Another Happy Landing: The Endings of Star Wars Films

One of my favorite things about Star Wars, ever since I first saw it when I was a child, was the endings of the movies.

As I got older, I saw the endings as slightly corny, but they still satisfied me. Why? Because while George Lucas created endings that were corny or too-nicely-tied-up-in-a-bow, there was a sense of hope and happiness…sometimes more weighted on one than the other – but still there, nevertheless.

With ANH, Lucas did not know if he would be able to continue Star Wars or if it would be a big flop. He opted to make a story that had a clear and decisive beginning, middle, and end. Sure, he left some ties open (we don’t know the fate of Darth Vader) but overall, the Rebellion won. It had hope and happiness handed to us on a silver platter. It was an ultimate feel-good ending.

I believe that ESB is the only film under Lucas’ hands that has the most question marks. We have no idea if Luke and Leia will be able to get Han back. We don’t even know if Han is alive. In a more subtle way, we don’t know if we can still trust Lando. What about Luke’s training on Dagobah? Will he go back? Is Darth Vader really Luke’s father? How did Leia sense where Luke was? Does she also have the Force?

Yet, despite all these questions, we watch Luke get a new hand and exchange smiles with Leia. They move to look out the window to an infinite galaxy. Threepio and Artoo stand on one side. It is one of my favorite shots of all time. Instead of looking at the camera, everyone is facing away, and it gives more credence to the loose ends of the movie. But it’s beautiful. And it’s an ending. When they look out into the galaxy, I have a feeling of hope and inspiration.

ROTJ is the corniest, in my opinion. Lucas thought this would be his last (or at least for a while – he did continue to have thoughts about telling Anakin’s entire story) Star Wars film and everything is nicely tied together in a bow. The Rebellion won (again)! Darth Vader was redeemed! Leia and Han are together! The Emperor was destroyed! We see almost the entire cast surrounded by dancing Ewoks and smiling benevolently into the camera. Happiness! Hope!

When Lucas filmed the Prequels, he continued his trend of concise endings, using the themes of hope and happiness.

With TPM, the ending is almost as exuberant as ROTJ or ANH. There are some lingering questions in the background presented by the Jedi at Qui-Gon’s funeral, but overall, the celebration of Naboo is nothing short of glorious. Everyone is looking at the camera and the corny level is quite high.

AOTC is the only film out of every Star Wars film under Lucas that strays furthest from the theme of hope. I think it’s happy, yes, but in a bittersweet way. You are happy for Anakin and Padmé but the hindsight you have as an audience member, pangs you with bitterness. I do not think hope is lost entirely however. It may not be the first emotion you feel, but you know this union is necessary because “a new hope” is what arises from this wedding. Without this marriage – there would be no Luke and Leia who end up saving the galaxy further on down the line. In some ways, I think the Jedi were headed towards combustion, Anakin was the catalyst, and I believe the wiping out of the Jedi had to happen. It was doomed. So knowing that Luke and Leia are coming out of this ill-fated love match is one of those strange things where hope is present in this scene, though it may not be dominant.

As an ending, ROTS leaves us complete only because we know the entire story already. The sunset gaze by Beru and Lars evokes hope and the weight of responsibility as well. Lucas deftly wraps it up with that Tatooine sunset and closes the film and saga with a sense of satisfaction. We see baby Luke and know that the new hope has arrived.

And where does this leave TFA and Rogue One?

TFA breaks the tradition. It’s such a small thing, the ending of a movie. Yet, if you think about it, you expect a satisfying ending to probably 95% of the movies you watch. There has to be a conclusion of some sort.

Disney leaves me a little jaded with TFA. Their over-confidence (…is their weakness) in knowing that they don’t have to really give us an ending frustrates me. Unlike the other films in the saga that were under Lucas’ direction, TFA does not leave me with hope or happiness. I’m not sure what feelings I take away from it now. It’s neither negative nor positive. I am apathetic for this ending that is not an ending but more like you are putting a bookmark in a book. I know Finn will survive because it’s too early in the Sequel Trilogy to kill him off. Rey is standing there with a strange look on her face and an outstretched arm to an older, grizzled Luke Skywalker who has an even stranger look on his face. Then we have this strange moment where the camera spins around them on the island where Rey is standing there with the arm outstretched trying to hand Luke his lightsaber. Too much movement compared to the other endings!

I didn’t notice the lack of an ending at first. In fact, the first time I watched it, I remember thinking as the shot spun around Luke Skywalker and Rey, “This had better not be the end because we just saw Luke for the first time.” But it was. I was discombobulated but I chucked it up to seeing the new Star Wars film and having a lot to think about.

Yet every time I watch it again, I get more annoyed and I blame Disney and Kathleen Kennedy for most of this. I did not realize how entrenched the Star Wars endings are in my psyche and how much I yearn for them until I compare the Lucas films to the new Disney films.

