“Star Wars” takes off
by Jerry Buck
Star Wars is a dazzling galactic swashbuckler, a smashing movie and a smash hit.
Far and away the best of the year, despite its futuristic theme, it’s an old-fashioned head-’em-off-at-the-pass movie that is fun to see. It is a comic strip come to life, with eye-popping special effects of flashing light swords, ray guns, strange creatures, spaceships and eerie planets.
In its first six days, the movie grossed $2.5 million in only 41 theaters. It’s the biggest hit ever in 50 years at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, and it’s breaking records all over. “It’s madness,” said a spokesman for 20th Century Fox. “The lines at the theaters are unbelievable.”
No one is willing to speculate yet on whether it will surpass Jaws, the biggest moneymaker of all times.
Star Wars borrows heavily from the past in a nostalgic salute to Western, gangster, pirate and war movies, but writer-director George Lucas has made it wholly his own. It is also touching in the innocence of the farm boy hero, Luke Skywalker, and the way two bumbling Laurel and Hardy robots, Threepio [C-3PO] and Artoo-Detoo [R2-D2], strive to be like humans.
The delineation between good and evil is so sharp that the hero wears white and the villain wears black.
Mark Hamill stars as Skywalker, an adventurous farm boy who suddenly finds he is virtually the only one standing between the villainous Darth Vader and destruction of freedom in the galaxy. He soon learns he is really the son of a Jedi Knight — a long-kept secret — and receives his father’s “light saber” sword.
“I got to play space man all day and yet got paid for it,” said Hamill, who just five years ago was a copy boy in this AP bureau. “I used to play like that as a kid. I was just able to step into that reality George had created for us.”
“I thought the light saber looked corny, but then I had my stand-in hold it and I looked through the lens. It glowed and glimmered and looked fantastic.”
Luke yearns to leave the farm run by his aunt and uncle on the desert planet Tatooine when Threepio and Artoo-Detoo bring word that Rebel Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) has been kidnapped by Darth Vader.
They are dropped off at the farm by desert scrap collectors. Luke enlists the aid of Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness), an old wizard and the last of the Jedi Knights, and Han Solo (Harrison Ford), a soldier of fortune and captain of the Millennium Falcon, a Corellian pirate starship.
Solo’s first mate is Chewbacca, a seven-foot monkey-faced anthropoid.
Solo is recruited in a bar like every Western saloon or waterfront dive — except for its strange patrons. Ben Kenobi is found after a battle with the sand people.
Racing to the rescue, the Millennium Falcon is sucked into Death Star, Vader’s planet-sized spaceship.
“We hide under the floor and after Darth Vader’s men leave, my line is ‘Gee, it’s lucky you had these compartments’,” Hamill said. “I told George, ‘I can’t say that line. It’s so obvious, so corny.’ But George said just go ahead, and it worked. It’s like a comic book come to life.”
Hamill said during production in England he found himself unable to talk to the reclusive Lucas, who previously made American Graffiti. So he talked to his wife, film editor Marcia Lucas.
“I told Marcia I’d made a couple of acting choices I’d have never made on my own in a million years. But I trusted George completely. I felt safe in his hands.
“In the scene where I find my aunt and uncle dead the script called for me to drop to my knees and shout, ‘No!’ George told me to forget that and just walk up to my mark and stand there. He said if I shook my fist in the air it would be too much like ‘curse you, Red Baron.’ He said you already know they’re dead. I said I’d do it his way and show him he was wrong. It worked out beautifully. People read their own emotions into it. The whole movie is so melodramatic it needs some quiet moments.”
The movie has many corny lines, but instead of groaning, the audience loves them, whistling and cheering. It’s like reliving your childhood fantasies, yet more imaginative, more intriguing, more spectacular than you ever dreamed.