Star Wars is beloved. George Lucas succeeded in reimagining timeless tales in visual spectacles that inspired generations. But even its most diehard fans know that the galaxy is far, far from perfect. Sometimes, Star Wars is just silly.
The franchise has received much love in the days and weeks leading up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In between fits of excitement, a few of Polygon's staffers thought we'd take a closer look at some of Star Wars' more groan-worthy moments.
It's the kind of exercise that keeps even the staunchest defenders honest. Plus, being able to admire and criticize simultaneously grounds us in reality.
From a certain point of view, Star Wars feels like a beloved family member. Maybe your dad's a little weird, or your mom's eccentric. While it's one thing to be able to admit that about someone you love, if someone outside the family started making fun of your folks … well, that'd be a different story altogether.
There's much to love about Star Wars, and we have no problem admitting that we can get caught up in beauty and the thrill of space opera. But, as Obi-Wan Kenobi once advised a blonde farmboy, your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them.
I dump on The Phantom Menace a lot and everyone thinks it's some kind of generational warfare butthurt, but please remember that I was 25 when that film came out, the same age as most of its defenders today.
Here is why The Phantom Menace is shit on a shingle: If every flick in the series was forgiven its worst sin, of course The Phantom Menace would cash in Jar Jar Binks. Yet that movie still would be stupider than all five of the others combined because Darth Vader built C-3PO.
Pedants and probationary Wookieepedia editors are all racing to the comments to tell me #wellactually Anakin Skywalker built C-3PO but, last I checked, Anakin and Vader were one dude and the same. Not only is this a stupid relationship, it is gratuitous. It is flat unnecessary. In the 22 years between A New Hope and The Phantom Menace, I don't ever recall anyone ever giving a fuck who made C-3PO, much less hoping it was another major character and even less it being the principal bad guy.
This is what George Lucas chose to spend his storytelling capital on? A throwaway irony that now reveals how utterly dependent he is on surprise relationships? Vader is Luke's father. Leia is Luke's sister. Vader built C-3PO. Chewbacca and Yoda were buds. Obi-Wan killed Boba Fett's daddy. Boba Fett is more or less every stormtrooper's daddy, or at least their brother. On and on it goes. Do you realize Lucas also shot, but cut, a scene where Anakin fights child Greedo?! It's like going upstairs to your room and finding your kid sister or cousin playing with your Star Wars men, and now Zuckuss and 2-1B are married and they adopted AT-AT Driver. Who approved this?
During The Phantom Menace, which I watched in the same theater where I will see The Force Awakens, I was hanging in there even through Jar Jar's assclown minstrel show and the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. And that is a lot to handle in the first 30 minutes of a film. But when Anakin’s robot creation introduced himself as C-3PO, a cold feeling formed in the pit of my stomach and would not leave.
I would have been more willing to suspend my disbelief had I been told Darth Vader built the General Lee and taught the Dukes of Hazzard how to drive it.
You can yes-but me all you want with eye-candy bullshit like podracing and the lightsaber fight and Jake Lloyd playing Home Alone in space. The Phantom Menace is garbage, and I win that argument every single time because Darth Vader built C-3PO and that is fucking stupid.
THIS fucking thing. No, scroll away so it’s off the screen. Scroll!
Ugh, thank you. I physically cannot look at the DW-3 midwife droid without crossing my legs in such a way that a major Republican superPAC donor would refer to it as an effective form of birth control.
Look, I understand that Obi-wan and Bail Organa were probably hard up for hospital options after the Emperor completed his governmental takeover — except I don’t, because as upstanding members of the Galactic Senate Organa and Amidala could probably risk appearing in an actual human hospital somewhere on the outer rim, which could be reached instantly due to the widespread use of hyperspeed on the day of the Emperor’s takeover before things had settled — but could this possibly have been their best option? This Kallidahin "midwife droid" with its horrible scoop hands that I would prefer to have a minimum of one light year away from my own private parts and preferably on the other side of a six-inch steel door?
Here’s the thing about Luke and Leia’s birth scene: It features a woman weeping and screaming her way through a major event in her life and her own damn body alone while two male characters stoically watch from the outside of a glass box. It’s a scene which hamfistedly tells us that a headstrong, crusading politician who has just delivered healthy twins loses the will to live because she got her heart broken. It’s the scene that forever screwed up Luke and Leia’s birth order in such a way that makes one of the more touching scenes of Return of the Jedi nonsensical.