Rogue One has an ending, but I find it contrived and forced. A CGI Leia says, “Hope,” and it’s a good whack on the head of forcing us into what we should feel. Their effort on the ending of the film should have been less focused on a CGI Leia and more emphasis placed on a beautiful shot with a decent ending that evokes feelings instead of shoves it down our throat. You could argue that the hyperspace jump right after Leia says that is the shot but…it’s action. It’s not a still moment where we appreciate the end of a Star Wars movies.

When I compare the endings, I almost see George Lucas as a more humble director who wraps up each film nicely…just in case. Just in case no one wants to see another Star Wars movie or he never gets to do one again. He gave us a small moment at the end of each film to reflect on what we had just seen. There was no crazy spinning shot, no ships jumping to hyperspace – only his way of saying, “Did you enjoy my movie? I give you time to digest your thoughts and what you saw.”

We have now broken that with TFA and RO and I miss my feeling of hope and happiness at the end of a Star Wars film. I miss the ending being clear cut. I miss the beautiful, panoramic shots that were breathtaking. I miss that still, quiet moment of reflection.

Will we never have that again? Since Disney is planning on creating Star Wars films until I’m old and grey and no longer blogging, is their overconfidence going to extend to the point that we’ll never have that corny Star Wars ending again?

If so, RIP endings to Star Wars films that brought me hope and happiness. You will be missed.

 

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Haiku Me Friday! Luke crosses the threshold in The Hero’s Journey

They’re gone. Both of them.
Cruelly murdered for two droids
The shifts of change come

I have always found the scene where Luke rushes back home to find Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen murdered by the Empire to be so interesting. My main reason for thinking this is it’s such a SMALL scene but it changes the entire movie. For your info, the scene is about 13 seconds.

Yet this scene is the step from Luke’s “ordinary world” into the “supernatural world” and as such, it plays a pivotal role in his journey.

George Lucas drew a lot from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces when he created Star Wars. You can see that he almost follows it to a T in A New Hope, where Luke is defined as the Hero.

In the above image, you can follow the beginning of Luke’s journey in ANH. You see that this scene, though short in length, is the moment when Luke “crosses the threshold”.

We have been introduced to Luke on Tatooine, his ordinary world. His call to adventure begins with rumblings to his Uncle about leaving the farm (and the deleted scene with Biggs). Lucas then switches up the order and has Luke meet his mentor, Old Ben, first and then Luke refuses the call. It is plainly spelled out as Obi-Wan asks Luke to journey with him to Alderaan and Luke says no, due to responsibilities on the moisture farm.

Luke is a “good kid” and refuses because he doesn’t want to leave his Uncle without his help, though deep down he wants to leave. How can this problem be solved? The responsibility is taken away from him when the stormtroopers burn the farm and murder his Uncle and Aunt. This enables him to cross the threshold and journey to Alderaan to rescue the Princess.

At times, when I watch this scene, I’m baffled by how short it is and the way Luke reacts. For being raised by these folks since he was a few days old, Luke shows more sorrow over Obi-Wan dying later in the film than his guardians. But…

Here’s where we have to separate Star Wars the story versus Star Wars the film. Lucas did not have the luxury to spend a lot of time with Luke mulling over his aunt and uncle’s death and what to do next. This was no Rivendell, where Frodo got to relax, recover, spend time with friends, and make decisions about the future. ANH had to keep moving and this scene was only used as a pivot point. The Mentor is much more important in the hero’s journey, which is why we see Luke more visibly upset over Obi-Wan’s death.

Does it actually make sense in a human relational context? Not really. Does it make more sense in propelling a movie forward? Yes, totally. So Lucas gives us “tragic Luke” where the wind is ruffling his hair and you can see pain, but then quickly moves on because now that Luke has crossed the threshold, the storyline can pick up the pace.

If you are interested in The Hero’s Journey with other Star Wars characters, let me know. Tricia Barr did some analysis articles in Insider where she went into depth about The Hero’s Journey with different characters.  I’d be happy to take photos and send your way.

And finnnnalllly, I’M TAKING VACATION NEXT WEEK. And the big deal about this is that I’m not really going anywhere. It’s a staycation and I haven’t done a staycation since…2012 (maternity leave definitely doesn’t count). I’m so looking forward to sleeping in my own bed with no real responsibilities, not worrying about too much, and puttering around.

I’m checking out until after Labor Day, so until then – May the Force be with you.

Diary Posts From A Long, Long Time Ago

I was inspired a few months ago by Megan’s blog posts that included diary entries from 1999 and when The Phantom Menace premiered. It reminded me of when my own obsession began with Star Wars – also in 1999 and due to TPM.

