23 June 2015

The Original Hope

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When I was younger I used to believe in all sorts of silly little things such as magic, Santa Claus, and anti-aging cream. Since then however I've sadly discovered that most of these things are actually total bullshit and exist simply because people were desperate enough for them to be real. In many ways this is similar to the Star Wars prequels which were willed into creation by the franchise's fans and a creator with all the imagination of a lump of cheese. Being set before the original holy trilogy, those films could be seen as the mundane reality behind the eye-catching magic. In the same way that the Masked Magician showed us that everything is done with smoke and mirrors, they too showed us what the Clone Wars were and how Darth Vader came to be. If we're to assume that most people weren't the biggest fans of these most recent additions to the saga then I guess one question has to be asked... now we've had a decade to come to terms with them, do the prequel films diminish the magic of the original Star Wars 

Illusionists like Penn and Teller regularly reveal the methods behind how their tricks are really done, with their slight of hand being equally as impressive as the final product. There was a chance therefore that by showing these earlier events, when they're referenced in Star Wars: A New Hope, they may have even made a much greater impact. It's one thing to hear something mentioned in passing but it's another to sit through it and hopefully have a positive emotional experience to remember. However, if you found out that a magician saws a woman in half by using a real saw and an endless supply of untraceable prostitutes then there's a chance that this will ruin how you view the original trick. Being born at the end of 1988, I suppose I'm part of the second wave of Star Wars fans, having had my mind imploded at the perfect age during the 1997 re-release. Despite a full blown obsession with these movies though, it has actually been a good few years since I watched them, meaning that I now have a sense of perspective that my mushy child's brain lacked. I thought I liked the prequels until a recent revisit when I discovered that at least two of them couldn't have been more shit had they fallen through a giant sky-anus and landed on Piers Morgan as he was taking a dump. 

It's one thing for them to be stand-alone and rubbish however, but the real worry was the distraction of all the loose ends that they present as answers to the rhetorical questions of the original. The biggest casualty of this seems to be that of Obi-Wan, whose morals become more and more dubious as the franchise goes on. I mean, cutting a mans legs and arms off after a fight on a lava planet is pretty bad but to then leave him on fire to burn? Even Ed Gien never went that far. Had Obi-Wan put the poor flaming nugget out of its misery then we wouldn't even have a Darth Vader here to worry about. The primary villain of Star Wars: A New Hope literally only exists because his old friend didn't have the decency not to leave him writhing in agonising pain. Not only that but he then begins to train Luke to kill his own father after tricking him into thinking that he's actually getting revenge on the man who he claims to have murdered him. Talk about fucked up. The other problem is obviously that the coolest villain in cinema history has just taken a hit that's so damaging to his reputation that him and the disgraced ex-entertainer Rolph Harris could form a support group with each other. It's one thing to be a convicted sex offender though and another to have your youth portrayed by Hayden Christensen and still expect to intimidate people. Rolph can still play his wobble board in prison but can Vader really seem cool if we know he's essentially a limbless tit who dresses up as a giant plastic cock?  

Well, despite some hesitations, I watched A New Hope the other day for the first time in years and all I could think was 'thank fuck'. No matter how full of crap the prequels might be, it seems that their missile of shit isn't quite strong enough to completely penetrate the power of this classic. As soon as the movie starts, its sheer quality cleanses away any memories of midi-chlorians and Gungans like the brain equivalent of a colonic irrigation. I see Darth Vader and I'm able to get past the bell-end beneath the helmet and simply remember him as I did back in 1997. When Obi-Wan mentions the Clone Wars I'm able to remember the mystery of what they were, instead of the Playstation 2 cutscene that we were given at the end of Attack Of The Clones.This might sound like bullshit, as though I'm trying to down-play the hate that the prequels deserve on the grounds that they can be ignored, but the fact of the matter is that it's not just stuff from those that we need to block out to be able to enjoy what we're seeing at face value. Let's also not forget that A New Hope hints towards a love triangle between Luke, Leia, and Han before revealing in Return Of The Jedi that two of them began life in the same womb. As ever, it seems that George Lucas is the biggest problem with this franchise, as the man appears to waddle through the saga whilst making shit up as he goes along.  

The ironic thing however is that I simply can't tell you what it is about this film that makes it so amazing! I can see that Lucas has borrowed heavily from Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress whilst creating characters and arcs by reading about the cliches in Joseph Campbell's Hero Of A Thousand Faces.. and then stealing them. I guess it's simply that these archetypes must only exist due to their popularity and so the trick is to boil them down to their essence, get in some decent actors and then surround them with some cool shit like laser swords and a bra-less Carrie Fisher. The Phantom Menace was all about trade embargoes and tax dodging racial stereotypes whereas A New Hope is literally just the typical heroes journey to rescue a princess from a dark lord. There's no complicated plot to follow, with the film instead able to tell an old story in a new way. Replace wizards with Jedi, castles with Death Stars, throw in a wisecracking Harrison Ford and his Wookie friend and congratulations, you've created the cinematic equivalent of cocaine for kids. Once all that's in place, just make sure that your audience is the right age when they first view it and then you'll be able to giggle yourself to the bank for securing all the merchandising and sequel rights. 

I guess the interesting thing to know would be how kids these days feel about this movie? Re-mastering aside, Star Wars was so cool and advanced that even by the mid-90's I was seeing something that I'd never even imagined possible. Now kids are raised on a diet of incredible special effects, larger than life characters, and Marvel-esque shared Universes- will this impress them as much? I guess only time will tell and it'll be the job of The Force Awakens to hook them in too. Lucky little bastards! For the last ten years people have been asking themselves an important question which is “If I have kids do I show them Star Wars chronologically by story or release date?” Well clearly the right answer is that you show them the original trilogy first and then if they even mention The Phantom Menace then you slap them in the face and send them straight to bed. I suppose the only positive thing that can be said about the prequels effect on A New Hope is that it makes it look so much better by comparison. But considering that this is one of the greatest films of all time that just goes to sure how unnecessary they are! People used to think that Luke was a little boring compared to his cohort Han, but compared to the young Anakin, Luke is as attention grabbing and interesting as an inflatable cow made of dicks.  

How Star Wars: A New Hope will be perceived as we plough mercilessly into the future will be interesting to witness. Originally it was an amazing movie, then it was the first of an amazing trilogy before becoming a comfort blanket for those who'd sat through the prequels. As the franchise is now continuing with a new film being spewed out on an allegedly yearly basis, there's a chance yet that this could get lost in the mix. Sure it was a pop-culture sensation on release but it won't take long until everybody alive in 1977 is dead and unlike Obi-Wan, they won't be returning as a schizophrenic voice in Mark Hamill's head. With movie after movie, A New Hope will simply become one of many and there's a chance that each sequel will diminish its importance. But I doubt it. It was the DVD version I saw recently and even that stands up as a full on classic. Weird looking Jabba and all that guff about Greedo's shooting speed still can't change the fact that for some reason, this film is just brilliant. Plus if it can remain untainted by the bullshit of the prequels then I think it can pretty much hold its own against anything. I don't know what's more unbelievable really, how good this movie is or the fact that George Lucas directed it?! It might not be the smartest film of all time but unlike the prequels, it has a heart that will help carry it through each new generation of fans. Like David Blaine's empty headed attempts at self-harm, that trick in which Siegfried and Roy just about survive a tiger attack, or Houdini being punched to death during a show, Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope truly is magic. Thanks for reading motherfuckers, and see you next time.

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