A New Hope : The Seeds Bloom
When introducing someone to Star Wars, this is it.
If I wanted to show someone the entire story line with all of the details and timeline, I would go chronologically. I always like chronological when it comes to stories.
However, this movie WAS Star Wars! This movie changed history. If you only have time for one film to wet someone’s appetite, A New Hope is it. It can stand alone. The story is comfortingly cliche-filled about a small town farm boy who’s actually special and a band of mismatched beings who take on the evil local government, and win. A classic underdog story.
Star Wars proves that we don’t really fear cliches themselves, we fear them being done poorly. Star Wars plays with cliches regularly but it uses them well. The excitement of this movie is something special. Running up and down corridors shooting blasters! Han’s unexpected lines and bits of humor! The garbage compactor! Obi-Wan’s grand sacrifice! And that delicious space battle with the horrifying countdown is unforgettable! Timeless. This movie gets my heart pumping every time.
This is what the world fell in love with, and its magic continues to bring new viewers under its spell. Whether we had more than the Original Trilogy or not, this movie would not lose a single inch of its ground. It’s special.
But now we do have more than the Originals, so we can now view this story as a chapter in a larger timeline. What A New Hope represents in the framework of the larger story-line is the movie where the seeds planted in earlier, more tragic years begin to bloom.
Luke’s sheltered existence on Tatooine, as much as he hated it, accomplished Obi-Wan’s intended purpose. He grew up safe and strong, undisturbed by the Emperor or Darth Vader. His enthusiasm and big dreams for the future are a welcome open door for Obi-Wan to step into his life at the right moment and beginning training him. He learns fast and puts what he’s learned into practice almost immediately.
Leia, though a bit less safe, is already a backbone member of the Rebel Alliance. Her mother’s courage and ferocity for truth lives on in her daughter’s spirit. She is reunited with her brother and meets the future love-of-her-life and they form the trio that is required for every Star Wars trilogy. But they are the trio.
Han’s big heart is dug out of the drawer where he tries to stuff it and is dusted off. The boy we met in Solo is still in there somewhere, and his skills and, uh, really bad ideas that sometimes work are exactly what the Skywalker twins need to succeed. He completes them.
The Death Star plans that our Rogue One crew worked so hard to send to the Alliance have been recovered and will be put to use. The horrible sacrifice was not in vain. Can we also take a moment to recognize how incredible it is that this “overlooked plot hole” such as a small ventilation shaft was fixed with an entire, glorious movie nearly 38 years later? That’s cool!
Obi-Wan’s years of walking the galaxy in the flesh are gone, he sacrifices himself to join the Force and get to be a voice in people’s heads for years. This really stirs up things in Darth Vader that have remained dormant for a long time.
Add to that the defeat of The Death Star and this young pilot who is strong in the force, Vader’s sense of equilibrium is rattled. It’s the beginning of the end for Vader, and the beginning of the return of the Jedi, Anakin.
When seeds bloom you begin to see the tender green shoots sticking up out of the soil. It’s exciting after you’ve been staring at little heaps of dirt forever. For all you know that seed you buried died down there in the darkness and you’re looking at its grave. Maybe nothing will grow. But the baby plants, the little shoots of hope, they are the proof that life remains, and it is growing stronger.
A New Hope is aptly named, life remains, and it is growing stronger.
The Seeds Bloom.
The Empire Strikes Back : Success Born Out Of Defeat
This was one of my most favorite movies in the world. It’s one of the best sequels in film history.
At first glance this movie looks like, “The one where the Rebels get their butts kicked by the Empire.” And to some extent, that is true. However, most of the battles lost in this movie actually lead to the eventual overthrow and defeat of the Empire, so in truth, the Rebels win the war.
This plays out in a few specific ways.
Han Solo is clearly very attached to Luke and Leia and The Rebellion, but he has a divided attention. Understandably so! If I had a price on my head I’d be concerned about it too. They also really need him, Luke would have ended up as a popsicle without him. Still, there are questions hanging in the air about how long he’ll stick around and it causes some tension. Tension, and the cutest hallway argument + accidentally kissing your twin brother moments! #scruffylookingnerfherder #idratherkissawookiee #youcoulduseagoodkiss
But the events of The Battle of Hoth, the following chase across space, and the climactic loss at Bespin push Han to a conclusion.
I love you.
Even though both Han and Leia have no idea what happens next, Han has made a choice. These are his people, and if he gets the chance, he’s sticking with them. He’s resolved, and when Han is resolved good things happen. Now its his turn to be a popsicle.
Princess Leia is struggling with feeling that she can trust in the relationships she has built with Luke and Han, especially Han. She knows that she will be committed to the Rebel cause until she wins or dies, so that’s not a question on her mind.