I was 12 years old and though I had seen Star Wars previously, it had never spoken to me in quite the way it did with TPM. I’ve been through this before, so I won’t bore anyone with even more details.

When reading Megan’s posts, I couldn’t go back and dig out my diary because they were packed away for the move. I kind of forgot about doing a post on my past diary entries.

Then I was chatting with Imperial Talker two days ago and mentioned I had once written a Star Wars Anthem to the tune of our (US) national anthem. He encouraged me to dig it out and find it.

Since my diaries have been unpacked, I have finally received the motivation needed to sift through all the entries (I used to write A LOT when I was young!) and find some interesting Star Wars related ones to share.

I discovered that:

  1. I was seriously in love with Luke Skywalker,
  2. I loved to record dreams – and apparently I had a lot related to Star Wars,
  3. I could not spell Darth Vader correctly (I wrote it Vadar…novice mistake!),
  4. I did, indeed, make a song to our national anthem but it’s nowhere near as good as I remember it being in my head.

 

I know I was in love with Luke Skywalker but I don’t think I remember it the way I felt it in 1999. I always say that Luke Skywalker was one of

Yup, sums me up at age 12.

my “first crushes” but I’m trying to figure out what attracted me to him at a young age. I honestly don’t think it was inappropriate, but more like – I thought he was handsome, he could use magic (the Force), and he was down-to-the-soul good. He resisted evil and did what he thought was right. At that point in my life, I needed that a lot more than the bad boy Solo, whom I would end up understanding the appeal of when I got older. I didn’t include any photos of those diary entries because a) they’re weird, and b) they mostly consist of me saying “I love Luke Skywalker!!!!!!!!”

As for the dreams – funnily, I was talking about this with my sister the other day. So many people can’t remember their dreams. But I had gone on an interpretive dream kick when I was younger (now I know exactly how young! 12 and in 1999!) and made an effort to record all my dreams and try to decipher the meanings of them. Due to this obsessive habit that I had for months, I still remember almost all my dreams to this day. I could tell you exactly what I dreamed last night. It’s such a weird experiment I did that shows that when you do something persistently when you’re younger – it stays with you as you get older.

 

So without much further ado, here are a few good ones from 1999.

 

Dream Diary Entry #1 (I cut this one off in the middle because it had irrelevant stuff about school friends):

July 10, 1999

 

What I loved about reading this specific entry was that it brought back the feeling of the podracer to me. I don’t remember any other part of the dream – but I remember the feeling of driving in a podracer at age 30. And I remember waking up and wanting to dream it all over again. It was so real. Even 21 years later, I remember that podracing dream.

Oh and I love how I had to take a little dig at Jake Lloyd. Like “not even Jake Lloyd felt how I felt”…haha.

 

Dream Diary Entry #2:

September 6, 1999

 

Apparently I had to explain my actions on why Luke was holding my hand (we were married). Haha, I must have thought that was inappropriate to do otherwise!

In case anyone was wondering, Coober Pedy is an opal mining town in Australia. I had visited it the summer before (1998) and had fallen in love with the underground houses they had in the area. I thought it was so cool…and apparently my subconscious was still obsessed with it a year later.

 

Dream Diary Entry #3:

September 7, 1999

 

Not as interesting, but hey, Leia made an appearance! Sounds like she got shafted quite often.

 

Diary Entry #4, The Important Things in Life:

September 11, 1999

 

Is it all true? I still wonder. Did this all happen? Is Star Wars real? BURNING QUESTIONS I STILL ASK MYSELF TODAY.

But otherwise, this is clearly a momentous event. It sounds like I had been looking for his address for a while. For all the new people following my blog, I did end up writing to George Lucas and questioned some direction of his on TPM and hoping he would resolve the flow between the OT and the PT because thus far, there was not a lot of similarity. (Also, I used to name my diaries. This one was named Ariana Skywalker and I liked to write to the diary like it was a friend)

I never received a response from him, BUT his staff wrote back with a copy of Star Wars Insider and I’ve subscribed to the magazine for almost 20 years (other than the brief break in college when I had no money).

 

Diary Entry #5, the Star Wars Anthem:

September 8, 1999

I’ve held this song in my head as, like, the pinnacle of greatness. It’s kind of disappointing to look back and see, oh wait, it’s really not that good. Ah well. Looks like I had a lot of notes attached to one syllable. Guess I’ll never be a songwriter any time soon.

There you have it – a glimpse into my life when I became obsessed with Star Wars. I love that I was blogging about Star Wars before I knew what blogging was. What’s somewhat amusing about all this is that I thought I would have more entries related to TPM. But it seems like most focus is on the OT, with the exception of the podracer dream.

 

Are there any distinct childhood memories about Star Wars that you remember?

