bazillion dollar space station.

1:46:50 The shots of the rebel X-wing fighters attacking the Death Star in the channel are amazing.  They look superb.

1:48:10 One of the Empire’s junior officers has analyzed the rebel attack and has realized that there is a chance they will succeed in blowing up the Death Star.  He informs Grand Moff Tarkin of this development.  Isn’t this the type of thing that should have been discussed in the R&D phase?

1:53:24  Um, why haven’t the rebel leaders been evacuating Yavin IV?  The Death Star just cleared the planet and the rebel base is now in range!

1:53:32 Unfortunately for the Empire, so is the Death Star’s exhaust port.

1:54:00 The Death Star has been destroyed.  Luke is ecstatic about his accomplishment, as is everyone else on Yavin IV.  This is a great victory for the rebellion… with more collateral damage than World War I and 2 combined, tripled and the resulting number squared.  Those poor janitors on the Death Star!

1:54:59 When Luke arrives back at base, Leia excitedly throws her arms around him.  Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwww!  I mean, just gross!  That’s your brother, Leia!!  It’s called decorum!!!

1:56:20 The rebellion has room in their budget for medals to give to war heroes like Han and Luke.  Just something to think about the next time the rebels are forced to nickel-and-dime something together because of a lack of funds.

 

 

 

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