Star Destroyers

…You know, once I read this thing in an old Starlog magazine about how Star Wars took a lot of its design sense from the observation of tiny aquatic critters. Anybody else read that one?

No?

Okay, never mind: here’s my question.

What are ten things that Star Wars did right?

Remember, I’m a guy who hates the fact that Darth Vader is Luke’s father. So even though we’re talking about the whole series, mine would be something like:

1. The various models (e.g. and especially Star Destroyers) look very cool.

2. “Death Star” — Japanese ghosts swarm over a moon made of cenotaphs and mausoleums, ruled by a black-robed menacingly raspy God of Death…couldn’t really get that more perfect.

3. The lightsabers make a cool sound, and look awesome when they’re being swung around.

4. Jawas. Totally unnecessary, therefore totally mindblowing.

5. Incomparable chase scenes, starting with Han Solo in the Asteroid Field.

6. Hyperspace.

7. Pain-in-the-ass Yoda, before he reveals himself. Beyond great, it made me not walk out of the theatre. Fucking sorry-ass Luke, who in the hell could be interested in that whiny bastard? I want someone to come and eat his food and piss off his droid. Hell I want someone to piss on his droid. And what in the fuck’s a “droid”, anyway…?

8. When the X-Wings blow up, their debris rushes forward with the same velocity and in the same direction that they did. Thank you Mr. Dykstra, you fucking well CHANGED MY LIFE, Doug Trumbull is good but you are better my friend.

9. John Williams did fantastic work here, actually making themes and variations on themes. Fuck it, I’m gonna put on my Star Wars soundtrack record right now. You want to know how into it I was? I have three copies of that record. Yes, E.T. was a horrifying piece of shit; then again, the man also did the Raiders score.

And so you have to understand.

10. The two moons of Tatooine. Luke is so lonely there are two fucking moons there. Man, talk about coming from nothing…! When he walks out, and picks up the binoculars…that’s as good as this all gets…

[EDIT: Except, as Matthew reminds me, it’s two suns Luke sees, not two moons…and so I don’t know, I guess I look like I don’t know what I’m talking about?]

And that’s all I need. But you, Bloggers?

What are the ten things you like most about the six Star Wars movies?

(waves hand) It’d probably be a good idea to tell me…

…yeah, it’d probably be a good idea to tell you…

And then I’ll tell you the ten things I think Star Wars did worst…!

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23 responses to “Star Destroyers

  1. Ten things that Star Wars did right, without looking at your list:

    1. In 1977, Princess Leia was shooting stormtroopers and taking no guff from anyone at all.
    2. The special effects, of course.
    3. Some of the cast could actually act.
    4. Not afraid to have some important characters who couldn’t actually say anything we understood.
    5. Not afraid to give us information through such avenues as subtitles and the famous opening crawl.
    6. The score, of course.
    7. Admirably ambitious in scope.
    8. Competent world-building with some depth to it.
    9. How about the action figures and other toys? Do they count? I was a big fan back in the day; my brother and I would play with them for hours.
    10. The story just keeps jumping from one action scene to the next, and yet none of them seem gratuitous; they all fit together.

    Oh, wait: I just read your list, and you weren’t just talking about the first movie. Oh well; I’ll let mine stand anyway. (And I think that Tatooine has two suns, not moons.)

  2. I do really like the first part of the third movie, the Jabba’s-palace/Sail-Barge part.

    I also like, in the fourth movie (haven’t seen the fifth and sixth), the intrepid, stand-back-we’re-professionals attitude of the Jedi.

    Did you see the April Fool’s thing this year where one company claimed to be offering for sale a kid’s sleeping bag that was styled like a plushie version of a dead, disembowelled tauntaun? With intestine patterning on the inside lining? It got such a positive response that they considered actually making it.

  3. Actually, if my memory of the opening scene is correct, I think there are at least two Tatooine moons — the suns just get more attention.