Her adventures with Han and friends give her the courage to commit, “I love you.” As warmhearted as Leia clearly is, those words came hard. She’s probably scared to love deeply after all she’s lost, but she does. It’s a big moment for her character.
Her connection with Luke is established when Luke calls out for rescue through the Force and Leia hears him. While she doesn’t understand the full weight of this experience at the time, she will eventually. Progress has been made to fuller “twinhood” and their rightful inheritance as Skywalkers.
Lando Calrissian Joins Something Bigger Than Himself
Lando has a pretty scummy showing in his first introduction to this movie. No amount of cape swishing and pretty smiles can cover his betrayal. The double-crossing card shark we met in Solo seems alive and well.
But through the loss of an old comrade, Han, His oil platform being overwhelmed by the Empire, and a good punch/choking or two, Lando makes a new choice. No more going alone, no more pretending not to care, it’s time to be a part of something bigger than his own selfish desires. Another scoundrel (though not the scoundrel) has been brought on board.
Luke Discovers His Father
One of the biggest reveals in movie history, it’s a powerful scene. As shocking as this scene is to Luke’s character, it’s hugely important to his growth. The truth will set you free. As much as Obi-Wan and Yoda feared Luke knowing the truth, he really did need to know where he stood. The decisions Luke will make from this point on are entirely different because he now knows Vader is his father. And they are good ones, ones that will make a difference.
Still, at the exact moment that he is told the startling truth, Luke is bleeding, weak, and hanging off of a pole. Emotionally he’s a train wreck, Vader senses his vulnerability and tries to take advantage of it. It’s Luke’s lowest moment thus far, so what does the kid do?
He lets go and free falls into a shaft. It’s one of my absolute favorite Luke Skywalker moments. Funny, I know, he’s not exactly a pretty picture at this moment. But this choice to just let go and get-the-heck-out-of-Dodge is one of the smartest, humblest choices Luke ever makes. It takes wisdom and maturity to know when you are not strong enough for a certain situation and you just need to get some space and perspective.
Luke charged into Bespin all cocky and ready to take on Vader. He did fairly well, but he got his butt kicked, lost a hand, and he just got a punch right in the daddy-issues.
The choice to just get out of there is so wise. If only Luke had used this same humble wisdom years down the road when he faced problems with his nephew, Ben Solo. Rather than panicking and reacting as “the great Luke Skywalker should”, he could have gotten some space and requested some backup support. He didn’t, and so many suffered because of his arrogance.
Han’s frozen, Leia’s brokenhearted, and Luke has been put through the wringer. They’re all separated and unsure of what comes next. It feels like a crushing defeat, but the lessons they learn in this chapter and the wounds they are given become some of their greatest strengths. They are more united than ever and more determined to see this thing through. The days of the Empire are numbered.
Success Born Out Of Defeat.
Return Of The Jedi : Redemption
The very title speaks of such triumph. It’s one thing to win by just destroying your enemies, it’s another thing to actually be able to save one of them and restore balance to the Force.
The rise and fall of the pacing and victories in the Original Trilogy are well done. A New Hope contains some heavy losses and tragic moments, but it ends on a high note with the destruction of The Death Star and that iconic medal ceremony. The Empire Strikes Back picks up on that high note and delivers an action-packed sequel, but it ends on a low note where we are nervous for the outcome.
Return Of The Jedi does not start the strongest beginning. The whole sideline tour on Tatooine was rather slow. And don’t get me started on Leia’s disgusting outfit, that was a shameful choice on the part of Lucas! Carrie Fisher hated that outfit for the rest of her life and who can blame her.
We are shown a new Luke Skywalker though, one who is calm, collected, and peaceful. He’s confident in his capabilities as well as his compassion. This is the Luke that can face Darth Vader.
Once we get back to the Rebellion things start to pick up, and fun adventure leading to an epic battle of the mind and galaxy ensues.
The Force is strong in my family. I have it, my father has it. My sister has it.
The moment when Luke and Leia discuss their twin-hood and legacy in the Force is one of my favorite scenes. It’s tender, gentle, and raw. Luke loves Leia as he loves no one else in the world. He also comments on the fact that should he fail, Leia is the future for the Rebel Alliance. And she is strong. Down the road in the Sequel Trilogy we see just how accurate his predictions are about her.
Luke’s confrontation with his father is a bit of a gamble, and it’s not easy. The Emperor never makes anything easy; his arrogance, his manipulation, and his touching every tender and dear thing in Luke’s heart is its own form of torture.
This part is made even more angering by Vader’s submission to his sick master. It’s like there is no will in him, he’s never looked weaker. In contrast, Luke has never been stronger.
My favorite moment is when Luke chooses to throw his lightsaber away, refusing the temptation to end his broken father.
