No Hope for the Curmudgeon

Nitpicking A New Hope from 16:50 to 26:30
So the droids are in the Jawa hold and about to arrive at a certain moisture farm (they cultivate damp), but first Stormtroopers patrolling the desert. This is the first true addition to the Special Edition release, with CG troopers awkwardly riding CG lizards - sorry, "Dewbacks". They must be real slippery. Here is what the scene looks like compared to that of the original release:
They find the pod, and tracks leading from it, and... the One Ring?!
No, just a bit of a droid they instantly recognize as such, probably while thinking of whatever poor idiot is going to get his throat telekinetically crushed for letting the pod go because it had no life-forms in it. While also living in a universe filled with robots! Cut to the Jawa Sandcrawler, which has also been replaced in the Special Edition. Compare:
This is a good change, I think. Not sure it was necessary, but it does look better and cooler. Inside, the droids are waking up, and for the life of me, I can't stop staring at C-3PO's bleeding nipples.
He's also got a similar gunshot wound to the back of the head if you want to add to the category of things that once seen can't be unseen. Hey, maybe their new master will give them a nice bath in CLR. Their old master, however, shows what happens when the Jawa actors can't get their Lite Brite eyes straight.
They call him Rudolph and were often cruel with him until Jabba noticed he had a nose for the salvage business. At 18:45, our hero finally appears: Luke Skywalker.
Because nothing says pre-Earth past and other galaxy like the name "Luke". But you know he's our hero because the Star Wars theme starts to play. Right now, he doesn't know he has such a destiny. He's just a farm boy getting bossed around by his vaguely racist uncle (I'm just going by his attitude talking to the Jawas) and his aunt who lives in a pit.
It's harsh living on Tatooine, but she's made it homey, at least. Uncle Owen is a real grump who doesn't really want what the Jawas are selling, or at least acts like it so he can get a good deal. He picks an R2 unit - not the one we like - and after telling C-3PO he has no interest in protocol and etiquette (clearly), still buys him for his ability to program farming equipment and the fact that "Botchi" is "like a second language" to him (a better selling point would be if it were like a FIRST language, but perpetually depressed C-3PO is probably not great at pitching himself). Cue Luke's whiny "but uncle Oweennnnnnn, I was gonna go into town to indulge in my nerdy hobbyyyyyyy", but he's told to clean the new droids instead. And one of these really needs to be cleaned.
The red R2 unit blows because he's got a "bad motivator" (hey, Luke too), so good thing R2-D2 is quite motivated. Not to work on a farm, of course, but that's besides the point. Maybe this is a good time to talk about slavery. Obviously, an evil Empire is in charge, so it's not outlawed, even if droids weren't fabricated and thus, property. But they've been given feelings, and here we have Luke and his family buying them and putting them to work. They'll become his friends eventually, but I don't know how I feel about our hero treating them as objects. As they all enter the building, we fade to black, breaking with the wipe aesthetic. (End of reel? I'm surprised Lucas didn't change this when he frigged with the movies in the digital era.)
So he washes them, even though it's clear he'd rather be playing with this Star Wars collectibles. Luke and C-3PO share exposition (the idea that Tatooine is the farthest planet from the shining center of the universe is a good bit) and the former gets excited when he finds out the droids have been tangentially involved in the rebellion (but not for long, he's mercurial this one). Trying get something jammed in R2, he activates Leia's message however and his adventure really begins.
R2's imaging powers are pretty incredible, catching Leia's backside from the front, but Luke's too infatuated with the image to care. Those incestuous stirrings, you know. Tatooine? More like Tabooine. R2 reveals the message is for his ACTUAL master Obi-Wan Kenobi, who Luke thinks might be related to an old hermit called Ben Kenobi. Hey, could be, doesn't sound like a common name. Not that we have any way to know that. Then R2 tricks Luke into removing the widget that makes him a slave (the "restraining bolt") so he might play the whole message, and haha, nope, message won't play. The fact they CAN be unshackled makes me even more apprehensive as to their status as slaves.
Called in for dinner, which looks like gray soup and a glass of water, Luke discusses Obi-Wan with his uncle who dismisses the whole thing and tells him to go wipe R2's memory in town on the morrow. He also says old Ben Kenobi died same time as Luke's father, which is an outrageous claim if Luke was adopted by them as a baby and nevertheless has heard of the old hermit! Then there's some nagging about wanting to join the "Academy" and become a pilot (presumably, in the Imperial fleet), and Uncle Owen shuts it down in an effort to protect him from himself, since apparently, his father was a pilot too and being like his father is a bad thing. Aunt Beru is more forgiving, but Lucas has changed the intonation of the word "father" when she says it to make it sound slightly more worried even if it doesn't match her expression, because he can't leave well enough alone. Bah!

