I recently watched the original Star Wars movie (Episode 4). I hadn't seen it for probably ten years, but I'd watched it enough before then to know it almost line for line. Watching it again was good, but I realised that the joy was mainly driven by nostalgia, propelled by childhood years crammed with Star Wars films, toys, books and games. In the cold light of adult eyes and the backdrop of today's cinema, I realised that the film really hasn't aged well. I think it's time for a remake. Here's why.
Darth Vader's helmet isn't shiny enough
This is one of many problems caused by Star Wars being the first film, and being made on a relatively small budget. Lots of things simply don't look polished enough - both figuratively and literally. The costumes are pretty simple - Luke wears pajamas for most of the movie, Han Solo wears a shirt and a waistcoat and Leia is pretty much just wearing a sheet. There's also a distinctly seventies feel to some of the hairstyles and facial hair, and the bulky black gloves worn by the Rebel pilots. A lot of work went into all this, but if you watch all three original movies back to back there's a clear gap in quality and visual style between Star Wars and the second two.
The special effects aren't
The version I watched was the much debated (at the time) 'Special Edition'. While some may have thought that sprucing up the original films to make them look better was a good idea, all it really serves to do is highlight how old the rest of it looked. And why didn't they go all the way, and replace all of the visual effects, including that really terrible in-movie computer simulation of the Death Star exploding?
On top of that, if you look at the quality of the CG effects compared to the current state of the art, even the new stuff looks old - leaving us with an old movie made to look older in comparison to the old effects pasted into it.
The acting is pretty bad
Let's be honest. Mark Hamill wasn't a great actor in 1977. Consider the scene where Luke returns home to find his uncle and aunt murdered, their charred bodies still smoking outside their front door. Does he cry out? Fall to his knees in despair? No. He bites his lip a bit and looks away. To be fair, that's not entirely Hamill's fault, but he doesn't do much to help.
Alec Guiness and Harrison Ford do their best, but they haven't got a lot to work with considering how weak some of the dialogue is. "Hey Luke... may the Force be with you." You can almost feel Ford cringing as he says it.
It's only as an adult rewatching this movie that I spot some of the things that don't really make sense. Realistically, why would the Empire murder Luke's uncle and aunt? Why does C3PO get to drive Luke's speeder? Why doesn't Luke ask more questions of Obi-wan, or more questions to the droids when they mention the rebellion? Why do those two guys pick a fight with Luke in the cantina? Why do the stormtroopers go through Mos Eisley checking to see if everyone's front door is locked?
Why is security on the Death Star so bad? When our heroes jump down the garbage chute, why don't any stormtroopers follow them, or work out where it leads and simply go downstairs to catch them coming out? Why is Leia apparently racist towards Chewbacca, when she inhabits a galaxy filled with all kinds of weird creatures? Why is the celebration at the end of the movie not toned down by the fact that most of the Rebel pilots died? Why doesn't Chewbacca get a medal? Or Wedge, come to think of it?
The pace of the movie is quite inconsistent. We get a good intro with a bit of action and the introduction of a great villain, and then what? It feels like hours of watching two droids amble about a desert. Things pick up around the time Han and Chewie get into it, but then we're treated to Obi-wan and Vader squaring off in what should be a pretty epic lightsaber duel, but looks more like two arthritic men poking each other with pool cues.
To my adult brain, C3PO and R2D2 aren't cute and lovable anymore. Threepio spends the whole film complaining and being inept, and R2 simply puts up with it, instead of leaving him outside the escape pod at the start when he had the chance. And Luke isn't much of a hero. He mumbles, he whines, he's basically a bit of a brat. I'm not really sure I want to follow him on an adventure.
How to improve it all
To sum up, we need a remake. It needs a bigger production budget, modern special effects, better acting, better direction, and a bit of a general script/story rework.
Fortunately, we've already got a remake of Star Wars. It's called The Force Awakens.
If you've not seen the new film, stop reading now, because I'm going to give away much of it. And you really don't want that. The second trailer already did enough damage.
Everybody who doesn't want the movie spoiled stopped reading? Good.
You must have noticed this by now, so this is probably not going to come as much of a surprise, but let's be honest - the plot of the new film is almost exactly the same as the original. Don't agree? Then tell me which of the two movies this is.
- The villains chase down and capture a hero who has vital information to the outcome of the plot, but not before the hero has managed to hide the information in a droid, which escapes.
- The droid wanders across a desert planet until it is captured by scavengers, but falls into the hands of our young protagonist (who owns a long, pointed weapon of some kind and will later turn out to be strong with the Force).
- Our protagonist escapes the planet aboard the Millennium Falcon, leaving behind their speeder and joining up with Han Solo and Chewbacca along the way.
- The villains return to their base, a planet sized weapon that can destroy whole planets. They use it.
- Our heroes go to the base and attempt to rescue the heroine, who was captured earlier.
- An old guy is murdered with a lightsaber.
- The good guys send a small rag tag bunch of fighters against the enemy base in an attempt to destroy it before it can fire and destroy their base. Leia looks on from a command room.
- The enemy come really close to firing their superweapon but at the last second one of the good guys manages the winning shot that triggers a massive chain reaction that completely destroys it.
- Only a few fighters (and the Millennium Falcon) make it back in one piece, and everyone celebrates their return.
That was, of course, the plot to both of them. There's even elements that get pulled in from The Empire Strikes back, like a mysterious evil overlord who we only see through gigantic holographic projection, a battle on a snowy planet and a little alien who seems to know a lot about the Force.
There's also some other things that happen in both movies, but in slightly different orders...
- Our heroes go to a bar/cantina where there are lots of weird and interesting aliens.
- Our protagonist receives a lightsaber that once belonged to a great Jedi.
- Our protagonist is offered a job by Han Solo.
- One of the heroes is dragged away by a tentacled monster but despite having ample opportunity to eat him, the monster does not eat him.
- The main villain (a guy in a mask with a deep voice) interrogates/tortures one of the heroes to get information.
- Han Solo tries to bluff his way out of a situation, mostly unsuccessfully.
- The heroes hide under the deck of the Millennium Falcon.
- Stormtroopers miss a lot.
- C3PO is annoying.
I've left out a few other similarities on the basis that I think they were probably meant as deliberate homages to the original film, like the Millennium Falcon being described as junk/garbage, but you can't copy almost an entire film and call it an homage and call it a sequel at the same time.
Don't get me wrong though. I really enjoyed The Force Awakens. It felt like Star Wars again (in more ways than just having the same story) and after the prequels were so bad I understand the desire to play it safe with this new movie. The real test will be whether the next film can carry this on and have an original plot - without it simply turning into a re-hash of Empire. We'll see.