Saturday, November 17, 2007


This Pandora’s box of ideas and interpretation has been brought to you by Alan Trehern 
[Updated by Alan Trehern! © 2013]

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

How many times have I seen this phrase? Whether it is on the big screen, in a video game or in literature, this simple phrase pumps up millions of people. As you well know, this precedes some of the greatest films of our generation. Not only that, but this particular film (the one I’m writing about right now) was the first in the saga and started the figurative avalanche of stories, sequels and merchandise you love and cherish today. So let’s not falter a minute more, for your reading enjoyment and mine: STAR WARS: A New Hope.

It is a period of civil war. Rebel space ships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored spacestation with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy....

The proceeding events of this film are crucial. Plans for a planet destroying space station has been stolen from the Empire by Princess Leia Organa, Imperial Senator and Rebel Alliance sympathizer. As the dreaded Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer boards her space cruiser, she soon becomes prisoner, passing off the plans onto C-3PO and R2-D2. The story unravels as a young boy named Luke Skywalker is met by an elderly wizard named Obi-Wan Kenobi, and they set off to rescue the damsel in distress with the helps of pirates named Han Solo and Chewbacca. They manage to save her and save the galaxy from certain doom by destroying the Death Star and giving the Rebel Alliance the push it needs to become a formidable opponent in the Great Galactic War. And so ends the greatest story ever made.

Well, not really. It’s a really basic story, just placed thousands of years into the future (or somewhere in the universe, a long time ago). This simple space odyssey, linked with some of the greatest cinematic scenes of that time, made it an instant classic.

The Star Wars Saga And Arthurian Legend
Now, examine the story from a medieval point of view. Many of the same themes of the Arthur legend/ bedtime story can be seen in A New Hope. For instance, Luke is Arthur, a young boy unaware of his potential, and essential for the survival of his world. Obi-Wan Kenobi is the Merlin-archetype, and the lightsaber is Luke’s Excalibur. Darth Vader is the menacing dragon, lurking in his cave (Death Star), and holding Leia, the damsel in distress. Han and Chewie are the unlikely heroes, who you think are out for selfish reasons, until they redeem themselves by saving the young hero at the last minute. The droids, who many think of as comic relief, are the jesters that tell this tale from the stands (like the Muses or Chorus of an ancient Greek play). Whether you see the story from an Arthurian view, an ancient Greek epic view or a science fiction view, this story plays to everyone’s fantasy, making it a timeless film in any way you perceive it.

Characters and Interpretation
For a movie of this magnitude, the creators pushed the current effects to their potential. Ships in space, for example, were simply hanging from strings on a green screen, and tipped to signify movement. The explosions on the Death Star attack were dioramas and firecrackers set off by passing trucks. The camera work, although not the best, manages to take the vastness of space and the infinite beyond and translate it into modern cinema, bringing a space obsessed society to its knees.

Some of the greatest characters were born in this simple and vast film. For example, Han Solo, the coolest guy you know, helps Luke and Kenobi with the speed and agility of the Millennium Falcon. For those of you unaware, Solo had previously been employed by Jabba the Hutt, a crime lord on Tatooine and general scuzz. Anyway, Solo was carrying some illegal spices aboard his ship (The Falcon had been previously owned by Lando Calrissian, but he lost it to Solo in a card game called sabaac) when Imperial vessels attempted to search it. He dumped the spices before being pulled in, and that’s the reason Jabba puts a price on his head and sends Boba Fett. (Believe it or not, Boba Fett’s first appearance was on the Star Wars Christmas Special in 1978; the bounty hunter was introduced in a cartoon where Luke and Chewie needed help.)

Luke Skywalker, the arrogant and inexperienced farm boy, learns a few things about courage and becomes a hero. Why is he so important to the saga? Luke is the same base that Vader (Kenobi’s former apprentice) was. But Vader failed when met with the challenges of being a Jedi Knight and fell to the dark side of the Force. It is Skywalker’s triumph over temptation that corrects his predecessor’s faults. (In Arthurian legend, Sir Lancelot fell from grace when he slept with Guinevere, Arthur’s bride. Lancelot’s son, Sir Galahad, corrected his father’s mistakes by being pure of sin. He was rewarded by getting a glance at the Sangrail (Holy Grail), while his father, who searched for it as well, did not.)
Darth Vader is perhaps one of the most fiendish villains ever to hit the screen. He is unforgiving, unfaltered and stubborn. When A New Hope came out, no one even thought of Vader being Skywalker’s father. He was just the previous apprentice of Obi-Wan who had fallen to the dark side. This spin on Vader, as an unrelated-to-Luke entity, is very interesting. For example, Vader, in his jealousy, hates Obi-Wan for not understanding him. This is why he strikes him down in the Death Star. Then Vader finds out that Obi-Wan had a new apprentice; that a younger, more ready learner had replaced him. This outrages him even more, pushing him to the brink of insanity, and setting the stage for The Empire Strikes Back, where his hatred for Skywalker is fueled by his loneliness as the last remaining Jedi.

Come by Ben’s Movie Reviews (Congrats on 50 posts, buddy) to find the remaining parts of this series: The Empire Strikes BackShadows of the Empire by Steve Perry, and Return of the Jedi.

Safe journeys, space fans….


Ben Pearson said...

Please tell me that "Shadows of the Empire" by Steve Perry is written by THE Steve Perry.

Alan Trehern said...

Alas, no. THE Steve Perry is still in hiding. This book is the closest you'll get to him though.