    In no particular order:

    1. Berserker Luke, tapping into the Dark Side to unleash the focused total– I mean, the full measure of his hereditary power in a furious beatdown of Vader. Everything just comes together in that moment — choreography, editing, music, the whole magilla.

    2. Empire‘s Luke/Vader duel. Scary, suspenseful, thrilling, and for a little while you actually think Luke might beat the (much bigger) guy.

    3. The Jawas’ droid-jacking introduction. Again, a nice piece of filmmaking, and with no intelligible dialogue to boot.

    4. Sir Alec Guinness. He might have disavowed SW later on, but his performance — especially in his first scenes, in the desert and his hut — really gave the movie a deep sense of history. Made me want to learn more about the Clone Wars, anyway.

    5. Luke’s twin-suns moment. Teenage angst, yearning for adventure, and sci-fi all blended together.

    6. The score. Goes without saying.

    7. The asteroid chase.

    8. Best Leia line: “I am not a committee!”

    9. I have to admit, I did like the end of Episode II. It is staged so triumphally, what with those armies of clones and proto-Star Destroyers, plus the “royal wedding,” but we know it’s the point everything goes to hell.

    10. Vader’s reintroduction in Empire, set to “The Imperial March”: first we see a Star Destroyer, then we see the shadow falling across it, then we look up at what’s causing the shadow (and filling the screen), then we pull back to see (gasp!) how big it is, and then we see the back of Vader’s helmet and know — of course! — it could only be his.

  4. Ten things Star Wars did worst:

    1. Mark Hamill can’t act. Plus, like most heroes in coming-of-age adventures, Luke is whiny.
    2. By making Luke, Leia and Vader all related, and by using the droids in the prequel trilogy, and probably in some other ways, Lucas reduces the size of his universe from “unimaginably vast” to “about as big as this room”. You can’t have an epic feel if there are only 35 people in existence and they all keep running into each other! Space is supposed to be big!
    3. You’ve already said it: there are only so many times one can get excited about having to destroy the shield generator.
    4. I would have liked to have seen what the third movie would have been like if someone in authority had said, “No Ewoks. Go try it again.”
    5. Did you ever see the Star Wars one on howitshouldhaveended.com? They make a strong case.
    6. No payoff on Obi-Wan becoming more powerful than we can possibly imagine.
    7. I would have liked to have seen what the third movie would have been like if someone in authority had said, “No, we’ve already had a Death Star. Go try it again.”
    8. You don’t measure the Kessel Run in parsecs, you knob; parsecs are distance.
    9. Sick and tired of people having bad feelings about this.
    10. Has the history of warfare ever provided us with stupider ideas than the AT-ATs and scout walkers?

    Oh: one other thing the first movie did right? Landspeeder! How cool would it be to have one of those?

  5. Ten Things “Star Wars” Did Right:

    1. It introduced Grand Adventure and Magical Knights and so forth gradually, and normal people throughout the galaxy didn’t believe in such malarkey until they were confronted with it. Even the Imperials didn’t believe in the Force until choked by Vader. That gave the story three nifty levels: “boring-ass, everyday Tatooine,” above which sat “evil technocratic Empire versus remnants of the Republic,” and beyond all of it was “Ancient and Forgotten Mystic Order of Knights Waging War of Good and Evil.”

    2. The sense that a world of amazing magic and mysticism was so close we could touch it. Luke’s training looked so simple. Surely we could do it too?

    3. The heart of the movie was about breaking free from the everyday and the cynical and embracing idealism and heroism, and did so in a charming, unforced way. Luke trusts the Force, Han risks his life for more than money, and Chewbacca learns not to rip the arms off of droids for pissing him off. Again, charming.

    4. The climactic trench sequence was and remains exciting.

    5. Dogfights! Dogfights! Dogfights!

    6. Alec Guinness. Because he’s Alec Guinness.

    7. “We don’t allow your kind in here! Your droids! Leave ’em outside!” My father, who lived in the American South before and during the Civil Rights era, laughed hysterically at this line back in 1977. A bit of biting wit never hurts. Also, it reinforced the smallness and pettiness of Tatooine that Luke, and the viewer, escape.