 

Haiku Me Friday! A pivotal scene and the need to control

The hatred flows through
They took her away from us
My anguish blinds me

As much as I have trouble enjoying Attack of the Clones and finding moments to like about it, I do enjoy the part when Anakin goes in search of her mother, kills the Sand People and cries about it to Padmé.

It’s this tense chase we are on with him and I think Lucas does a great job of NOT showing us Anakin killing the sandpeople. As an audience, we are put in suspense until he reveals to Padmé that he did, in fact, kill them all. To make matters hit home, the fact that Anakin killed both the women and children as well was deftly played by Lucas.

I think it was hard to feel sorry for the Sand People and hard to connect with them as a species. We never see them doing anything interesting; much less have feelings towards them one way or another. For the most part, the Sand People were annoying to me. They always showed up at an inconvenient moment as a plot point to spur the movie along. In fact, they are kind of like savage animals.

Yet, by having Anakin kill the entire village of sandpeople, and confess to doing the unthinkable by killing the women and children, we now feel pity.

Who kills women and children?

Even in war, it’s deplorable, almost everyone can agree to that. It’s part of what makes the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki so heart wrenching. There were thousands of innocent people living in those cities. On top of being innocent people, there were women and children – the future.

By killing the Sand People’s women and children, Anakin is preventing further life, preventing the future. And with that, George Lucas spins how we feel about the Sand People. Anakin says “They are like animals. And I slaughtered them like animals. I hate them!” Yet, now we feel pity and sadness, which brings the Sand People to a human status.

We also feel foreboding towards Anakin’s actions. This anger and rage comes from his feeling of powerlessness. He wants to control everything around him, including death. How can you control death? It is the one certainty in life – that everyone dies. Yet Anakin does not want to accept that.

If you watch Padmé’s face during this scene, you can see that she has fear. What has happened to Anakin? Who kills women and children? Why can’t he understand that it was out of his control and that Shmi’s death was not his fault?

Shmi’s death is a turning point in Anakin. He always feared loss, even in TPM when Yoda points it out to him. When Shmi dies, and then he has dreams about Padmé’s death in ROTS, it spurs him to use his hate and anger to try and channel it into what he thinks is something good.

Shmi’s death and this scene is so important to the entire saga. I often overlook it due to my frustration with AOTC but it shapes Anakin as a character and is a pivotal step for the Skywalker story.

I, too, can be a control freak. I like everything to be just right and when something disrupts my schedule or plans, I don’t deal with it well. I think most of the arguments I have with my husband come from when I have something in my mind of how it should go, and he has something different, and I have a hard time being flexible.

In some ways, it’s a good thing. My control helps me be extremely organized which helps me run my business, keep my daughter at home most of the time, and be a wife.

Yet the need for constant control seeps into a lot of our daily lives. I believe the need for control does stem from fear. Fear of losing control, but a deeper level, fear of not looking like I have it “all together” or that I’m easily handling everything. It’s a fear of loss, though different from Anakin’s. It’s a fear of losing face, in some ways. I think having a child has made it better (they really are unpredictable!) but now I have new aspects to try and control which raises stress levels.

 

Do you or do you know anyone who are controlling? Who has fears that drives them to dangerous points like Anakin? Or, honestly, do you have any advice for me or others similar to myself?

Haiku Me Friday! An Open Letter to George Lucas

It’s been 40 years
Since George Lucas took the helm
And transported us

 

Dear George,

I’ve wanted to say thank you for years.  Star Wars effects my life every day in small, and sometimes large, ways.  Without you, I would not be who I am today.  I’ve written about it a lot, but sometimes I think people tend to forget the man behind it all.  Well, not really forget, we could never forget.

It’s just that we get so wrapped up in the mythology, the worlds and stories that Star Wars has created.  We are constantly blown away by this amazing sandbox you allow us to play in.  We get so deep in the trenches that Star Wars becomes real to us.  I think we know deep down that it’s only a movie but we forget because Star Wars transverse many different levels of our lives.

Forty years ago, you probably did not yet realize what a sensation Star Wars would become.  Even after it broke box office records, did you think it was a fad?  Did you think the obsession of the public would eventually wane?  Or did you know you had struck gold?  I wish, so badly, I could interview you and dig your mind on what the summer was like 40 years ago.

Before this gets long winded, I wanted you to know that I haven’t forgotten that you are the man behind it all.  That you are the one who gave us this sandbox, filled it with sand, and then let us have fun within your creation.  Thank you for being flexible about that.

I know you tried your best when you gave Star Wars over to Disney, and for that – I’ll follow your lead and trust you as much as possible.  They’re doing an okay job (okay, a pretty good job), but they’re not you.  They could never be you.  There’s only one you – the person whom we love for giving so many of us a reason to be better people.

May the Force be with you.  Always.

xoxo,

Kiri

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