The Curmudgeon Is Part of a Rebel Alliance

Nitpicking A New Hope from 6:30 to 16:50.
Picking up where we left off, because I won't be happy until I've entirely destroyed my geek cred...
Darth Vader walks in, and let's be frank here, Vader is all VOICE. The breathing sound effect, and in a minute or two, James Earl Jones' awesome voice. As soon as you hear it, the stakes just naturally go up. Because physically, actor David Prowse is over-playing the hell out of the part. Fists on hips, big gestures, like he's trying to act himself out of that armor.
Meanwhile, Princess Leia is checking on her credit card bill to see if she has enough money to send Ben Kenobi a ship-to-planet call. R2-D2 is the innocuous bucket-bot to use for this kind of thing, because who would ever imagine he'd make a good messenger. Even to the people who understand his language, like C-3PO, he speaks enigmatically about secret missions and never explicitly comes to the point. Must be maddening. Leia skulks around while Vader chokes out various rebel officers looking for those stolen secret plans the opening scroll redundantly told us about. And when she's spotted by Stormtroopers...
...their sergeant clearly tells his brigade to set their weapons to stun. And she shoots one of them dead before they can even flip their switches. Ladies and gentlemen, LEIA SHOT FIRST AND GEORGE LUCAS LET IT HAPPEN ACROSS ALL VERSIONS OF THE FILM. Under R2's direction, the droids take an escape pod. Cue 2001 shot.
The Imperials let it go because there are no life-forms aboard - clearly they've been shooting down escapees for the past few minutes (evil), but also believe in energy conservation (good) - which makes Leia even more clever, even though she once trusted a hair dresser who convinced her the twin cinnamon bun look was a good idea. Not so clever: C-3PO.
"That's funny, the damage doesn't look so bad from out here." Dude, we can't even see your ship from this vantage point. Even the massive Star Destroyer looks like a tiny triangle! Maybe a droid's eyes are better than ours - they must see in HD - but that's still an odd mismatch for the audience between what is said and what is shown.
Leia vs. Vader and for the first second, she's affected a strange British accent. Royalty, you know. It's a stand-off. He knows all about her ties to the rebels, and she denies all of it. After a lot of Prowsian finger pointing, she's still no closer to confessing, but does get a chance to repeat a lot of that opening scroll information. Carrie Fisher does give us a nice blush so we know Leia is putting up a brave front but is really terrified. And in a long walk and talk, Vader figures much of her plans out and sends his men down to the planet below to retrieve the escape pod where, surely, she's hidden the plans. And then we get our first Kurosawa wipe:
And it's a really clever one! The planet below becomes a like-colored wipe that puts us on the planet itself! Credit where credit is due! We'll see a lot of wipes from this point on, pretty much between each sequences, not all of them as clever. So now we've wiped between the excitement of Leia's jeopardy to the existential nihilism of a couple of robots. "We were made to suffer." Philosophy is fun, kids! The two of them split off, which is good riddance to C-3PO really. What a miserable git. It's clear the movie wants us to "be" with R2 anyway. He gets all the close-ups, C-3PO leaving is seen from his POV, and he cares about a "friend" who just kicked him, so you know he's the goodie. This is the part of the film where a yellow robot slowly walks through a yellow desert, so usually mentioned when discussing the first film's pacing issues. Yellow and yellow, and of course, brown Jawas on brown backgrounds. At least it's meant to be an ambush.
The Jawas taser R2 and bring him to their tank workshop. I like these guys, but I have to wonder how much scrap tech you can find in the desert to make their economy roll. R2 reboots and wakes up in the hold with other captured droids, including the super-creepy one on the right here:
Oh and C-3PO, of course, undoing what happened 5 minutes ago and reuniting them. Not much in the way of solo adventures. (Expanded Universe to the rescue?)

We're about to meet the trilogy's true hero, so let's stop here and reconvene tomorrow. Before I go, just a few notes on George Lucas' incessant meddling. Because I'm not watching the film as it was originally shown in theaters; this is the 2004 release of the 1997 Special Edition, so Vader's voice filter has been altered to match the rest of the trilogy, the ship chases has been sped up, a buzz has been added to the opening of the pod door (really?! that was bugging you since 1977, George, and you just now got around to fixing it?!). The minor tweaks between versions are silly to me, but I'll accept the Special Edition's matte painting "sunset" extension that gives Tatooine more scope. It's not distracting.

Unlike some of the stuff that's coming.


snell said...

"That's funny, the damage doesn't look so bad from out here." Dude, we can't even see your ship from this vantage point. Even the massive Star Destroyer looks like a tiny triangle! Maybe a droid's eyes are better than ours - they must see in HD - but that's still an odd mismatch for the audience between what is said and what is shown.

See, I've thought that was a joke and a commentary on how out-of-touch C-3PO is with what's going on: he doesn't know that "his" ship is inside the Star Destroyer, and just assumes the only ship he can see is the ship he was on. And of course, the destroyer isn't damaged!

Or am I doing too much heavy lifting for Lucas here?

Siskoid said...

I think you are.

Obviously, I'm nitpicking across the board here. For comedy! But there are a number of these nits (like the previous post's droid explosion) that have to do with clarity of storytelling. We can "explain them away", sure, but why should we have to? These aren't intriguing ambiguities (because Lucas uses the special edition and prequels to explain/destroy those). They're just mystifying moments that are quickly forgotten while you watch, but pop out when you scrutinize the thing second by second, the way I'm unfairly doing.

Brendoon said...

THe "Leia shot first" comment is WAYYY valid! I never even considered it in the light of the Lucas "match fixing" but I DID always notice the troopers saying "Set to stun" just before she shoots to kill. Could it be Lucas wanted the gal to wear the pants in the house, laming Han down to a mild mannered reporter?
Also worthy to note is how INDY was allowed to shoot to kill in that famous "don't bring a knife to a gunfight" scene. Same actor, same character. Perhaps Spielberg had a hand in this one. Bring back Irvin Kershner!

Brendoon said...

PS. Not meaning I prefer kershner to Spielberg, 'twas an unfortunate juxtaposition brought on by coffee.

Siskoid said...

Lucas wanted ALL his characters to shoot/cut first (Kenobi cuts off Walrus Man's arm without him shooting first), including Han. I know this because HAN SHOT FIRST.

It's only several years on that he changed his mind, but by then he'd lost ALL COMPREHENSION of what made his original film great!


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