One of the coolest things about the original STAR WARS was that it jumped over all the background stuff and right into the story. At the time, many sci-fi movies used the LOGAN’S RUN pattern: Written prologue (ala SW), slow approach to the location, ten-fifteen minutes of world-building, THEN the story really begins.
STAR WARS opens in media res, “in the middle of things,” with a spaceship zooming right over our heads, and then a HUGE spaceship in pursuit–the little underdog is trying to escape overwhelming government/military force, firing away with its pop gun laser as it puts up a fight. Using special effects as a storytelling tool, we are immediately IN the story: Plucky rebels vs. overwhelmingly-powerful, clearly unstoppable villains. We waited for the scene where everything is explained to us, and we do get that, but in bits–Leia’s message, Ben’s brief explanation of the Force and the Jedi. The movie never comes to a full stop for lectures about The Bad Old Days, like Peter Ustinov’s scenes in LOGAN’S.
One reason STAR WARS was such a hit was that for something that was just pure, colorful entertainment, it took the situation AND THE AUDIENCE seriously. The subsequent films didn’t and couldn’t have the impact of the original because of its newness, of course, but they also became more science fiction, more serious about the mythology. STAR WARS wasn’t just for the sci-fi fan but for the sci-fi fan’s brother who liked Han Solo’s cockiness–HE wasn’t taken in, like the cool kids in the audience, BUT he could join in the adventure and fun, too.
That’s what all this stupid fixation on canon does. It tries to make the story A Legend, A Myth, the way LORD OF THE RINGS is considered serious literature in part because it is rooted in centuries of mythology–it’s, like, kind of REAL, and realism = seriousness.
Right? I mean, doesn’t it?
Maybe. But why the need to turn every fun thing into something dead and scholarly?
Like the suitcase with something in it we don’t see in PULP FICTION, not waiting for all that set-up but giving the audience just enough to get what’s going on and then using the visuals to tell the story was a fresh way of telling a story in 1977 cinema. It was a time of great screenwriting and studios trying new things, but it was also about the actor and the screenplay being the center of the movie. THE GODFATHER and JAWS used all the tools of cinema, but they were hard to replicate; disaster movies skimped on the writing and went with special effects shows–years before STAR WARS was slammed as being ‘just effects and noise.’
Getting on with the story had the added benefit of letting our imaginations fill in the blanks for ourselves. What were Han Solo’s and Chewie’s adventures before this? What were those ‘clone wars’? What’s happening in the rest of the empire?
Now it’s about crossing every T and dotting every i. “Look, here’s R2 and 3PO’s first meeting!” Wow, that was nothing… “Look, here’s when the republic was safe and boring!” Yeah, it sure is boring. “Oh, WOW, Darth Vader…as a good little boy! Hey, wake up, this is exciting!”
SOLO is another movie I won’t be seeing. You have fun, though–I mean that. I hope people enjoy these movies the way I enjoyed the original STAR WARS.