This is the one that started it all! And here we are five movies into the series. But this is the one that started it all! Let’s do this!
Episode Number: 4 — Released: 1977 — Production Number: 1
Look, Sir, Droids!
Apparently Lucas got this idea from Kurosawa, but I love how this is totally the droids’ movie. Obviously Kurosawa never included droids in his movies, but the whole idea of telling a story from the minor-est of minor characters is fun.
Also, I love Threepio because he’s such a worrier, and yet he’s super adaptive. When Luke buys them, Threepio is like that cat that just makes itself at home right away without a care in the world. He’s fidgety and stressful, but after having lost his last master to the Empire, he seems super chill to have changed hands to this desert farm boy in the middle of nowhere.
We all need to be more like Threepio.
And Artoo is literally the entire reason this movie exists. He’s the best.
Only a Master of Evil
R1 does a great job of expanding Vader’s bizarre position in this movie. He’s completely terrifying and super powerful and imposing…but he’s basically a henchman in this one. Tarkin is the main villain (which is fine because I LOVE Peter Cushing).
Vader is basically just the Emperor’s errand boy. Tarkin wields all the actual power in this situation, so Vader just does whatever Tarkin tells him. But they have an interesting relationship. Tarkin refers to Vader as “my friend” at one point, and he knows that Vader was once a Jedi. Vader doesn’t feel like Tarkin’s lackey. he does his bidding, but the two of them seem very much to be equals. Tarkin has no issues with Vader, and Vader seems to trust Tarkin. There’s not much in the way of rivalry between them like there was between Krennic and Tarkin. They’re both just sort of Totalitarian Bros and they’re OK with that, which makes Vader’s ascendancy to the top of the Imperial military food chain in the next movie that much more impressive. You get the feeling Vader cultivates this mutual respect with Tarkin solely for the influence, so that when Tarkin is bumped out of the picture (possibly by Vader) he would be in a position to take over.
There are a few issues that previous (read: later) movies created, though.
Obi-Wan should totally recognize Artoo. He spends more time with Anakin, but still, Artoo and Obi-Wan interact quite a bit. And even if Artoo’s memories were protected by a firewall to protect the identity of Anakin, Obi-Wan SHOULD recognize him. I don’t think the prequels ever explained this…
Also, on the subject of Obi-Wan, his conversation with Luke early on is super sugar-coated. He’s obviously doing that on purpose, but still, his comment about Owen thinking that Anakin joined Obi-Wan on “some damn fool idealistic crusade” seems weird. TPM had Owen meeting Anakin long before he met Obi-Wan. Now that’s either an error on TPM’s part, or Obi-Wan is just making stuff up. I guess you could say that, later on, once Owen got to know Obi-Wan, he didn’t fully understand what happened and assumed that Anakin’s fall was Obi-Wan’s fault.
Also, Obi-Wan’s comment about the lightsaber is odd. Because we sure know that Anakin definitely did not want Luke to have his lightsaber when he was old enough. He was too busy burning up on the side of a volcano.
I guess the real truth would have hurt Luke too much. But still, this fake narrative that Obi-Wan creates is a bit TOO far from the truth…
Also, Vader mentions that several transmissions were beamed to the Tantive IV, but R1 showed one datacard literally tossed through a doorway seconds before Vader reached it. I guess you could say that Vader is playing it cool and acting like he wasn’t just there a few days prior, but I wish R1 had kept that piece of continuity.
Also, it’s obvious the whole “Darth as a Sith title” thing hadn’t yet been established. Again, it could be Obi-Wan glossing over the truth (because by that point, all mention of the Sith would have been wiped away by Palpatine so hearing Darth something wouldn’t make people immediately think of a Sith) but still, when he’s fighting Vader, he calls him “Darth,” which feels weird.
The Princess and the Farmboy
Marathoning the films like this really reinforces that Luke and Leia are OBVIOUSLY Anakin’s children. Leia’s got Padme’s sense of diplomacy and maturity, but when she grabs that blaster and blows up that vent to the trash compactor, that is all Anakin. We saw Padme in a firefight in TPM and she was laying down cover fire for the others, but Anakin is the type to just dive right into the middle of a fight and start shooting, which is what Leia does, and that makes me happy. Leia is the best.
And Luke got Anakin’s impatience and his feeling that he’s always right. Luke never doubts himself. He embraces the Force and defends it to Han who thinks it’s dumb, and he’s not shy about sharing his opinions (“It’s not impossible. I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home. They’re not much bigger than two meters.”) And he’s not super good at tact or diplomacy. He’s immature, but his heart is in the right place. That is Anakin all over the place. But unlike Anakin, Luke is more self-assured, which is definitely Padme.
Your Friend is Quite the Mercenary
I always forget just how cynical Han Solo is in this one. He’s so much more stable in ESB and RotJ. In this one, he’s got so much swagger it throws him off balance.
I’m eager to see how the new Han Solo film treats him. There’s this fantastic trilogy by A.C. Crispin which is totally not canon anymore, sadly, but it outlines (one version of) the particulars of how Han got on Jabba’s bad side, and it’s awesome. We get Han’s intro to the Millennium Falcon and his history with Lando and his falling out with the Empire. It’s just marvelous. And it’s technically canonically accurate until next year when the film comes out, so you totally need to read it now The first book is called The Paradise Snare. I think the second one is The Hutt Gambit, and the third one’s called Rebel Dawn. They go right up to the moment when Han meets Obi-Wan and Luke.
Also Han shot first.
Sorry, Greedo. You’re just not cool enough to match Han in terms of sneaky quick draws.
_________ Deserved a Medal
Yes, I know Chewie deserved a medal. But what about the two other pilots who survived?? Wedge survived and he doesn’t get a medal. And the other dude (don’t know his name, but the dude in the Y-Wing that is seen flying away with Luke, Wedge, and Han right before the Death Star explodes) doesn’t get a medal. That makes me sad. I get that they didn’t want a long awards ceremony to end the movie, but like, still…Wedge deserves a medal…
This is a weird movie and I love it. I’m glad the studio let Lucas keep making these, because the whole unresolved Han/Leia thing would have been terrible, and Vader’s still alive and out there somewhere, and that’s terrible, and then there’s the fact that the Empire still exists and they’re all still being crushed under the thumb of a brutal dictatorship, which is also terrible.
If this whole crazy franchise had ended after it’s first movie, life would have been sad and depressing and meaningless. Good thing nerds everywhere embraced this one and the studio wasn’t as terrified of making a sequel as they initially were. So, thank you, nerds of the seventies for making life worth living by supporting this weird genre-bending rule-breaking movie that had everyone confused.
And thank you, George Lucas for being amazing and creating this whole wacky galaxy! You rock, sir.
Next up is Empire! Whoooo!