When next we speak, Luke disobeys, lets that thief run off with the money, and Uncle Ben dies! No wait, I'm getting my hero origins confused.


Green Luthor said...

"He also says old Ben Kenobi died same time as Luke's father, which is an outrageous claim if Luke was adopted by them as a baby and nevertheless has heard of the old hermit!" Actually, it's Obi-Wan that Owen says died the same time as Luke's father, not Ben. ("But what if this 'Obi-Wan' comes looking for them?" "He won't. I don't think he exists any more. He died about the same time as your father.") (How Luke extrapolates that into his next line - "He knew my father?" - is anyone's guess. Quite the leap from point A to point B there, Luke.)

The idea of droids as slaves is rather disturbing, though, especially given how casually Owen tells Luke to have their memories erased. Throughout the movies, it's quite clear that R2 and 3PO have sentience, and no one gives any indication that they're in any way unusual for it. So we have sentient beings who are bought and sold as property, can be controlled by attachable devices, *and* who can have their entire minds wiped away on a whim. I don't think Lucas put nearly as much thought into some of these concepts as they deserved...

(On the other hand, the "droids as slaves" idea does help explain why the Star Destroyer didn't shoot down their escape pod earlier. When R2 is getting in the pod, 3PO tells him "You're not allowed in there, it's restricted." It's not unreasonable to conclude droids don't have a place in evacuation plans, and it's not difficult to believe an Imperial officer simply would never consider the possibility that a droid took an escape pod on its own. If there's no life signs on board, and droids aren't allowed on board, it must be empty, right?) (Although this probably also goes into the "Lucas didn't think this through" file...)

Brendoon said...

Hawhawhawh!! The one ring!
The bit about luke's motivator unit was classy too. Star Wars has ALWAYS been lampoonable.

I remember doing a schoolboy lampie myself (In COLOUR! With FELT PENS!) with distant memories of "Hardware Wars" which showed before the "Wilderness fambly part 1" main feature years before. Now the specialised edition of Hardware Wars is on Youtube, complete with related docos.
When baby Anakin made the naked threepio in the fourth (first? firth?) film I remember falling into bitterness for weeks. Well before I saw Star Wars I read the contemporary Russ Manning serial comics which stated threepio was four centuries old, that was way cool. Being just thirty seemed so limited. I mean he's not JUST a fussy old thinks-he-knows-it- all he's also got mild dementia. That takes time!

Siskoid said...

Luthor: I realized my misunderstanding in the next 10-minute block. As for droids, are there really any others who exhibit the same amount of personality? Because that's a bit strange, isn't it?

Brendoon: Yeah, totally. That's why there have been so many parodies!

Green Luthor said...

It's hard to say that any other droids exhibit the *same* amount of personality as R2 and 3PO, simply because there aren't any other droids that get any appreciable amount of screen time. But there are other droids that do show *some* degree of personality. In Empire, for example, there's the other protocol droid 3PO runs into on Cloud City; while its single line isn't translated, given the tone (and 3PO's reaction), it would appear to be telling 3PO "go f*** yourself" or something similar. While that *could* be just part of its programming, I'd have to go with it having a rude personality. (But I suppose that all comes down to the way one chooses to interpret things.)

There's also the droid in Jabba's palace (EV-9D9) that's apparently torturing other droids (one of which screams in pain), the medical droid in Echo Base on Hoth (2-1B), and the Trade Federation protocol droid that greets Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan (TC-14), though, again, open to interpretation. (There are also two droids amongst the bounty hunters Vader gathers in Empire (IG-88 and 4-LOM), but they don't actually do anything. Still, "bounty hunter" seems like a strange function to build a droid for, although since the Trade Federation uses drone-like combat droids, that could go either way.)

(I'll note at this point that I'm not going to reference Expanded Universe material, which did attribute definitive personalities to most of the droids seen in the movies. But Lucas didn't work off any of that material, Disney has already declared it all invalid, and quite a bit of it was just irredeemably stupid, so... we'll just ignore that stuff.) (Peter David's story about the "bad motivator" droid isn't the worst Star Wars EU story, but I also find it hard to believe anyone thought it worth publishing...)