    8. A shameless embrace and repurposing of the serial movie cliches: walls closing in, swinging across canyons, rescuing princesses, the Wilhelm Scream, etc. All done with affection, without winking, and repurposed with enough effort that it doesn’t even feel like a tribute or a theft, just a re-use. As a result, they work just as well as they did back in Ye Olden Tymes.

    9. Speeder bikes on the moon of Endor. Righteous.

    10. Jabba the Hutt. Now that’s a goddamn crimelord.

  6. 4. The climactic trench sequence was and remains exciting.

    Exciting, yes, but it’s something else I always had a problem with. I imagine a conversation like this:

    A: I’m going to get into my spaceship, fly to Earth, and wipe Toronto off the map with my laser cannons.
    B: Okay, here’s how you do it. When you reach Earth’s atmosphere, fly to Montreal, and then fly west above Highway 401. It’ll take you right to Toronto.
    A: Why can’t I just go right to Toronto as soon as I’m in the atmosphere?
    B: Because.

  7. Hey, Matthew, gotta wait ’til the next post to say what was wrong with it…!

    But, heh…yeah, you and I are in agreement on more than a few things. You missed one, though! Oh, are you gonna be jealous I thought of it first…

    Tom and Harvey: oh, those are good! I’ll comment more later. Matthew again: I do especially like the Liam Neeson “Jedi On The Scene, Baby!” bit at the beginning of TPM, he really sells it…and the landspeeders, of course, I ran out of room to mention them, but it’s all very “here, gonna throw in a little juice for the kids, Flash-Gordon-style!”, and that’s what Star Wars did best of all. Throw in a little juice for the kids.

    Back soon, guys! Got a good couple of comments ready to go.

  8. I’m trying not to duplicate answers:

    1. AT-ATs may have been a stupid idea, but holy crap, they looked impressive! I also liked the two-leggeed walkers in Jedi.

    2. Speaking of Jedi, Jabba’s palace and its denizens were a delight, a good mix of silly and creepy.

    3. Costume design – Skull-faced Stormtroopers, evil-looking Darth Vader, all of Jabba’s palace, Bobba fett’s faceless menace.

    4. Chewbacca! What a Wookie!

    5. The special effects- most of them still look good.

    6. To throw a bone to the prequels- The Yoda vs. Dooku fight was as funny as it was awesome. We’d bneen waiting YEARS to see Yoda the badass, and there it was. Highly entertaining.

    7. The whole story in Empire, with its betrayals and pessimism, was unlike anything else I’d seen as a kid.

    8. Forgiving Vader- his ghost gets to be with Ben’ and Yoda’s at the end of Jedi.

    9. James Earl Jones made Vader sound like the most evil guy in the galaxy.

    10. The fact that they came out when I was a kid, which made them the raddest movies ever.

  9. Really my last comment before bed — that’s always been a mystery to me, the yearning to see Yoda kick some ass. Guess I’m with Roger Ebert on that one: why does Yoda have to fight anybody, can’t he just frown at them and then a mountain drops on their head?

    I really do find it interesting, how universal the “yah, Yoda goes to town!” thing is. Feel like a bit of a freak, to tell the truth! Something so appealing to so many people, and yet I don’t get it at all. Sigh.

  10. In no particular order, and I’m sure I’d think of something even better later:

    1. THE moment in Star Wars for me is the moment when Han comes back to save the day. I know, I know, no audience watching that movie for the first time could *possibly* think, “Well, that’s the last we’ll ever see of *that* asshole,” but it’s not about the surprise, it’s about the triumph. The score becomes particularly dramatic, and the editing in that sequence is a hell of a thing; it’s put together in the most exciting possible way.

    2. John Williams. Whenever somebody says they don’t like John Williams, I’m like, “Don’t you like *fun*??” The score is unsubtle and obvious, but this isn’t two people sitting in a hotel room talking, this is grand, sweeping, intragalactic combat.

