Watching Star Wars as an adult–as a cynical adult–is an interesting experience. There are plenty of frequent reminders of the first film’s “faults,” from Alec Guinness and Harrison Ford deriding the dialogue to many of the second trilogy’s reviews citing it as a weak film. As near as I can tell, I haven’t seen Star Wars since early 1999, when I prepared for Episode I. I’m pretty sure I watched the original edition, from the “Definitive Collection” LaserDisc. This viewing was back when no one had any idea how stingy Lucas was going to be with the original versions of the films.
Tonight I watched a recreation of the 1977 version. It’s called the “Classic Edition” and, if you know where to look, it’s available online. I’d love to link to a torrent or something, but I’d rather not get the blog taken down, not before I get the beautiful new version up (by the end of the month, hopefully). This 1977 is pre-A New Hope even… The result–and the experience–is magical. Star Wars‘s brilliance is not impossible to quantify. This film is very much from the director of THX 1138 and American Graffiti–I’d love to say the Han/Luke relationship mirrors, resembles, or continues the Curt/Steve relationship from Graffiti, but someone else already has. The beauty of Star Wars, what kept people going back in 1977 and so on, is in the characters. Much like Graffiti, Lucas again creates this wonderful cast of characters, all of whom have these nuanced relationships with each other. It’s not R2D2 and Chewbacca playing the 3D chess, it’s C3PO looking at Princess Leia during the Death Star run. It’s Leia saying “Good luck” before the swing.
The swing is another example of something in Star Wars–unrelenting adventure. There’s a difference between unrelenting action and unrelenting adventure. Action is about killing bad guys, adventure is about beating impossible odds. Star Wars is about attaining the impossible dream.
Still, when I started watching the film–probably until the Sand People attack–I found myself trying to figure out what Lucas was doing differently back then. I was trying to identify how he went bad. It’s visible really early, during the Jawas selling the droids. Lucas used to be excited by what he was putting on film and he’s not anymore (at least not with the second trilogy, who knows if he’ll direct again). I’ve probably seen Star Wars fifteen times, the first time when I was three–and I can’t remember ever being more entranced than I was tonight, at twenty-seven.