Fleeing from the Galactic Empire, a young Princess hides the plans to a secret space station inside a robot and launches it to a nearby planet. After being interrogated by an Evil Lord, she is remanded into custody of the Imperial Forces. Meanwhile, the robots that were sent down to the planet have been captured by dwarfy inhabitants and are eventually sold to a family farm.
The young man of the farm, Luke, is cleaning one of the robots when he accidentally activates a video message by the young princess. Immediately smitten by her beauty, he finds that his curiosity has gotten the better of him, as he removes the restraining device that was placed on the droid earlier. The droid promptly escapes its captivity, wanting to continue its quest to find its “master” Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Luke chases the droid the next morning, and eventually catches up to it. Although he is soon captured by the Sand People, he is rescued by a shadowy figure that reveals himself as Obi-Wan. After Obi-Wan tells Luke the truth about his family, Obi-Wan and Luke find the transport that sold them the robots has been attacked and virtually destroyed. Luke immediately rushes home and finds that his family has been killed and the farm he lived at is now a burning homestead.
Joining Obi-Wan on his quest, they reach a spaceport. Obi-Wan uses his Jedi training and powers to negotiate through the treacherous terrain of the town, and eventually they meet a smuggler willing to transport them to Alderaan, the planet where the young Princess is from.
Meanwhile, the Galactic Empire has finished construction of the space station, and has been interrogating the Princess to find the location of the Rebel’s hidden base. When conventional methods proved fruitless, Governor Tarkin, the commander of the space station, decides to use the station’s weaponry to threaten the Princess. When the Princess finally gives them a location, Tarkin decides to destroy the Princess’ home planet as a warning to the Rebellion.
Soon, Luke, Obi-Wan, and Han Solo the smuggler reach what remains of Alderaan and are their ship is captured by the Empire. While they sneak aboard the space station, Darth Vader senses the presence of his former master Obi-Wan. Darth goes to face Obi-Wan, who goes to shut off the tractor beam. Luke and Han Solo are waiting for Obi-Wan to return, but the robots find the location of Princess Leia’s cell. Luke devises a simple plan to rescue the Princess, and Han Solo reluctantly agrees.
When they reach the detention cell, they manage to find the princess, but the princess has to rescue them when the escape plan fails. They fall into a trash compactor, and have to be rescued by the robots. When they escape, they fight their way back to the Falcon, where they find Obi-Wan in a duel with Darth Vader. Obi-Wan sacrifices himself to allow the others to escape, and the Falcon flies to the rebel base.
The Empire, however, placed a tracking device on the ship and has sent the Death Star to attack the planet. The rebels devise a plan and launch fighters to attack the battlestation. The Death Star’s defenses are useless against the fighters, and the Empire is forced to use their own ships. Darth Vader, however, deduces that the attacks are a diversion and launches to stop the actual bombers.
With the Death Star continuing to close in on the Rebel Base, and Darth Vader’s fighters picking off the Rebel attacks, Red Leader splits his team into 2 sections. He then leads his group to the attack and manages to take a shot at the Death Star’s weak spot. He misses the target, and is shot down by Darth Vader. Luke, now the last remaining squad leader, takes his group for one final run. Even at full speed, his group is intercepted by Darth Vader. After his escorts are destroyed, Luke desperately attempts to reach the exhaust port, but is calmed by Obi-Wan’s voice telling him to use the Force.
Darth Vader calibrates his lasers and fires, but only manages to hit R2D2. At that moment, the Death Star clears Yavin and prepares to destroy its moon. Luke continues to close in, and Darth Vader locks on to the ship. As he fires, one of his escorts is destroyed. Han Solo returns and Vader’s second escort attempts evasive maneuvers. The end result is a collision, and Darth Vader tumbles away in space. With no more Imperial fighters to worry about, Luke fires a pinpoint shot at the Exhaust port. The Death Star is destroyed in a blinding explosion.
Back on the Yavin moon, Luke and Han receive medals for their bravery and heroism as the Rebellion celebrates their newfound victory.
Review and Analysis:
The movie that launched a million fantasies by science fiction fans and was lauded by many non-science fiction aficionados alike is a case study in Taking the Movie for What It Is on the surface, because once you start to peel away at the skin, there is a dark and evil undercurrent that is present all throughout the philosophy of Star Wars as a movie. It certainly spreads throughout the franchise.
Distilled of its setting and mix of technology and mysticism, it is a story of boys with toy guns and laser swords and magic tricks rescuing the fair princess from the Black Knight and the Dark Priest. There is, literally nothing more to this story.
A White Future, a White Past:
Science Fiction, like everything else that is created by Hollywood proper, lacks for people of color. Star Wars is supposed to hark back to the 1930s movie serials like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, where adventurous (White) men saved the galaxy from evil tyrants (who were often thinly-veiled references to present-day foreign menaces) and queens (who spent more time trying to sleep with the hero than actually trying to conquer the galaxy). Despite a brief attempt of racial and gender inclusion by showrunners like Rod Serling and Gene Roddenberry, Sci-Fi has remained a mostly male and mainly white adventure, at least where the heroes are concerned.