    3. The structure of Empire Strikes Back, and I’m somewhat surprised you don’t care for most of that movie, good sir. It’s not the “dark ending” that hooks me, it’s that it splits the characters up and lets them wander around. The first and third movies (IV and VI, God it’s confusing to talk about Star Wars) have very clearly defined missions, but the second one reminds me for all the world of a good-ol-days Marvel comic in the middle of a run where the creative team is plotting loosely, throwing characters into situations and seeing where it leads them. Like the battle on Hoth is one issue, the next is where Luke arrives on Dagobah and the asteroid field chase, and so on.

    4. That they just throw stuff out there like “the Clone Wars” and “that bounty hunter we ran into on Ord Mantell” and don’t have to explain it. Let the kids use their imagination! Of course, they blow it in the prequels, and it’s why I don’t read the novels and comics: I already wrote that scene in my head, you guys, and if you don’t want the audience to do that, don’t be so suggestive!

    5. WWII dogfights in space (I’ve heard that during rough cuts of the movie, before the SFX were done, Lucas just pasted in bits of old WWII movies to suggest how it was gonna go).

    6. Luke becoming supercompetent between Empire and Jedi. It’s less about Luke himself than Han, who’s been out of the loop that whole time, going “Luke? He can barely take care of himself!” to really drive home how far Luke has come. Yes, even his best pal was like, “Nice kid, but kind of useless, isn’t he?”

    7. That last quick shot before the Death Star blows up of Peter Cushing looking contemplative, with no idea what’s going to happen. That’s why I never believe it when people say “Lucas was never a good director,” because he thought enough to put *that* scene in.

    8. I’m looking for something good to say about the prequels. All I really got is that, like everyone else, it’s fun to see Liam Neeson and Young Obi-Wan ON THE CASE.

    9. Obvious one, but the “used universe” aesthetic. A lot of the equipment is old and dirty, and some stuff just doesn’t work and you’re not sure why. I don’t know why my laptop restarts itself sometimes when it’s supposed to be on hibernate, but it’s not a big problem and I use it just the same.

    10. Oh, let’s just say Darth Vader as a visual.

    As much as I love these movies, it will be VERY EASY to come up with the 10 bad things.

  11. The more I think about it, the more I think the original Star Wars trilogy *does* sort of resemble a run on a comic book, except that you’ve never seen all the issues.

    Like, the events of Star Wars are #1-6 (just like the actual Marvel comic). Then there’s a hole in my collection that picks up again with #11, where the Rebels get driven off their base on Hoth where they’ve apparently been stationed for the last couple issues (Boba Fett is probably introduced in one of those issues I’m missing, too). Then Star Wars #16 is a huge issue where Luke finds out Darth Vader’s his father and Han gets frozen and they have to go find him.

    Then I couldn’t get to a newsstand for a few months, and when I could I was too far behind, so I end up skipping the next year and a half or so until #32 promises “THE RETURN OF HAN SOLO!” so I have to buy that. Then I find out that Luke’s been training and has become a Jedi in the interim, and they rebuilt the Death Star, which seems a little cheap. And then the book is cancelled with #38, but they gave the creative team time to wrap up all their plotlines (although you can tell they got kind of rushed and had to make Leia into Luke’s sister to end that subplot pretty quickly).

  12. In no particular.

    1. Yoda rummaging through Luke’s things and grunting disapprovingly as he throws objects to the ground, stopping to play with a flashlight.

    2. Han and Chewbacca arguing about fixing the Falcon whilst the Hoth Rebel base is being blown totally to shit, literally coming down around their ears. No subtitles, but completely understood.

    3. Ian McDiarmid. Emperor Palpatine. ‘Jedi’. (he was wasted in the Prequel Trilogy. Those three films should have been about his rise to power, and not in the peripheral way that it was depicted)

    4. Lando’s co-pilot in the Falcon. Nien Numb? Is that his name? He emits this silly laugh when they explode the second Death Star. Cracks me up every time. (tangent: love that in an episode of Venture Bros. Dr. Orpheus conjures this same character out of A PLAYING CARD!)

