Day 282: Star Wars: Episodes IV, V, VI (Dexember, 16)

I remember when I saw Star Wars: Episodes IV, V and VI at the movies for the first time. They were showing around the same time, for the premiere of Episode VI. I missed the first two at the theaters (just a kid :), but on 1983, I had a major crush on Harrison Ford, despite the fact that the trilogy had already a name for itself. 

It doesn't matter where you stand - a fan, not a fan at all, a truly hater -, it is undeniable how iconic this trilogy is. The whole saga, actually, but those first three movies opened the way to almost forty years of Star Wars as an important part of pop culture. 

It was not by chance that Joseph Campbell, the amazing Jungian mythologist, talked about Luke and his hero adventure on his collection of interviews with Bill Moyers in The Power of Myth. The hero adventure, by the way, is an image to the human experience. It is present in the majority of narratives around us - if not in all of them actually. From the Campbell's work, Christopher Vogler, per example, presented a memo to Hollywood writers entitled The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, now a book that we use a lot on cinema's studies. Despite my contrary feelings about Vogler's work, it is undeniable how clarifying it is. I hate that he instrumentalized something that is big as life for industrial purposes. He is not wrong on his assessments, though. Anyway, I always quote it with caution. 

What doesn't happen when talking about the hero's adventure and the Star Wars saga. George Lucas, also inspired by Campbell's work, proved how fiction can do so much better then theories while referring to the most profound aspects of humanity. On Episodes IV, V, VI he also proved how great entertainment is not devoid of an important debate. Some movies lack it all, of course... but most of cultural phenom are full of essential aspects in life, doesn't matter how silly they look at a first sight. 

Bill Moyers, on the Introduction to The Power of Myth, says a lot about it:

Walking to work one morning after Campbell's death, I stopped before a neighborhood video store that was showing scenes from George Lucas' Star Wars on a monitor in the window. I stood there thinking of the time Campbell and I had watched the movie together at Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in California. Lucas and Campbell had become good friends after the filmmaker, acknowledging a debt to Campbell's work, invited the scholar to view the Star Wars trilogy. Campbell reveled in the ancient themes and motifs of mythology unfolding on the wide screen in powerful contemporary images. On this particular visit, having again exulted over the perils and heroics of Luke Skywalker, Joe grew animated as he talked about how Lucas "has put the newest and most powerful spin" to the classic story of the hero.

"And what is that?" I asked.

"It's what Goethe said in Faust but which Lucas has dressed in modern idiom - the message that technology is not going to save us. Our computers, our tools, our machines are not enough. We have to rely on our intuition, our true being."
"Isn't that an affront to reason?" I said. "And aren't we already beating a hasty retreat from reason, as it is?"

"That's not what the hero's journey is about. It's not to deny reason. To the contrary, by overcoming the dark passions, the hero symbolizes our ability to control the irrational savage within us." Campbell had lamented on other occasions our failure "to admit within ourselves the carnivorous, lecherous fever" that is endemic to human nature. Now he was describing the hero's journey not as a courageous act but as a life lived in self-discovery, "and Luke Skywalker was never more rational than when he found within himself the resources of character to meet his destiny."

Ironically, to Campbell the end of the hero's journey is not the aggrandizement of the hero. "It is," he said in one of his lectures, "not to identify oneself with any of the figures or powers experienced. The Indian yogi, striving for release, identifies himself with the Light and never returns. But no one with a will to the service of others would permit himself such an escape. The ultimate aim of the quest must be neither release nor ecstasy for oneself, but the wisdom and the power to serve others." One of the many distinctions between the celebrity and
the hero, he said, is that one lives only for self while the other acts to redeem society.

Joseph Campbell affirmed life as adventure. "To hell with it," he said, after his university adviser tried to hold him to a narrow academic curriculum. He gave up on the pursuit of a doctorate and went instead into the woods to read. He continued all his life to read books about the world: anthropology, biology, philosophy, art, history, religion. And he continued to remind others that one sure path into the world runs along the printed page.

(CAMPBELL, Joseph; MOYERS, Bill. The Power of Myth. Achor Edition, 1991 - e-book).

Modern idiom, that's movies. A language that changes continuously while presenting to the world the same old humane struggles and achievements. The Star Wars saga has been doing it beautifully for almost 40 years, and it was not for nothing that I thought so important to re-watch the previous 6 movies before the newest one.

