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Star Wars

Visually founded on 2001: A Space Odyssey, and scriptorially on Hidden Fortress (and, say, The Dam Busters), with a climactic battle scene laid out like a diagram for Sex Ed, and a coda whose unfortunate resemblance to Speer’s Nuremberg rally design is like a tangible manifestation of the script’s imprecision, “rear deflectors” and all, Star Wars is far more significant as a cultural phenomenon than as a film; indeed, if it had not been as successful as it was, it would now be regarded as one of a number of abortive examples of the Valley school of filmmaking.

This writer recalls the way it swept the nation at its first release (John Carpenter aped the phenom with In the Mouth of Madness). It’s perhaps explained by a certain sense of wholeness Lucas endows his fatuities with, a formal completeness derived from the video game.


Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace

I suppose the distance between, say, American Graffiti and this film is explained by the enormous success of Star Wars unsettling a delicate mind, in the way Jaws upended Steven Spielberg. This is a computer cartoon projection of a video game, whose theme may be stated as the invasion of China by Japan (at the time the film was made, this was still a favorite theme of the Chinese government, though the event took place under the government overthrown by the current one), and as such is beyond criticism, being really not a film at all, despite interpolations from The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur, a profusion of gratuitous wipes, the appearance of Jesus Christ among the doctors (Yoda, et al.), and the devil himself as villain.

The most remarkable thing about the whole venture, apart from anyone ever having embarked on it at all, is the publicity that heralded it. Months and months before the release, a ten-minute trailer with ample selections from the imbecilic dialogue was given out to local television stations, which ran it end to end on their news programs as news for a solid week. And still it made money.

Perhaps this might be understood as having been spread by word of mouth, like the old country fair exhibit, “See a Horse With its Tail Where its Head Should Be!” You paid twopence to enter the stall, and there you saw a horse with its tail tied to a feed trough. Despite the temptation to take the fat fool who’d robbed you and ride him out of town on a rail in tar and feathers, you bethought yourself, you went out and smiled upon some poor dotterel you knew, and told him of a most wonderful sight it would be a shame to miss. Thus, countryman, you recouped a tuppenny guffaw from “a mirror held up to nature.”

Critics like Leonard Maltin who expressed a condescending admiration of this film should be condemned to watching Saturday matinees (especially Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, a vastly superior film) and eating Jujyfruits and Flicks until they are properly seasoned to appreciate it. Most of all, it’s time to tell Roger Ebert where to stick that thumb of his he waves in front of our noses, if it is his thumb, if those are our noses.