For a full appreciation of this article, a proper reading of Bill’s review of Episode IV at Bill’s Movie Emporium is required.
‘I find your lack of faith disturbing.’
And so the battle finally commences. After a series of films for which our opinions diverged only slightly and sometimes not at all, Episode IV, surprisingly, brought about significantly different reviews from you and I. No one, not even self proclaimed fans of the Star Wars franchise, is required to love Episode IV. There is no litmus test dictating that to be part of the Star Wars fan base or community one must proclaim their unshakable appreciation of the original film. Granted, very few people who admit to being fans of the franchise don’t like Episode IV, but that’s another matter altogether. There’s little denying that you are in a unique position with your review of the current film in our marathon, but I doubt that need make you any less of a Star Wars fan.
No, it is not the overall nature of your article that puzzled me. As they say, the devil is in the details, and it was rather your individual points which had me shaking my head, sometimes in disbelief and other times in laughter (I will admit as much that some of your snarky comments produced some laughter as I read). What is this ‘not caring about the characters’ business all about exactly? As I recall, prior to viewing Episode IV, we had just revisited the prequel trilogy which sets up the events and characters as we meet them at the start of the film. Ben Kenobi as an old man who Luke knew for a few days who never did a single thing to heighten him in your eyes... Okay, what in heaven’s name was the prequel trilogy, which you praised on a consistent basis I might add, for in that case? The Episode IV Ben Kenobi is our famous Jedi Knight living his final days, attempting to do good for peace and justice one last time before he kicks the bucket. We just saw him for 3 freaking movies kicking butt, sweating his ass off for everything he felt the Old Republic and democracy stood for (for good or ill). Now, with the road of the son of the one who was supposed to bring balance to the Force finally finding its way to Ben’s cottage, or whatever it is he lives in, he sees his chance to fight back at the Empire in any way he is capable of. He knows his days are numbered, he’s not stupid. He also knows exactly who Luke Skywalker is, what he represents and what can come about him with a little bit of training. I think Ben knows full well he is not going to finish off the job. His time is over. Now is the time to develop justice’s new hope: Luke. Added to that bit of rich storytelling is the fact that Ben is portrayed by the ever classy Sir Alec Guinness. He’s like Sir Ian McKellen. You could have cast him as the cook at a burger joint and he would have made the role gold. Those few moments when he explains to Luke what happened to the Jedi and who Darth Vader is resonate even more now that we have watched the prequel trilogy. I honestly think they worked before anyways before the existence of episodes I, II and III because they hinted at this terrible event, the Clone Wars (which got us all excited for the eventual prequel trilogy). But now, as a part of the complete saga, I think those couple minutes are brilliant.
The comments about Darth Vader are more understandable. Even in my own review I briefly mentioned that Vader seems to play second fiddle to the nefarious General Tarkin. Vader is not the main villain of this instalment until perhaps the final 30 minutes because we really don’t see much of him until that point. Was his iconography earned on image alone? I think you may be on to something. On the other hand I don’t see why that is a bad thing necessarily. He does look ferocious after all. There is also the vocal performance by the great James Earl Jones that adds some real strength to the character. Nonetheless, Vader becomes interesting and more prominent in the film once he orders the Stormtroopers to inspect the Millenium Falcon because he senses a familiar presence within the Force. Right away we have a hint of back story, which culminates in the lightsaber duel shortly afterwards. I am not going to sit here and type that the duel between Vader and Ben Kenobi is exciting, because it isn’t really exciting, but I don’t agree at with any notion that the confrontation does not carry any emotional weight. Because of that the fight is a mixed bag, but I think the character elements to it prevent it from being so awful as you proclaim it to be.
I also had trouble assessing your statements about exposition and the frivolous nature of the film. Boring exposition? I don’t know, based on the fact that you liked the political scenes from Episode I, I suppose your comment makes sense?... The movie begins and we are immediately dropped into a space chase and then a shootout, introductions to Darth Vader, Princess Leia, C3PO and R2D2. The movie then, admittedly, does lag for a few minutes with the droids walking around the desert and then being purchased by the Skywalkers, but it picks up with great pace once Luke meets Ben Kenobi. A few minutes about the death of the Old Republic (really, it’s a brief scene. I hope you’re not actually including that in your argument of useless information. Anyways, it isn’t useless, it partly convinces Luke to join in on the Rebellion), and we’re off to meet with Han Solo. The rest is a bunch of actions scenes and witty banter until the end of the film. Where in heaven’s name is your ‘snail’s pace’ and ‘unnecessary information’? Frivolous nature? I imagine because you wanted more politicking about disbanding the Senate? Uh, no thanks, this is Star Wars, not Congress or the House of Commons (Canada represent!). Who cares anyways, Palpatine is the freaking Emperor! He wants to disband the Senate? Go right ahead. He wants pepperoni pizza? On the double my Lord! The only segment of the series that I would characterize as frivolous thus far would be the opening minutes of Episode I. We don’t know what the heck the Trade Federation is, why they’re important, why they want Naboo specifically (although that is sort of explained later) with two Jedi visiting about 4 places in maybe 15 minutes.
You and I are typically on the same page when it comes to dissecting films. On the rare occasions when our opinions differ, I generally get what it is about said film that you didn’t appreciate. This was truthfully and honestly one of the unique times when I really ‘didn’t get’ what you were saying. This isn’t intended to be mean or condescending (I have nothing but respect for you), but as I type this rebuttal article I’m still under the impression that I watched Episode IV whereas you watched Episode I again, only this time you actually came to your senses. Just as you apparently read my Episode III review multiple times, I did much of the same with your Episode IV review, trying to fit your comments with elements of the film. I failed every time. I’m still trying to figure out the ‘don’t care for the characters’ comments and the ‘snail’s pace’ comments.
I’m going to leave it at that. It looks as if we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. It’s unfortunate the Episode IV segment of the marathon is going to end like this because I typically understand people’s opinions of given films even if I don’t quite agree with them. This really was not one of those times sadly. Bill, I’ll see you on the Hoth battlefield.