My favourite film
Why I love… Star Wars
It took a few years to go beyond the futuristic space craft and high-tech weapons, but finally Ced Yuen, staff writer on What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision came to appreciate Star Wars for what it truly is – a masterpiece.
Finger Lickin’ Good
I first saw Star Wars on a bucket of fried chicken. It was 1997, and George Lucas was cashing in on the 20th anniversary re-release. There was a lot of merchandising. Buy chicken, get a spaceship: that was the deal on the window of KFC. I didn’t care about the chicken. I didn’t even know what this film was. I just wanted a free spaceship because I was ten years old and easily impressed.
I went home clutching a plastic Death Star, not knowing what it was until I saw Star Wars that week. And it was… all right. I enjoyed it, but at the time I didn’t think it was life changing. I couldn’t grasp the concept of a masterpiece, let alone recognise one that was staring me in the face.
These days I can talk all day about the cinematography, or composer John Williams’ tremendous use of brass. But back then I was too young to appreciate any of that. No, Star Wars wasn’t a film: it was a showcase of invention. I ignored the big picture to focus on the gadgets, which made everything on Earth look primitive and dull.
I marvelled at the thought of a fiery sword that emanated from a shiny stick. I longed for mechanical companions in the form of a polite buffoon and a sassy dustbin. And why couldn’t a Boeing 747 be more like a Star Destroyer? Fascinated by the potential of machines, I dismantled a torch and tried to turn it into a lightsaber. I was determined that my mum’s car could be converted into an X-Wing. Writing this, I realise that the Star Wars trilogy was responsible for my lifelong obsession with technology.
Starting from scratch
My admiration for Star Wars as a film came much later, when I learnt that Lucas & friends had actually built everything I found so impressive. Admittedly, these weren’t real machines, but Harrison Ford had a Millennium Falcon to stand on, rather than a box in front of a green screen.
There’s something admirable in that tangible approach to filmmaking: I appreciate the effort and technical skill that goes into constructing a set or a prop, even if it’s to be blown up right away. It lends a timeless quality to the film, which looks great even 30 years later. More films need to be made like this. It demonstrates a commitment to make-believe and creative vision.
Make-believe is important because Star Wars is all about fantasy. From a planet with two suns to a city in the clouds, this galaxy is diverse and colourful. These are places you could never visit, populated with the strangest characters you’ll never meet.
And let’s not forget the Force, which literally adds magic to the equation. It’s a superpower left unexplained – I’m ignoring all prequel nonsense – which just adds charm to an already unapologetic reverie. Few films offer such rich imagination.
Seen it all before?
That’s not to say that Star Wars is entirely original. Look closely enough and you’ll notice a magpie approach to film culture. It’s a Western, with Han Solo as the heroic drifter and Princess Leia as the feisty damsel. It’s also Samurai, with impractical robes and upgraded katanas. And then there’s Darth Vader’s helmet: half-Samurai, half-Nazi. The Death Star trench run? Spitfires and Dambusters. All of these and more make up a story that breaks down to another example of good versus evil.
There are many more nods and references making up the fabric of the film, but that’s not the point. The beauty of Star Wars lies in the combination of its disparate elements. It’s a bizarre sum of recycled parts, bashed together to create a magical journey through hope, despair and triumph. It’s an adventure, and its goal is escapism in its purest form. It’s not an allegory with lofty pretensions, and there’s no higher message about the existence of mankind. The opening sequence says it all: this has nothing to do with you.
And that’s why Star Wars never fails to make me smile. It’s the movie that lets me escape whenever I’m bored, or ill, or just having a bad day – any time I’d rather be far, far away.
Ced Yuen is staff writer on What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision magazine
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