    5. I love that Boba Fett was disposed of in an almost comedic manner, after all of the bad ass posing.

    6. The sound the Falcon makes when the hyper-drive putters out.

    7. The Han Solo—“chase a couple Storm Troopers crazily down a hallway, only to be chased back down said hallway by dozens of them”—thing. (see also: Temple of Doom)

    8. Asteroid chase. The music, edits and everything about it.

    9. The score for Episode 4-6

    10. “Who’s scruffy looking?!”

    Damn, there are more, but…

  13. Ewoks. Because they are hard-core, guerilla mean bastards who don’t get enough respect. Even though Leia is already in their village and so they KNOW that humans are intelligent, they still plan to eat some. Just because the beef won’t stop yapping is no reason to cancel the bbq. Plus they had hanggliders and catapults. Stuff whose only purpose originally would have been for conquest of other tree villages. Ewoks = War-mongering teddy bears…

    Also their ability to take down the Empires best with stone-age tech proves that even in a galaxy far, far away military contractors will screw you every time…

  14. Morgan, ha! Never thought of that — it is funny.

    Harvey: you’ve got me totally sold on 1, 2, and 8…and yet of these three, I think 2 and 8 are the greater accomplishments. Yeah, the walls closing in, the swing on the rope across the big hole…it’s absolutely ridiculous how well-received these things were in 1977, to just see some guy swing across on that rope with the princess holding on…I mean, really, how hokey can you get? It was practically the hokiest thing ever, so to actually see it work was astounding, a catharsis for the audience: it’s okay to like this, just this exact hokey-ass thing — it’s okay. I imagine my parents had the same feeling about the intro-scroll; I wouldn’t know, since I’d never really seen that device before in a real movie, but they probably did. But anyway even I knew that the rope-swing was usually a letdown…

    And then the trickiest part, Luke’s initiation…as you say, it looks so simple. It sounds so simple, too, that it really ought to be insulting. “Feel the Force”, what? There’s nothing to it. And yet. Good call on that.

    Finally, Justin: you see, you’re absolutely right about Empire’s structure, but y’know you could say the same thing about Attack Of The Clones too…the structure is fine, it’s just all the little details that fill it up, that seem misbegotten somehow. Plus, how dare they rip off an awesome scene from one of my favourite FF comics, that I get hassled for reading, only to hand it off to the massive Star Wars audience as though they thought it up? And I still get hassled for reading FF, damn it…

    Well in a way, chasing the original Star Wars is also like chasing the Lee/Kirby FF run…not in the general sense of “this was so awesome, how do we follow it”, but in the more specific sense of “oh God, now it’s my turn…what’m I gonna do, I’m no Kirby, I don’t have a psychedelic story-volcano in my head, WHERE ARE THEY GONNA GO, WHAT ARE THEY GONNA DO?!” Of course the comparison isn’t exact — it isn’t like George Lucas didn’t have anything to do with Empire, but he was still going with the resurrection of old serial adventure stuff being the key…and it really wasn’t, anymore, because it had already been good and resurrected. In my opinion anyway, whatever was in Empire that smacked of “seen it before” was the stuff we were trying to get through so we could enjoy the movie’s more novel ingredients…Zen Master Muppet? Asteroid chase? Even the Han and Leia romance acquired a certain sheen of novelty, since like Raiders it was a transplantation of one kind of 1940s movie idea into another kind of 40s movie idea…

    …But Lando’s nobody’s favourite character, I’ll wager, and you’ve got to know it was Larry and Irwin who managed most of the stuff people liked, in this one. Still, many little details are…clunky.

    LOVE the “Star Wars Comic” thing, by the way!

  15. I’m surprised no one’s mentioned what a remarkably effective little character R2-D2 is. I mean, it’s a whole lot to get out of a garbage can that beeps, isn’t it?

  16. Pingback: Star Destroyers, Part III « A Trout In The Milk·

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