June 14, 2005

Gratuitous Llama-ette Star Wars Review

As a sort of end-of-first-grade celebration, I sat down and watched the original Star Wars with the seven year old this weekend. It was her first time and was the end product of several months of pestering brought on by all the ROTS hype. I'm not really sure what I expected her reaction to be, but here are some of the highlights:

What a difference a franchise can make! - I saw Star Wars when it first came out in 1977. It was new. It was fresh. It was unique. It was a story in and of itself. You didn't pay attention to anything else other than what was on the screen in front of you.

Not so for the Llama-ette, twenty eight years and five additional movies later. Although she hasn't seen any of the other films, she knows something about them from a combination of media saturation and her little friends. The result was that she spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how this episode fit into the cycle as a whole: Which movie does Darth Vader die in? Is he ever a good guy? Is Yoda in this one? Why not? What about "that brown, bald guy" - he he good or bad? Is he in this one? How many other people get to have lightsabers? Several times I found myself saying, "Never mind all that, Sweetie, just watch the movie."

"WHO'S Scruffy Looking?" Dept. - Of all the main characters, the gel seemed to have disliked Han the most. She immediately tagged him as being selfish and mean (for example, she hated the way he dealt with Luke and Obi-Wan over their hiring his ship and she also didn't like the way he ordered Chewie around). This seemed to awake some strain of moral righteousness in her soul, for she kept grumbling about him the whole time. In fact, when Han reappeared to save the day, she remarked that she bet he had just come back to get more money. When I gently suggested that maybe he had changed a bit, she suspended judgement, but never really warmed up to him.

Your Special-Effects Budget At Work - I've always thought that the opening sequence, where the two ships come hurtling across the starfield from the top of the screen, guns blazing, was one of the most dramatic and beautiful scifi shots ever done. It still gives me the chills. And I hoped that maybe, just maybe, the gel might experience a touch of the same awe and wonder that I had always felt.

Nope. As the rebel ship took the crippling shot, she looked at me and said, "Heh, I'll bet those guys are saying, 'Hey! We've been butt-shot!'"

Some Things Never Change - This is more an observation of mine than hers, but you sometimes forget that the first half of Star Wars drags in much the same way that most of the other movies in the cycle do. Too much exposition. But this fact is hammered home when you're watching with an extremely impatient seven year old who knows there's going to be a big space battle at some point. It's the cinematic equivalent of, "Are we there yet?"

Your Special Effects Budget At Work, Part II - I've got the collector's edition DVD of this movie. In my copy, despite all of Lucas' clean-up work, the matting is particularly noticable around the TIE-fighters attacking the Millenium Falcon after its escape from the Death Star. So noticable that the Llama-ette spotted them and assumed they were force fields. I did not disabuse her of this belief.

Childhood Fears - The gel laughed at most of the aliens and monsters. She didn't blink at the severed arm in the cantina. She thought Darth Vader's heavy breathing and choking trick were kind of cool. But the hypodermic needle on the torture probe thing? "I caaaaan't looooook!!!!!"

Your Special Effects Budget At Work, Part III - The gel got into the big dogfight above the Death Star. She also understood exactly what was going on in the race to see whether the DS was going to get off its shot at the Yavin moon before Luke could fire his torpedoes. As the Death Star powered up its primary weapon, I could see her cringing and writhing out of the corner of my eye. And when the DS blew apart, she cheered - as much out of relief as anything else, I think.

Summation - After the medals were handed out and the credits started rolling, the Llama-ette turned to me and said two things. The first was, "That's it?" The second was, "When can we watch the next one?"

Posted by Robert at June 14, 2005 01:51 PM

ARGGGHHHHHH!!! Another intractable movie curmudgeon!

Posted by: Bill from INDC at June 14, 2005 03:09 PM

"When can we watch the next one?"

The original magic is still there.

Posted by: Gordon at June 14, 2005 04:12 PM

Just had to say I got pretty much the same reaction from my 5 and 6 year old boys. They loved the movie, but foolich me let them watch Episode 1 first. Oh well, they still got the makings of good fans.

Posted by: Wolf at June 14, 2005 04:19 PM

Arrg! That bothered me SOOO much! Lucas will make Greedo shoot first to make it seem like he isn't so much scum, but he won't take out the matting effects...which was the whole point of cleaning it up! To clean it up! Bah.


Posted by: TheRoyalFamily at June 14, 2005 10:17 PM

Robert, you should be happy that the girl won't warm up to Han until halfway through Empire Strikes Back, when he's finally showing more than a glimmer of honor. You can rest assured she'll never date a guy like that.

My ranking of the movies from best to worst:
The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars
The Return of the Jedi
The Phantom Menace
Revenge of the Sith
Attack of the Clones

Posted by: tee bee at June 15, 2005 11:36 AM
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