Why are we so skeptical of the things right in front of us? “Turns Out It’s Pretty Good” is a series that examines the path from resisting the well-known to wholeheartedly endorsing it.
Did you know that in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader never actually says, “Luke… I am your father,”? The real line is “No… I am your father,” which is pretty close, but actually, in the scene — wait, please don’t go yet.
If that little tidbit caused your eyes to glaze over and your jaw to slacken, I understand. People have shared this detail with me numerous times over the years, but — much like information about how the stock market works, or the later seasons of Lost — any and all facts I learned about Star Wars immediately leaked out of my ears and onto the floor. But a couple of months ago, spurred by boredom and a new Disney+ account, I embarked on a full Star Wars rewatch, and felt a little thrill of recognition when I heard that oft-misquoted line. And you know what? It turns out Star Wars is pretty good.
I was not a Star Wars fan growing up. I did, at one point in grade school, watch all of the original trilogy in my friend Libby’s basement, because her older brother, Tucker, was a fan and I had a crush on him. But I spent half the movie staring at Tucker’s face, and the other half of the movie trying not to stare at Tucker’s face, so I could not have told you a single thing that happened on screen. Later, my dad took me to see a couple of the Star Wars prequels that featured Jar Jar Binks and Ewan McGregor with a rat tail, but I couldn’t follow what was happening, and my dad kept mumbling, “This is not good.”
Star Wars had simply passed me by, I figured. By the time people started getting excited about the new sequel trilogy in 2015, the idea of going back and watching six long movies to catch up, and then three movies again after that to stay up to speed, seemed far too daunting. Several months into a pandemic, though, nine movies was just a regular Saturday for me.
I watched them out of order, starting with the most recent films — The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker — because I wanted to get to that scene where Adam Driver is damp and shirtless in a pair of nice, high-waisted trousers that I think would look really good on me. And indeed, that scene was great, but to my surprise, I enjoyed all the other scenes too.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, the films follow the adventures of a group of characters “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” There’s a mysterious power called the Force that holds the universe together, and the good guys tap into the light side of the Force, and the bad guys tap into the Dark side. (Pretty straightforward.) From what I can tell, you connect to the Force by meditating, and if you go to the Dark side, your skin immediately gets waxy and terrible. At one point, the evil, totalitarian Empire overthrows the Galactic Republic, sparking a galactic civil war in which the Rebel Alliance (good) tries to overthrow the Empire (bad). There are lots of spaceship chase scenes, and cute little robot sidekicks, and, at one point, Laura Dern in a purple wig. After I watched that trilogy, I went back and watched the original movies, and what a treat! There’s Han Solo, one of the hottest and coolest characters in film history. Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia: an icon. At one point, Luke does handstands with Yoda in a space bog.
The movies were exciting, funny, visually compelling; the cast was delightful. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that at any given time I probably only understood 70 to 80 percent of what was going on — I didn’t know what the Empire’s concrete policy initiatives were besides blowing up unsuspecting planets, and although Daisy Ridley has a smile that could outshine a thousand suns, I didn’t care who her parents were. But that didn’t dampen my enjoyment at all. For every reference to a nuance of space politics that I didn’t understand, there was a cool lightsaber fight sequence that was twice as long.
I suppose I could say something about how it was nice to watch a ragtag group of rebels successfully defeat bloated, evil overlords. That was fun, I guess, and maybe that’s something you’ll find satisfying. But I didn’t personally watch Star Wars in an attempt to draw parallels to current events; I watched it because watching people race around space and go on adventures is cool as hell, and because now, when people say something about doing the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs or whatever, I’ll kind of understand what they mean.