Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A long time ago in a galaxy with a six-year-old: Watching Star Wars with Lily

It's hard to find something to say about Star Wars. It's been so influential on my life (one of my earliest memories is seeing it at a drive in with my parents before they split up) and on film making, and, really, my generation as a whole. I can barely get through a conversation without dropping a Star Wars reference. We had previously tried to watch the movie as a family about a year ago, but Lily was just a little too young to appreciate it, so we shelved it after the trash compactor scene and never got back to watching it. We gave it another go last week. 

My friend Dave says the special editions show Lucas beginning to lose his mind, but they're prettier. (Personally I'm holding out for the EXTRA special edition, where Alderaan shoots first.) We didn't watch those. This was the original, Han-shoots-first, no-New-Hope-at-the-beginning-of-the-crawl version of the film. And it kicked ass, thank you very much.

Somebody pointed out that the original is the only Star Wars movie that doesn't take place in the Star Wars universe, and I think that makes a lot of sense. It stands on its own. I think that Empire is a better movie, but it wouldn't have been possible without Star Wars. The Expanded Universe, which is what the vast body of novels and comics and trading card minutia is called, is something of a mess. Take a random alien from the cantina. Odds are, somebody wrote a story about his twenty years of bounty hunting.

My favorite story about the EU is sadly apocryphal, but it's too amusing not to share. When Princess Leia first meets with Grand Moff Tarkin, she sneers at him, "Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader's leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board." 

The way the account went is that there was allegedly this story where the author established that Tarkin suffered from "Tarkin's Syndrome", a disease that caused him to exude terrilbe body odor. Again, it's not true, there is no such story, but that's the kind of literal-minded explanations for things that don't need explaining that you find in the EU.

Speaking of Tarkin, Peter Cushing was wonderful. "Jesus, Vader, stop strangling all my dudes!" 

Sir Alec Guinness was awesome too. Seeing him again reminded me that Ewan McGregor did a great job emulating his mannerisms.So many of the quotable lines are his and it's strange to go back, and hear him talking about Mos Eisley being a wretched hive of scum and villainy when the line has been so riffed and referenced almost everywhere.  Lily says Ben is her favorite character after Princess Leia.

Speaking of whom, Carrie Fisher was really pretty excellent too. It's hard to believe that Princess Armadillo from the Planet Badactoria was supposed to be her mom.  Lily has welcomed her into the Princess Pantheon. She's right up there with Wonder Woman as "Princesses who aren't too fancy". 


She's not a fan of Chewbacca, however, whom she describes as "The gorilla that looks like it had its face cut off."

My friend Eric is fond of observing that Lucas's directing consists of "Faster! More intense!", but this was back when he was pretty good. He was never Stanley Kubrick, but he was once a competent director of actual human beings.


The music! That era was really phenomenal for movie music. I'm a big fan of John Williams. Back when I was doing surveys in college, my last name was too ethnic, so I had to pick a fake name and I went with John Williams.

It's really amazing how well nearly everything in the movie has held up. It doesn't look like a product of a specific era, and it looks "lived in" something that Lucas has said was one of his goals. The effects have heft. The movie was made on a shoestring, and I think that working around these limitations is what gives it such enduring appeal.

Lily really likes the trash compactor monster. (Feel free to drop by and tell me what its actual name is.) We were playing Akinator the online 20 questions came where a genie tries to guess what you're thinking. Lily tried to stump him with the Dianoga (oh, I already looked up the name. Too slow, nerds!), but he was too smart for us. 

She knew there was more than one movie, but she didn't have any ideas about what they contained. We had the following conversation.

Me: Everyone from Star Wars is coming back for the second movie!
Lily: Yes! Is Luke coming back?
Me: Yes.
Lily: Is the princess coming back?
Me: Yes.
Lily: Is Chewbacca coming back?
Me: Yes.
Lily: Is the mean guy coming back?
Me: Yes.
Lily: Is the guy who got his arm cut off coming back?
Me: You mean Ponda Baba. And no. Nobody gives a shit about him. Also, you are so my daughter.

Bonus! Links to some of my favorite Star Wars sites:

The Nitpicker's Guide to Star Wars: We kid because we love.


Star Wars Technical Commentaries: An actual astrophysicist looks at the science of Star Wars and tries to explain away some of the problems. Worth it for this quote:"If a source is uncomfortable or incongruent at face value, it is often possible to add background circumstances to alter its significance and give a more realistic perspective.", which is very similar to my stance and what the author did for the novelization of Revenge of the SithIt's all good, but of particular awesomeness is the page where he points out the destruction of the second Death Star would have depopulated Endor: Endor Holocaust

50 reasons why Return of the Jedi sucks: It's certainly the weakest of the trilogy, but I have new affection for it in the wake of the prequels.

Abridged Script to the Phantom Menace: There are abridged scripts for all of the movies, but I think this is the funniest.

We've already watched Empire, so keep an eye for the post on Lily's impressions.


  1. I agree with Lily. Obi Wan Kenobi is awesome. But then, I did name my dog after him.

  2. This entire post was worth it for the "Alderaan shoots first" joke alone. Well played, sir!