And Star Wars is no exception to this rule. In fact, it would seem that Star Wars does everything it can to personify the White Hats vs. Black Hats ideal first found in old American western serials. Although the Stormtroopers wear white armor, nothing about this look would ever indicate that they are, indeed, the good guys. The rest of the Empire wears dark grey or black uniforms, and their evilness is personified in Darth Vader, who is cloaked in all Black, with a rather terrifying helmet.
It goes without saying that a voice should match that terror, and what better voice for a terrifying black-clad villain than a baritone Black man?
On the other side, since Leia is supposed to represent both caring Mother and virginal sanctity, she spends the entire movie decked out in white OR in a flowing gown.
All of these things are basic and primal. They also happen to be based on the bigoted teachings of American society from the moment we are born to the last breath we take on this planet.
Thus, once again, the racism on display is “coincidental.”
Technology is Evil and Should Not Be Trusted:
The weapon of choice in the end for the main character Luke Skywalker is an all-encompassing energy field only referred to as The Force. It is a mysticism that cannot be explained scientifically. This changes, however, in The Phantom Menace, when Lucas retcons that Force Users are born with a special bacteria that allows them to control “The Force.” Without this bacteria, you are simply a Flunky in Life. With it, however, you are considered one of The Princes of Universe. It exists, and you must believe in The Force before you can access its energies. This energy gives you the power to influence others and bend them to your will, or anticipate things before they happen, or even levitate objects big and small. Dark Side users get two other powers – Choking and Lightning.
But yet, in six movies, Anakin Skywalker’s Darth Vader’s boast about the Death Star’s power being insignificant next to the Force seems to be nothing more than idle talk. The Commander who insults Darth Vader’s devotion to the sad religion called The Force not only makes a salient point about how limited his powers really are, but also has that point proven when it takes Tarkin and threatening Alderaan before Leia even starts talking. Now, she tried to bluff Tarkin by given him a previous location, but Vader’s use of his own tricks wielded nothing.
Obi-Wan’s boast to Vader about becoming more powerful in death was also pretty much idle talk, too. Obi-Wan does very little to assist Luke during the Death Star attack, and leaves Luke to his own devices anyhow. Now, if one is going to argue that the Force “told” Luke to fire the torpedoes when he did, was this Obi-Wan’s doing?
If so, then why did he not give the same “nudge” to Red Leader, who also lined up a shot and fired? Since Force Users can nudge non-Force users (except the Hutts), this should not have been a problem.
Or, for that matter, why did he not intervene with Gold Squadron the way he did with Luke?
In many of the same ways that most religions act, the acts of good and justice are not based on the supposed morality that the act entails, but rather the person performing the act. In other words, the sacrifices of the 27 pilots would not even register on Obi-Wan’s meter, even though we are shown that Darth Vader and the Empire are supposed to be immoral and evil.
Thus, despite the underdog status of Luke Skywalker and the Rebels (for the most part), Luke is simply a chosen one. Everyone else on the team is simply cannon fodder. This includes his “best friend” Biggs Darklighter.
The Battle: Good vs. Evil. The Prize: Princess Leia…:
In “epic” stories like Star Wars, the princess or the fair maiden was always considered to be the ultimate prize to be competed for. Even though Leia is given a moment where she takes matters into her own hands in the beginning of the film, this soon gives way to the helpless girl after her capture. Darth Vader and Governor Tarkin use her for finding information about the Rebellion, even going as far as to using truth serums and torture to attempt to extract the information. However, you are left to your imagination as to what kind of EVVVILLLL torture that Darth performed on his daughter Princess Leia.
When Luke, Han, and Chewbacca rescue Princess Leia, Luke and Han spend as much time fighting over Leia as they do rescuing her from Darth. In fact, they seem to make it clear that they both had their own romantic designs on Leia without regard to whether Leia herself wanted a relationship with either of them.
The entire population of the planet Alderaan. The “original” story had Princess Leia as a native of the planet, whose kingdom was one that had no weapons and lived in peace for sometime. It is unclear whether or not the planet had been aligned with the Rebellion or not, but the last surviving member of Alderaan was supposed to be her.
With the next five movies of George Lucas retconning the story over and over again, Leia now was simply adopted by Bail Organa after Padme Skywalker died shortly after giving birth to her and Luke. Which now means that the only survivors of Alderaan were the ones that were still off-planet when the Death Star destroyed it.
None of the destruction of Alderaan takes place from the planet’s point-of-view. Sure, we get Ben Kenobi having a mild case of heartburn when the planet blows up, but this is the last time we will reference Alderaan’s people at all. In point of fact, when the Rebellion has their ceremony on Yavin, everyone is all smiles and cheering, despite the fact that Leia has just lost nearly everyone she ever knew and loved. The same could be said for her brother Luke. Luke loses his Aunt and Uncle, and most of his best friends growing up, including his mentor Biggs Darklighter. No grief at all.
