CONTINUING A NON-SPOILER LOOK AT STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI VIA ANALYSIS OF OTHER FILMS IN THE FRANCHISE.
Many times, it’s the little things that push something over the top—for better or for worse. Just as the static and clumsy oversight of an incompetent creator can hinder any fictional endeavor, the subtleties perpetrated by a good director can augment one’s sense of wonder. The tools at any creative director’s disposal include more than the players and crew. Palette, scene composition, dialogue, and character idiosyncrasies are all key to telling a bigger story.
Irvin Kirschner was George Lucas’ film teacher. When George bowed out of directing the eventually titled Episode V, he asked the senior director to pick up the reins for him. What he did not expect was that Kirshner would create a superior product, elevating Star Wars out of Toyland and into film and franchise history. As director of the second Star Wars film, Kirschner jam-packed every shot in the Empire Strikes Back with details not readily noticed on a single viewing. Let’s take a single scene and break it down, shall we?
THE SCENE: LEIA KISSES LUKE TO PISS OFF HAN
The modern viewer is drawn, of course, to the incestuous brother/sister kiss which dominates the scene (Mr. Lucas seems to have glossed over this kiss and Luke and Leia’s awkward romance when he got lazy and decided not to follow the original plan.continue with Episodes VII VIII & IX in the eighties. According to Gary Kurtz, Luke’s actual sister was on the other side of the galaxy. After the Emperor’s death in Episode VI, Palatine’s essence would flee there to corrupt her. Luke would pursue the disembodied Emperor, ultimately finding his sister and encountering a whole new universe of threats. But I digress…)
THE DEVIL, YOU SAY
It’s all about the details. Let’s take a look at the other particulars of this scene. Chewbacca, obviously, finds the entire affair amusing. Han is… well, look at Captain Solo’s face—obviously, he is disappointed and yearning as he watches Leia kiss her brother, wishing it was he she was kissing instead of Luke.
The best part is Threepio’s double take. He rushes up to see the kiss, then immediately turns to see Han’s reaction. As stupid as Threepio is, he knows.
When Leia pulls away from Luke and looks Han in the face, the smuggler quickly changes his visage to one of awkward nonchalance. He tries in vain to look nonplussed by it all and is unable to meet her eyes for long.
WHY IT WORKS
Altogether a well-played amusing scene that gets better with subsequent viewings. There is always something new to look at in each revisit. Everyone in this one scene has their own arc to worry about. Each is in character and reacting according to who and what they are—the secondary characters aren’t just there to fill up space, even though they are reacting to something that has nothing to do with them. Compare that to the prequel trilogy, when character and dialogue exist merely to move the thinly contrived plot from point A to B to C. Everyone in Empire is alive.
Irvin Kirschner was a civilized director for a more civilized age, and more modern directors would do well to tip their hats to the man. His attention to detail was something you that you simply don’t see in genre fiction anymore—and something that elevated Empire from a mere sequel ‘strapped to a one-hit wonder’ to art in and of itself. It’s easy to get caught up in the trappings of a galaxy far, far, away. Fans need to remember that just like a good book or anything else, a good film is good regardless of its genre. For all its potential and revelations, the Last Jedi is missing the nuances needed to make it so. That’s right, I made a Trek reference on a Star Wars post. You go and Live Prosper now, alright?
Just as the other films in history’s longest trilogy, it’s devoid of the art of Empire. Does that make the Last Jedi a bad film? Probably not. I did enjoy it. It’s certainly not prequel bad. It’s just no Empire Strikes Back. But then again, what else is? Not much.
Andrew E.C. Gaska