And I still don’t find any of that as disturbing as that goddamn scoop droid.
"Leia, do you remember your mother?" Luke Skywalker asks his sister, Princess Leia, in Return of the Jedi."Your real mother?"
"Just a little bit," Leia says. "She died when I was very young."
"What do you remember?"
"Just … images really. Feelings."
"She was … very beautiful. Kind, but sad. Why are you asking me this?"
"I have no memory of my mother. I never knew her."
For three decades between Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith, those haunting lines were the only canonical reference to Luke and Leia's real mother. They painted a simple, understandable picture of an unnamed, presumably deceased woman. We could extrapolate the pain she felt, given that she had twins, to give one away to the Lars family on Tatooine, and lived long enough to see the father of her children become Darth Vader and terrorize the galaxy.
Except, thanks to a bizarre sort of amnesia inside of LucasFilm, that's not what happened at all. Thanks to Revenge of the Sith, we know how much time Leia spent with her mother, Padmé Amidala. And that amounts to about … 90 seconds. She gives birth to her children, names them, then magically loses the will to live, whatever that means. In fact, according to Revenge of the Sith, she spends exactly as much time with both of her children, which is no time at all.
Did nobody inside of LucasFilm remember that this couldn't possibly be true? Did nobody question Lucas' script? Did it not once occur to anyone involved in the production of the movie that, if they put this in, they were directly contradicting a decades-old truth? I've burned an embarrassing number of calories trying to square this circle in the decade since Revenge of the Sith, and I can't do it. Leia's not a liar. And the idea that she's manufacturing memories is nonsense on stilts.
I love Stormtroopers. I wish for nothing more than to just once in my life clad this 6-foot-6-inch frame in beautiful white plate and prance about at a convention. Or a supermarket. Or in a crosswalk. Anywhere. But I recently rewatched the A New Hope with my family and I could not get over how crummy those original Stormtroopers were.
Let's start with their overall bearing. These are the Empire's elite troops, tempered by the Clone Wars and hardened into a battle-ready corps capable of bringing the fight to the enemy on land and in space. So why do they seem to have such a hard time simply standing at attention?
On the few occasions that we see them formed up in ranks in A New Hope they're a mess. Some have their legs apart and some together. They're holding their rifles all different ways and some even seem to be wearing pieces of their armor in different places on their bodies. Frankly, things don't get much better in Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi. Even with Emperor Palpatine himself walking by they just can't seem to get themselves together.
And can we talk about the costumes themselves for a minute? At a glance the outfit works, but in motion these poor bastards all look really uncomfortable. At certain points they even look like they're going to run right out of their leg armor, which is constantly flapping open in the back.
Such as I understood the plan, Red Squadron was to provide support for Gold Squadron in the last ditch raid on the Death Star. Gold, hence the callsign, were ostensibly the specialists: they engage no fighters, harass no surface targets. Their job is to get the hell down the trench and bomb the shit out of the exhaust port. Alright then. Here is your A-team.
This is Mr. Haney, the unmarried guidance counselor who photographs all of the JV girls’ volleyball games.
That's Maynard Gristle, vice chairman of the planning and zoning board.
And here’s Otis, who got laid off from the Campbell’s soup plant and now watches his brother-in-law’s bait store.
Of these three, only Otis had the slightest clue what is going on, realizing that when the turbolasers stop shooting it’s because the bad guys might be sneaking up on them. Maynard bites the dust without comment and Haney freaks out and gets shot down. Otis says fuck this shit, abandons the trench and the mission and gets casually waxed by Vader, who seems more preoccupied with tightening that thing on his TIE Fighter's yoke.
Now, I get that these yo-yos are supposed to be minutemen-style fighters, guys who are not regulars like their Imperial foes. Red squadron has its share of dweebs, too. Biggs looks like John Oates, and who could forget Porkins? But Gold Squadron went down without firing a shot, and given the three dirt clods leading the bombing raid, I’m not sure any escort from Red would have helped them get a single torpedo off. No wonder Han Solo’s first instinct was to take his credits and GTFO.
