by Kung Fu Zu 1/6/16
I must be getting old. I was a big fan of the original three Star Wars films when they were released. In the spring of 1977, the back page of the International Herald Tribune featured an article about a new science fantasy film which was about to hit the silver screen. The title of the film was “Star Wars” and, as I recall, the article mentioned the film’s huge box-office potential and the lift the film’s distributor, Twentieth Century Fox, would get from the film’s success. Accordingly, I advised my father to buy Fox stock. He didn’t.
My father may have missed an investment opportunity, but I didn’t miss the film. And I thought it was a real winner. I also saw the second and third installments, which were both very good, the second being the best of the three. I won’t mention my thoughts on the three prequels as it is not pleasant to dwell on the failures of a great movie maker.
With the release of the latest episode, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I became a little nostalgic and decided to return to the original, A New Hope and try to approximate the feeling I experienced so long ago.
So last night I sat down ready to be entertained. But after sitting through the film again, I have to admit the thrill is gone. I asked myself, “What happened?” After all, this was the same film which had enthralled me as a young man. This was the film which had captured the imagination of a whole generation of people around the world. But now, in the year 2016, I found the film (dare I say it?) somewhat boring.
I know this will be heresy to millions, but before all you Star Wars fans start burning me in effigy, please count to ten and have a look at what I have to say.
A small gripe I have with the film is the slow pace of some of the scenes on Tatooine. But one could maintain Lucas needed to fill out the biographies of a couple of the main characters so I am not overly bothered about this.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about my main complaint, which is the mediocre performances of some of the cast. It should be said that Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness were believable as General Tarkin and Obe-Wan Kenobi respectively. But when a giant in a burka and a couple of droids act better than the other main characters, something is wrong.
I have always thought Harrison Ford over-rated, but I found his somewhat dimwitted, yet supercilious Han Solo silly. It is one thing to have a devil-may-care attitude toward life, but it should be expressed with more élan. If Ford couldn’t pull that off, he should have been more cynical. In either case, he was not very believable.
Mark Hamill reminded me of a lead in the yearly high school play put on by the lit. class. He was willing, but trying too hard to act thus not very convincing. There was nothing deft about his performance.
It could be argued Carrie Fisher fulfilled her main role, which was to run around in a closely draped garment which did not show too much, but enough for young men’s imaginations to shift into high gear. Otherwise, she did not contribute a lot.
One particular aspect of the film irritated me last night as much as it did in 1977. That would be the inability of anyone with a ray gun to shoot straight. It’s wasn’t as if anyone was taking shots at 3,000 yards. But for all the flashes bouncing around the film, a surprisingly small number of people/beings seem to be hit. This was despite the fact that though those ray guns were like lasers and one could see exactly where one’s shot was going.
In the end, it is only one thing that holds the film together, and that is not the special effects. Technology which is 1977 was ground-breaking is somewhat passé in 2016. No, what holds A New Hope together is the story. Without the mythic power of the story, it would be just another sci-fi flick with its cult-like followers.
Perhaps I am being too harsh. No doubt my tastes have changed during the intervening forty years since the film originally burst on to the scene. However, last night, I was honestly disappointed once the film came to an end. Not because I wanted more, but because the old magic was gone.
Kung Fu Zu is a conservative prognosticator who has traveled widely and lived outside the United States.