Growing Up On Tatooine: A Personal Reflection on Star Wars: A New Hope
Stars Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope and Lawrence of Arabia are my two favourite movies. The former is my first love of the cinema, the generation of childhood curiosity and passion, while the latter was the more conscious selection of an emergent cinephile in late adolescence.
Although I don’t recall the exact date, I remember the event of watching Star Wars: A New Hope for the first time. My parents were going out and Anders was going to watch me at home. This must have been before Aren was born, so I was probably between 4 and 5. I had probably seen episodes of the Ewok cartoon before, and, I seem to recall, scenes of the white hallways of Cloud City from the ending of The Empire Strikes Back. We didn’t watch a lot of movies back then. We didn’t even own a VHS player, so, for the occasion, my parents had rented the player and the movie. I remember finding the alien bar—the infamous Mos Eisley Cantina (with the strange musicians my Dad had told me about)—a bit scary. The final battle to destroy the Death Star was very exciting.
The viewing experience was a lot of fun, but it also sparked my passion for film and storytelling more generally, as, over the years, I began to expand outwards following the threads of Lucas’s many cinematic and literary allusions. So Star Wars led me to Westerns, other works of sci-fi, black-and-white classics, Kurosawa, etc.; to an interest in how movies were made; and to much older, written heroic romances and ancient myths. My parents were never big movie watchers, so I don’t think I would have become a cinephile if it had not been for Star Wars.
My first encounter with Lawrence of Arabia was watching part of it on TV some weekend afternoon. This was in late elementary or early high school. I watched perhaps an hour from the middle of the film, and, later on, tracked down the double VHS tape from the local library and watched all three plus hours. I was proud of myself afterwards. Lawrence’s eccentric personality, the amazing locations, and complex history fascinated me, but I think I also enjoyed liking such a highly artistic and sophisticated work.
The fact that both Star Wars and Lawrence of Arabia are mythic journeys and sprawling epics steeped in the histories of their respective worlds, and that they both follow heroic figures across deserted landscapes, probably reveals a fair bit about my interests and personality.
My affection for Star Wars is more intimate, though—more subconscious, more primal. As a kid, watering the pots in the backyard on a sun-scorched summer’s afternoon in our home on the edge of Saskatoon, I could relate to Luke Skywalker’s restlessness and poignant sense of loneliness as he worked on his uncle’s dusty farm on the planet “furthest from” the bright centre of the universe.
This retrospective offers me a chance to delve into these subjective impressions as well as more closely analyze the objective features of Star Wars, and to explore the close connections between the two.
No matter the circumstances that led to my first encounters with my two favourite films, I’ve read a lot about both works and watched them numerous times (countless times for Star Wars). After all these viewings, my enjoyment of both has not diminished, and my admiration for the formal craft of each work has only grown. A few other films seem cemented among my favourites—particularly 2001: A Space Odyssey, Citizen Kane, and Rear Window—while a host of other works by Hitchcock, Spielberg, Nolan, Kurosawa, and others shift in position over time. These two, Star Wars and Lawrence of Arabia, seem fixed at the top. You can’t change your past, as the saying goes, and they are such an integral part of mine.
This brief indulgence in autobiography and introspection is meant to be a preamble in part explaining why writing about Star Wars is going to be a challenge for me, but also one of potentially great rewards. It also explains why you should expect a more ruminative style of writing from me on Star Wars. It’s difficult to write critically about something you love so much. However, laying bear my passion does not mean that I do not think the Star Wars movies are legitimately great. Part of this process of writing involves the challenge of clearly articulating why I think the movie is great on its own merits, not simply what it means to me.
In a few days, I’ll present my case for the formal proficiencies, the effective storytelling, and the strange aura and potent atmosphere of Star Wars: A New Hope.
In the meantime, you can read my earlier attempt to engage with A New Hope here.