I mean seriously George … You resurrected a 38-year-old version of Jabba the Hut and re-skinned him to match Return of the Jedi, but you couldn’t record new voiceover for this guy? He single-handedly brings the drama of the Battle of Yavin to a screeching halt. I know his bit of exposition, introducing the fact that Imperial fighters are inbound, is super important, but give it a rest already. He may actually have more screentime than Mon Mothma. Get the lines out, and move along.
Star Wars, we need to talk about your spelling, punctuation and naming inconsistencies. I’ll admit that five years in the nerd entertainment journalism mines may have left me with a bit of a personal stake in this issue. A BB-8 in my bonnet, if you will. A holopet peeve. However.
Death Star? Two words. Sandcrawler? One. Not a hyphen to be seen. Where are your hyphens? Adorning words that aren’t even compounds: Obi-wan. Qui-gon. Midi-chlorian. R2-D2 and C-3PO. Sure, fine, ok. Let’s use hyphens between random syllables. Except then please explain tauntaun. Or Jar Jar! I won’t even ask about Kashyyyk or why when we refer to R2-D2 by nickname we spell it Artoo.
Because we haven’t even gotten to Star Wars’ historical (and, I’ll admit, quite endearing) legacy of just the most incredible and dumb names ever. Chewbacca doesn’t have a surname, but Jabba’s laughing rat-lizard Salacious B. Crumb has a middle initial. No one has ever explained what it stands for, though when I asked on Twitter two people independently recommended "Bobert."
This is the legacy of a film franchise with an action figure for every character who ever appeared on screen, and therefore a need to adorn box art with a name for every character who ever appeared on the screen. This is how we got the drug dealer Elan Sleazebaggano and musicians Sy Snootles and Droopy McCool.
In Star Wars’ favor, however, its naming conventions are no Dune, where Leto Atreides shares a setting with Thufir Hawat and Gurney Halleck. Everybody in Dune is human, even!
In conclusion: If AT-ST is pronounced ay-tee-ess-tee then AT-AT should be pronounced ay-tee-ay-tee, I will FIGHT YOU ON THIS.
Sometimes, George Lucas needed to get serious. He mostly facepalmed.
In every movie, there's about 20 minutes of essential story. The rest of the time, Lucas spends doing fun things. He excels at that. Throughout the trilogy it was fun to see podracing and giant armies battling. It was fun to watch Samuel L. Jackson cut a bounty hunter’s head off with a purple lightsaber. We all enjoyed watching Jedi flying in starfighters in the context of a larger battle the size and scope of which had never been seen.
But in every story Lucas also had to take some time to get serious, to tell a continuing story and not just a self-contained act told with visuals. Just about every time he needed to do so, the man who is so good at telling stories with visuals fails when humans are involved.
Revenge of the Sith is an unintentional case study in the prequel trilogy's biggest problems. Lucas shoehorned Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader into a relatively small part of the movie. His turn to the dark side of the Force isn't something that happens gradually. At best, through three movies, we see a kid with a temper. Instead, it's something that happens in the span of a few minutes during a movie where the ultimate bad guy spends most of his time being the ultimate good guy.
That has huge ramifications. In A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker that his father was "seduced by the dark side of the force." That made sense in the context of the original version of Vader. Unimpeachably bad, the Darth Vader of the original trilogy revels in his power. Even with scant details, you can see a man under that mask who chose to be evil, who embraces it, who'd choke a fool who got between him and his ambitions.
In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker isn't seduced by anything. He's fooled. He's manipulated. He didn't make a choice to follow a dark path. He was weak and malleable. He was a dope.
It gets worse, though. Ultimately, the seriousness problem leaps past its logical conclusion in Revenge of the Sith. In what is supposed to be the single most poignant moment in the prequel trilogy, Obi-Wan and Anakin confront each other one last time.
"If you're not with me," Anakin says, "Then you're my enemy."
Lucas is playing with politics here. The line from the 2005 movie echoes a real-world line delivered in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Either you are with us," said President George W. Bush in an address to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 20, 2001, "or you are with the terrorists."
The President's remarks were about terrorism, directed specifically at those who would harbor terrorists. Us, there, refers to those who oppose terrorism. Anakin's remarks refer to basically everyone in the galaxy, including the entire Jedi order. Congratulations, Star Wars viewers — you now have contemporary U.S. politics in your galaxy!