Anyhoo... for as much as I'll write long-winded posts about Star Wars, I'll definitely agree that there's a lot to lampoon here. (As long as it's good, I'm always up for a Star Wars parody...)

Siskoid said...

Hey, there were action figures for ALL these guys, which lent itself to imagining stories for them, and then when you grew up, putting them to paper.

Which is likely one of the ways some of those stories got written!

Andrew Gilbertson said...

Green Luthor- defend your 'quite a bit of it' claim. (I'll happily answer with a matching list of utterly fantastic stories- though, of course, if we end up with the same entries on both lists, it may just be a case of incompatible tastes.) I'll bet you're thinking of Crystal Star, Ewok materials, and a handful of other poster-children for EU-hating... which statistically are not even remotely representative of the quality or numerical majority. I see that claim a lot- and as someone who grew up on the EU, it offends me. Is it really *most*, or just a blatant few that are used for justification in hating a fantastic and wonderfully-cohesive integrated universe superior to any of the products released for Star Wars since 1999? :-) (You can tell where my bias is, of course...)

Siskoid, gotta say, as a Star Wars fan... don't really disagree with much of what you say this time. Including your points on the Special Edition changes, good and bad.

Siskoid said...

Here's MY personal Star Wars timeline:
Born 1971
Saw Empire Strikes Back in theaters 1980 (had parent explain background and translate from English)
Read Star Wars novelization in 5th grade (in French translation) 1981
Saw Return of the Jedi in theaters 1983? Or 1986 release?
Read Splinter of the Mind's Eye, Han Solo novels and Lando novels, probable date 1983-85
No idea when I actually saw the first film.

So that's at least as much EU and indirect experience as actual direct experience, early on. When I see Force Awakens, it'll be the first time I go see a Star Wars film in theaters since Jedi.

Green Luthor said...

Andrew Gilbertson: I'm not actually saying most of the EU was bad, just that there's a fair amount that wasn't very good. Certainly, there were EU stories I liked (the Zahn trilogy, of course, Truce at Bakura, Wraith Squadron), some that I thought were okay but won't miss from the continuity (I'd personally put Crystal Star here, actually; I didn't hate it, but it didn't feel particularly "Star Wars"-y, either), and some truly terrible stuff that shouldn't have ever seen print (Shadows of the Empire, Dark Empire, Courtship of Princess Leia, anything written by Kevin J. Anderson, anything involving the Yuuzhan Vong...).

Certainly, I didn't intend to imply that *most* of the EU was bad; I'm sure most is in the passable-to-good range. But the bad stuff I did read... yikes, was some of that awful. Full disclosure, though: when they switched publishers and started the Yuuzhan Vong storyline, I found the first books so unreadably terrible and the "new main villains for the foreseeable future" so unengaging, I pretty much dropped out on the EU. (Reading about some of the stories since then, I haven't really seen much that made me want to start up again, though.)

(As for the "irredeemably stupid" comment, I was thinking of things like "IG-88 transfers his mind to take over the Death Star II... seconds before Lando blows it up", or "how Leia got the thermal detonator she threatens Jabba with in RotJ". Things that just... never needed to be.) (Also, full disclosure: Jaxxon is awesome, so my tolerance levels may be completely out of whack.)

So... yeah. "Quite a bit" =/= "most"; sorry if I wasn't more clear about that.

Siskoid said...

The limit of my EU experience: Splinter of the Mind's Eye, the three Han Solo novels, the two Lando novels, all very early EU.

Oh and some of the recent Marvel Star Wars books. And Brian Wood's last Dark Horse SW comics.

That's it.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

Green Luthor: Ah, well, then. Actually, with the exception of Shadows of the Empire, and being a little easier on KJA (but haven't read any of them in 20+ years; part of the reason for my readthrough is to reassess the EU with grown-up eyes), my list pretty much matches yours, then.

Sorry; I get a little defensive about the EU these days, especially with the number of 'I spit upon its grave!' fans that seem to have come out of the woodwork. :-)

And full disclosure... you were right to drop out when you did. It only got worse from there, character-assassinating or outright-assassinating most of the characters. In my readthrough, the last novel before the New Jedi Order is precisely where my ending mark lies. :-) I just have a fondness for most of the pre-90s stuff (Dark Empire excepted).

Also, if you think Jaxxon is awesome- then you are a man of rare taste and discernment, as I completely agree. And I think you might find this of interest...

Green Luthor said...

Interesting. I'll have to give those a listen at some point, thanks.

(Actually nice to see that we appear to agree more than disagree regarding the EU...)


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