December 18, 2015

[Movies] Star Wars - (4) A New Hope 1977

I have been meaning to see the Star Wars series for sometime now, having first heard of it a from a geeky friend in college. I remember that he rolled his eyes when I said ‘Nope. I haven’t watched Star Wars’, as if I had no right to call myself a movie buff. Besides, I read about the Indian Prime minister’s address at Central Park, New York where he seems to have told Hugh Jackman, ‘May the Force be with you!’ amidst rousing cheers. Does one need any other reason? Then again, the order of release in the movie series was an intriguing 4-5-6-1-2-3. This going back and forth over more than three decades on a single plot caught my fancy because that would have so much to inform us about not just the changes in technology and knowledge of space travel but even the cultural perceptions and life attitudes reflected therein. Most importantly, there’s the Star Wars Episode 7 about to release in 7 days. It seemed like the ‘Force’ was indeed pushing me to finally watch it.

I was advised to not begin from the beginning but begin from how it began! So, I started with the 1977 movie, which was the 4th episode. The fact that I wasn’t even born then made it extra interesting to me, as a viewer. Still, it took quite a bit of effort to stop myself from giggling at the representation of robots, the expressions of those actors interfacing with advanced technology, and the so-called hi-tech computer effects, which to a person of this decade, looks like pretty primitive video games. I’m sure, in another thirty years, they’ll be roaring with laughter about what we consider impeccable sci-fi movies of today. Anyway, I had to keep bringing myself back to sobriety by reminding myself that how one sees the future is, for the most part, an extension of the present. That the future could be something phenomenally different from today is not an idea we seem to entertain often.

As the movie started, the first ‘thing’ that caught my attention was C-3PO, a feeling robot, who was fearing its doom almost poetically. An over-talkative, over-smart human-cyborg relations droid, portrayed in a shiny gold exterior and going out of its way to show that it’s a robot, courtesy those colorful wires that seem to peek out of its torso. Its companion is R2, the super-intelligent robot that could hack into any system and do just about any technical operation. Of course, we don’t understand a word it says. That’s why we need C-3PO! In a way, these two are modeled like a genius, eccentric man and his talkative, emotional wife. 

Princess Leia, whom we meet soon after, glowing in white, seems a delicate person with lofty ambitions to save the whole universe from the evil forces. Even the way she fires a gun is as if she’s shocked about it. At times, it feels like Princess Leia is playing a part in a romantic-comedy movie. Case in point, she kisses Luke Skywalker clumsily when they are about to make a leap across a ledge on the enemy starship and says ‘It’s for luck!’

Luke Skywalker is a boy brought up by his relatives, after the death of his father, but in him, there is a sense of destiny beyond his immediate dry world. He tries to be dutiful to the uncle and aunt who have raised him even though he is frustrated to be doing meaningless chores in the name of duty. There was a scene where the uncle, aunt and Luke are at the dining table having their breakfast of a white liquid and some powdery stuff, the planet’s version of milk and chocolate cereal, no doubt! Luke is having a meltdown about being held back from the academy to help his uncle. The aunt stays perfectly quiet as Luke argues with his uncle, observing him intently, not trying to get a word in. Only after Luke leaves in a dejected albeit accepting manner, does she talk to her husband, arguing for Luke’s sake. Again, her husband listens to her advice but shows he’s the one in control by ending the discussion having his way and the last word. Perhaps, a reflection of man-woman roles as it was in 1977, rather than in the future, in a faraway galaxy.

In a reflection of what we know not, being an extension of what we know, the extra-Terrestrial creatures on this far-off planet have for the most part, human torsos and deformed or distorted heads of animals we have seen and read about. In this alien world too, we find a pub and there are all these creatures drinking and behaving as if they are in Madison Avenue on Planet Earth instead of Mos Eisley on Planet Tatooine. No surprise in finding a swashbuckling Han Solo here. Interesting to get into the skin of this pragmatic but good-hearted character played by the charismatic Harrison Ford. His very hairy first mate is a bear kind of figure who goes by the name ‘Chewie’. Although a ragged looking creature, Chewie cares about how he smells and expresses extreme reluctance to jump into the garbage chute even when it’s a matter of life and death! Even if these characters are clashing laser swords or are surrounded by enemy bots amidst laser gun shots, they are seen reeling off wisecracks at one other. An ‘Aha’ moment was when Han Solo looks at a moneylender, don kind of figure, to whom he owes money and who happens to be a greedy talking lizard and says ‘You are a great human being, Jabba!’  Who really is a human, it makes you think!

What I learnt about the ‘Force’ from this movie is that it is that which connects and moves all living beings. The Jedi warriors are trained in employing the force in their warfare, which is referred to as a religion. The Force is felt when there is a disturbance to life forms. ‘It controls you but obeys you too’, Obi Wan says. It made me reflect on other things in this same combination. ‘Instinct’ would fit the bill too. Heard phrases popularly used like ‘The force is strong with this one’, as Darth Vader remarks of Luke Skywalker in what I heard as a grudging but complimenting tone. Speaking of the devil, isn’t the idea of Darth Vader turning evil after training under a Jedi master like Obi-Wan, much reminiscent of Angel Lucifer’s fall from Heaven? 

At the end of the first movie, I think Star wars is legendary because it combines religion, politics, technology and serves a heady cocktail to a dreaming nation, waking up to the possibilities of the future. 

In the end, the evil forces are destroyed and our hero brings home the ship and saves the rebelling warriors on the good side. All’s well that’s end’s well, American style, but there’s more, as the Empire will want to Strike back. Unlike the first viewers, I don’t have to wait three years for that!

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