Saturday, May 4, 2024

not an anniversary

Anybody inclined to call this Star Wars Day because May the Fourth be with you - I've seen that joke twice already this morning and it's only 10 AM - should remember that the actual anniversary of the release of the first movie is May 25.

Its Wikipedia article says that "It was released in a small number of theaters ... and quickly became a surprise blockbuster hit." It was a small number of theaters to show it on the biggest screens available - that was how you got the impact of the opening scene with the Imperial ship coming overhead on and on and on. And that it was a hit was no surprise in the SF community, which had been talking about it for months and which hardly could have been more than a small percentage of the people who lined up at those few theaters to see it on opening day.

I had been rather skeptical - a neo-space opera didn't sound like my kind of movie - but I was convinced to go see it by a big writeup in the previous week's Time magazine (hardly the mark of a movie whose hit status was going to come as a surprise), which argued that it was less an adventure story than a fun story. All right, I'll go see a fun movie.

And I came out thinking, "Hmm, not bad." Had the world been of my taste, the movie would have amused inoffensively and been forgotten.

And there certainly would have been no sequels. I'm going to put aside the increasingly dismayed feelings I had upon watching each of its successors until I quit doing so after "Phantom Menace" and also the increasingly dismayed feelings I had on rewatching the first two movies, which are the only ones tolerable enough that I ever have rewatched them, and merely pass on my firm conviction, reinforced every time I do watch them, that Darth Vader is NOT Luke's father. I am absolutely convinced, and what I've read about the writing of the scripts confirms this, that that equation was never intended or even thought of until the final scene to "Empire" was added, because nothing else said about either Vader or Anakin in either movie makes sense unless they're different people. This goes far beyond what Obi-Wan says to Luke about how Vader killed Anakin. This is an example of a "surprise" story in which the eventual "true" explanation makes less sense than the "false" ones discarded along the way.

(It's not the only example of this. Similarly, Norman Bates isn't dressing up as his mother. The movie doesn't make any sense if he is.)

By the way, "Darth" isn't the title of a Sith Lord in the first movie. It's Vader's given name. Obi-Wan uses it that way.

If I'm going to have a Star Wars mythology, I prefer the original.

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