What really matters in science fiction is lasers, so what do you do when you want to really impress people? Get a bigger laser. And so we come to Star Wars and George Lucas's magnificently deranged conception, the Death Star, a moon-sized piece of metal that shoots death rays at planets. I've come round to the original Star Wars movie lately, for many reasons really. For instance, the way Lucas dumps you in the middle of things by making his first movie in the series Episode Four, or the memorable bar room brawl with some very strange drunkards, and Harrison Ford, or that black robot dude swooping through metal corridors and uttering threats in stentorian tones, or the training scenes with a kind of muppet karate master. My favouritest scene in the entire series probably happens when the heroes get onto the Death Star, and somehow manage to get themselves caught in a trash bin, and find that a gigantic interstellar monster is swimming around in there with them.
The other thing that I like about this episode is the music - John Williams went on to write iconic film scores, but nothing quite so famous as this. That initial sparkle of trumpets right at the start before the main theme kicks in, deliberately reminiscent of the William Tell Overture - or, as some in Lucas's audience would remember, The Lone Ranger theme song. In the minute or so of music that followed there was a kind of brass band reimagining of the William Tell hunt music, and then a deliberate reference to Gustav Holst's The Planet's Suite. All very amusing and thrilling in places.
If Lucas had gone on in this way for the rest of the series - just madly inventing new ideas, taking his characters to new planets - he might have had a whole string of masterpieces, but no. He seemed obsessed with continuity, and in essence has continued to make the same movie ever since. The Death Star gets destroyed at the end of Episode IV, and they just start making it again (it pops up again in Return of the Jedi). Characters get killed only to reappear as ghosts. Yoda gets crankier as the series progresses. And then, after Lucas winds everything up, he decides to go back and ruin his whole excellent joke that he started things off with by making episodes 1, 2 and 3. Even the music was basically the same; you wonder if Williams really needed to bother for the rest of the series?
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