And all of the Rebellion does not show any kind of grief for the soldiers who died at the hands of the Empire, nor for any of the pilots of Red and Gold Squadrons, nearly all of whom died during the Battle of Yavin.
Experiential Sidebar: These kinds of stories with these kinds of endings are how you can usually tell that no one who was involved with the story’s creation or production have ever been in up-close and personal combat. Frontline combat personnel who experience the battle up-close on side will usually not have the kind of elation that the Rebellion experienced at the end of the battle; at least, not for very long. But such a “feeling” of victory is necessary when you’re making a 1970s version of a pretty crappy role-playing video game.
Movies like Star Wars love to throw around millions of casualties like confetti at a parade. Which is why most of the Imperial soldiers you see are in face-obscuring helmets or full mask helmets. You’re not supposed to worry about what happens to them when they get blasted by guns that Star Wars fans will sometimes insist cannot penetrate their armor.
Adoptive Parents Not Respected:
The reason why I give the story of Superman more credit than most other stories about power fantasies and freedom is because the adoptive family, the Kents, are well-respected by both Superman and the storywriters – and not simply pushed aside when Clark finds out about his Kryptonian heritage…and his Kryptonian parents Jor-El and Lara. Instead, they make up a good deal on what makes Superman unique, and sometimes offer insights that his Kryptonian heritage would perhaps ignore.
Unfortunately, most stories about young people’s adventures often center on the person finding out that they are not the ordinary people they thought they were. They were really Royalty, or a Chosen One for a Prophecy, or somehow Super-Empowered for a Quest…or Just Because. And, to add insult to injury, the people who raised them are not really their parents. Instead, they are distant blood relation…or simply adopted. This is necessary because you are not supposed to question their disappearance when the protagonist decides to go on their big adventure to find themselves.
In the case of Star Wars, Luke’s caretakers were supposed to be his Aunt and Uncle (until Lucas retcons this to “Only By Marriage by Lars and Shmi, Long After Anakin Had Been Born”), but are conveniently killed (presumably by Stormtroopers) after Ben Kenobi tells Luke the truth about his birthright…from a certain point of view. But Luke only thinks about it when he is at site of the burning homestead (while John Williams plays a violin to indicate the sadness of this sight. I happen to play a smaller violin less than 3 minutes later when Luke decides to become a Padawan.).
Not to be outdone, Leia’s caretakers also die shortly thereafter. Since her own caretakers were also unimportant (which Lucas also retcons to “Adoptive Parents”), they die, and Leia sheds no tears now, nor at Yavin, nor on Hoth, or anywhere else at any point during the series.
In other words, when the ones who responsible for caring for the Chosen Royalty die along the way, you are not supposed to care that they died, or that they lived at all. Which means that the adoptive parents of Luke and Leia Skywalker are nothing more than Faceless Victims; their lives were unimportant, even to grieve when the battle against the Empire was finally over.
Scratched Data Tapes:
Let’s keep it simple. I normally would say No Women of Color right about now. I would also say No Black Women, Either as well. But that would be a lie.
There are no people of color in this movie of ANY significance. At all.
Another Thing You Were Not Supposed to Notice, Either:
As I stated in my reviews of Blue Thunder and Firefox, most villains in American pictures are played by European (mainly British and German) actors – and only when the studio cannot reasonably get away with casting a man or woman of color in said role. Lucas, however, goes for the Double Play; the villains are nearly all British (led by Peter Cushing as Tarkin) AND they get James Earl Jones to voice the most infamous space fantasy villain since Ming the Merciless.
Intersectionality: A technical term for broken record.
Lightning in a Bottle:
George Lucas and Steven Spielberg hit gold with this movie. John Williams’ best work was this movie. With the exception of a few critics who deconstructed this movie in many of the same ways as I do, the movie is almost universally beloved. And when Star Trek’s first foray onto the silver screen had garnered mixed reviews, George Lucas’ space fantasy had inexorably turned Hollywood blockbusters into thrill rides that would run through nearly every genre, particular action.
An observation after 6 movies by George Lucas:
Mr. Lucas has a fear of nebulas. While most science fiction genres embrace nebulas (Star Trek in particular), Star Wars has never had a nebula anywhere near its starspace. And the reason is simple:
Nebulae would make space picturesque. Mr. Lucas does not want his audience spending time watching the screen – for the equivalent of smelling the roses.
Star Wars, the movie, is about a convergence. Everything came together just right for this movie to succeed and the people who saw this movie in the theatres walked away with an experience that many would never forget. Unfortunately, the movie itself is an exercise in galactic fascism, where only certain people from certain backgrounds are allowed to survive and operate. Anyone who does not meet this criterion, regardless of moral standing, is to die.
Star Wars won the battle of science fiction versus space fantasy on the big screen. But, as I point out in this post, Star Wars’ propensity to full the screen with turbolaser cannon fire has helped to diminish the enthusiasm that America has had with space. When everything is turned into one large explosion after another, disappointment is sure to follow when one finds that space exploration is nothing like that.
Lucas won the battle of marketing. The rest of us, however, lost the War.