Again, though, it gets worse.
Obi-Wan, unmoved, retorts with the dumbest line in any Star Wars movie.
"Only a Sith deals in absolutes," he says, blissfully unaware that he is, at that very moment, dealing in absolutes.
The Special Editions committed many sins to alienate longtime fans, but one overlooked abuse is how injecting eye candy into every scene ended up butchering the soundtracks supporting them. In this case, we have a great song wiped out entirely: "Lapti Nek."
It was the number in Jabba's throne room introducing the scene where he feeds the dancer to the Rancor in 1983’s Return of the Jedi. The point of the scene is to establish that Jabba is an A-list sleaze and he has a secret trap door that dumps you into a dungeon with something really horrible. Without that foreshadowing, Luke Skywalker falling into this trap and fighting the Rancor becomes a lot more confusing to the viewer.
So the point is not to watch a re-run of Solid Gold, and the original at least paid attention to that. Nobody cared about the Max Rebo Band in 1983, and nobody cares if in the 1997 Special Edition the act added a Greedette as a dancer and a hype man from a Mercer Mayer book. "Jedi Rocks" now distracts from what the viewer needs to understand: Jabba may be an immobile fat slug, but he's still a deadly threat.
That's not my real problem with this, though. "Lapti Nek" was flat out a better song. Better dance song, better beat, better everything. Here, take a listen to the full version.
It's prowling, sensual, adult. More importantly, you can hear the instruments and follow the melody. "Jedi Rocks" is nearly all vocals, and whoever is screeching for the now fully CGI Sy Snootles (and thanks, extra long eyelashes! I get it, this is a female alien) is hard to listen to. She has the volume and vocal fry of a higher pitched Tina Turner but none of the soul. She can crank out gibberish all she wants, but there’s no emotion if you can’t understand what she’s singing.
I can understand a director thinking that you can't give a lot of time to a dated musical number in a supposedly updated film. The original spent about 45 seconds on the music before getting on with the scene. But if LucasFilm brought back Oola’s original actor to reprise her role, could they not have re-cut "Lapti Nek" itself?
Instead what we got is like the rest of the updates to the Special Editions: An overproduced intrusion that takes twice as long to add nothing. And don't even get me started about Boba Fett mackin' on the dancers: "Baby, I need you tonight. Tomorrow I could be dragged to my death by the world's largest hemorrhoid."
There are many things fans can complain about in Star Wars, but the changes Lucas began making to his movies in the late 1990s are always a hot button issue.
Star Wars fans know that Lucas' changes didn't stop with the Special Editions. He was always tinkering with the movies, making changes here and there. Some changes were innocuous. Removing static windows so that you can see the world outside Cloud City angered, to a close approximation, nobody. Neither did adding sparks to Jango Fett's backpack in Attack of the Clones or even replacing the original Emperor in Empire with Ian McDiarmid, who played the Emperor and his predecessor in Return of the Jedi and the prequels. At least there was solid logic behind those amendments.
There's another category of changes, however, that makes human blood boil. Having Greedo shoot first is the classic example because a decision like that fundamentally changes the Han Solo character that had been established for decades. Also, it looked like crap in its first iteration.
The worst, I'd argue, happened alongside the Blu-ray release of the first two trilogies. At the end of Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader kills the Emperor to save his son. For decades, it was a decision told with action and music. On the Blu-ray, Lucas added voice.
"Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!" Vader now screams as he picks up the Emperor and throws him over a ledge.
Who does that help? Was anyone confused about Vader's emotions at that point? How does it make anything better?
I'm sure that Lucas justified that addition by thinking that he was echoing Vader's similar scream at the end of Revenge of the Sith. And while that may be true, it's not the only consideration. Lucas, for all his abilities, doesn't seem to trust his audience. You see this everywhere in the prequels. They are full of action scenes, followed by characters standing in front of windows and on balconies explaining what everyone just saw. There's no trust there, or in this risible change to Return of the Jedi.
There is no need for it. There is no excuse for it. It takes what was once emotional and makes it laughable. It, once again, makes the climax worse.
It is, in a word, absurd.