Star Wars. Directed and written by
George Lucas. With Mark Hamill,
Harrison Ford, Carrie Fischer. USA,
1977, 212 min., 70 mm 6-Track/
Dolby/DTS-Stereo/Dolby Digital/
SDDS/Mono, Color (DVD).
The first instalment on the saga was Star Wars. Even with the single name, we knew that it was a part of a saga - it is now referred as Episode IV. So, what happens in all the stories we see was explicit here: every tale is a cut in time and space. There's what came before and what will be next. And what it is now, the story we seeing, reading, listening to. Before Luke's journey, there other that lead to him, as his own story will have many future developments. It is not only a matter of cause and effect, though. It is how life goes, for generations and generations, probably since the beginning of times (whatever that means).

This movie is so good. It didn't felt old, as I though it would. I haven't seen it for a while - the last time was at the '90s, maybe. A long time ago, anyway. I remember a lot of it, contrary to what happened in the first and newer saga. I was really enthusiastic about it, even if a bit sleepy from the last night's marathon. By the way, I woke up from a few hours' sleep really looking forward to see this trilogy. I couldn't wait, actually.

The technical aspects here represent a big achievement for cinema: the sound design is insane for the time, and the cinematography is equally incredible. Truly amazing.

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire
Strices Back. Directed by Invin
Karshner. With: Mark Hamill, Carrie
Fischer, Harrison Ford, Frank Oz.
Writers:  Leight Braket and Lawrence
Kasdan, from the story by George Lucas.
USA, 1980, 70 mm/6-Track/Dolby, Color.
So I immediately put Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back on the DVD player. Here we met Yoda for the first time - a presence that permeates all the saga from this moment on. The Indian yogi influence is more explicit with the figure of a master that seems silly, harmless and even annoying at a first sight but in fact is s soul that carries the whole universe in him - as everyone, it is important to say; the difference is that he is aware of it. Awareness being an important image here. Being aware of our true nature - that's the life's adventure and the hero's journey.

And so Luke's goes on his personal (and universal) journey: knowing more and more about his origins, he can access more of his true self. The romantic plot is more developed also - we must remember that the romantic myth is an important part of the hero's adventures. It is an heroic adventure by itself, in fact.

This film ends in a more uncertain note, a lot to come next, as usually happens in the second installment of a trilogy.

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi at last! It was almost night, some hour before the time I should leave to the theater in order to see Episode VII and I was still amazed at how Lucas achieved such good action scenes with scarce resources. That he filmed the swamp scene on his unfinished pool is great - such a personal effort is nice to see nowadays, when everything became more impersonal in the biggest productions (there's great exceptions, I know).

My expectations was so high that I wasn't actually able to pay attention to this movie as I wanted - that's why he will make one more cameo on Omad very soon. The first part about all the Jabba the Hutt shenanigans I think is a bit too much. Leia is great here, though - a clue at how the saga view its strong female characters. Carrie Fischer is an other story, though. There are some gossip about how difficult she could be during filming, and there's a funny story about Leia's infamous skimpy costume on the imdb trivia.

I saw the special edition, that brings a different Anakin ghost at the end (it was released after the first trilogy). I was not aware of that, and it was a nice surprise. I don't know if the celebration on Naboo was added too, to justify the mere existence of such an obnoxious being as Jar-Jar Binks. Have you noticed that I didn't mention him in the previous post? He is so awful that his cameo on the third episode is limited to a one line. The comic relief that he is intended to present don't come closer to C3PO and R2D2 (or the amazing impromptu hero, Han Solo and Chewie).

After this movie, George Lucas said that he would never ever work with the three main actor again - Hamill, Fischer and Ford. It was not his intention to film the other two trilogies either. It is actually cute how mercurial brilliant minds are. I'm not sure if it was the money talking or simply because the story was there to be told, but the reality is very different from the initial Lucas' intentions. And soon it was time to head to the movies to see the midnight screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Thanks geniality, for being so inconsistent :)

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. Directed by
Richard Marquand. With: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fischer,
Harrison Ford. Writers: Lawrence Kasdan and George
Lucas, from the story by Lucas. USA, 1983, 131 min.,
70 mm 6-Track/Dolby, Color (DVD)>

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