It’s hard to believe 40 years have passed since Star Wars was released, on this day. I saw it in its original run and remember how people lined up outside the movie theaters to see it…not once, by multiple times. People didn’t watch it twice; they watched it twenty times.
It wasn’t like any other science fiction movie before it. The ones I grew up watching were astronauts visiting another planet at getting stalked by an alien monster; a scientist inventing a monster and getting stalked by it; a monster rising from the depths and stalking the human cities–well, you get the idea.
But Star Wars was pure adventure, and fun. It has space battles, a cool villain–Darth Vader was so different from the standard villains who were either monsters or cackled dementedly about taking over the world. There was something about James Earl Jones’ voice that really brought him to life from behind that mask.
But then George Lucas did a rookie mistake, like I’ve seen some writers do. He had this hugely successful movie, and instead of spending the next forty decades writing other movies, or even TV series, or how about novels like Stephen Cannell, he fixed Star Wars. He was never happy with the special effects of the time, so he “improved” on them.
I know the cantina scene was a challenge to shoot because there was no budget. The actors wore Halloween masks. Yet, Lucas did a good job shooting it because it doesn’t look like cheap Halloween masks (there are a number of movies I’ve watched where the costuming looks like no one cared). He transformed us into a different world.
It’s also one of the scenes that fans talk about. It introduces our naive character Luke Skywalker to the rest of the galaxy and how dangerous it will be. And it’s fun!
And Lucas fiddled with it because all he could remember was the bad parts of the shooting, that the technology of 1977 didn’t match what he pictured.
In getting what he pictured but couldn’t do, he broke things that fans liked.