I’ll never turn to the Dark Side. You’ve failed, Your Highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.
One of the best lines in film history. He’s not struggling, he’s resolved. He affirms his faith in his father and his love for him even though Vader is a pitiful mess on the floor. It’s beautiful, it’s redemptive, it’s loving. And Palpatine doesn’t know what to do with it.
It’s truly delightful that love conquers hate. Luke’s love for his father and Anakin’s love for his son brings him back to the Light. The satisfaction of seeing Palpatine throw into a chasm while screaming is fantastic.
I could see how some people would want to throw this whole movie out after the events of the recent Sequel Trilogy. What good did it do? Palpatine survived! The First Order emerged, Luke became Oscar the Grouch!
They’re missing the point. This moment was about conquering the evil before them, and about Anakin’s redemption. None of us knows exactly what comes down the road, we aren’t supposed to! All we can do is do our best with the times we’ve given. #lordoftheringscrossoverline
And our friends do their best and they do well.
They destroy the Empire. Anakin Skywalker dies in his son’s forgiving arms. Han and Leia succeed in their mission on Endor (not bad for a popsicle and a princess), the Millennium Falcon emerges unharmed, and Leia gets to have a moment of peace with the people she loves. Anakin rejoins his friends in the Force and all is well for the time being.
You can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Palpatine spent years trying to drag himself out of this pit he was thrown into, he wasn’t a threat for a long, long time. The Empire was overthrown, the Rebel Alliance gained ground, and new potential emerged. It was a victory.
Redemption is often a messy road, but it is always a road paved with love. There is no other way to get there. Return of The Jedi is a triumph for the individual characters we love and the galaxy as a whole.
Victory isn’t defined by never having to struggle again, it’s defined by ground that is gained. Ground was gained, redemption happened, and love paved the way.
The Mandalorian : Meaning In The Midst Of Chaos
A stark truth is focused on in this brilliant Disney+ series that reveals a whole new side of Star Wars.
Just because something good happened doesn’t mean that the hardship is over. The Empire has been defeated, the Rebel Alliance won, and the New Republic has been formed. And the galaxy is a hot mess.
It’s a discouraging thought, but I have experienced this reality in my own life in some painful ways. Just because you conquer one hard, long-lasting thing doesn’t mean that life is immediately all sunshine and roses. There’s cleanup, there’s rebuilding, and there’s trauma to work through. The whole galaxy is in that place, everyone is trying to survive or one-up each other. It’s madness.
The Mandalorian himself is a character who carries and represents trauma in multiple areas. To some extent, he’s still the brokenhearted little boy who’s parents were murdered in The Clone Wars.
Still, he’s tried to make the best of it. He’s an A+ bounty hunter who strikes fear in the hearts of all of his quarries and those who oppose him. He’s holds to the Mandalorian creed, but his profession doesn’t make him the most popular person. There is a sense of emptiness to his life that no amount of cool moves or successful bounty missions can fill. He’s a lost soul wandering.
Enter, Baby Yoda.
I wrote an article on fatherhood and how Mando steps up to the plate to care for a child who is entirely dependent upon him. He exhibits sacrificial love when he puts his own needs/wants and sense of freedom aside to care for someone else.
In this drastic choice, Mando finds a whole new level of peace and purpose. You can live your whole live just trying to survive, but you may not like the person you become or the decisions you make. Mando is surrounded by people who make all kinds of horrible, selfish decisions in the interest of survival. He once was that person.
But at the same time, Mando as a character seems to find the characters in the galaxy who are living for more. Kuill, Cara Dune, Omera, even the other Mandalorians who hold fast to the creed. These individuals have all suffered in one way or another, they are all faced with hard circumstances, but they are making different choices. They stand up for the little guys, and they don’t back down from a fight if it’s for a good cause. Sometimes they do the right thing just because its the right thing.
In Episode 6: The Prisoner, we see the kind of life Mando used to lead. And it was naaasty! The kindhearted, measured person he is now shows just how far he has come. More than any other episode to me, this episode shows how Mando has chosen to live for more than money or bloodlust.
They could have a made a show about this incredibly cool character and his adventures as a bounty hunter, and people would have watched it. But it wouldn’t have had the impact it did.
By adding in a sense of responsibility and the glorious and hard journey of fatherhood, The Mandalorian struck home to our hearts in a special way. The chaos of the galaxy we love is brought into balance with a reminder of what really matters.
We are all looking for meaning in life, and true meaning is found in being loved and loving.
It’s a testimony to the strength of the storytelling that we can learn such a precious and tender message from a man who’s face we’ve barely seen, but who’s heart we’ve already fallen in love with.
Meaning In The Midst Of Chaos.
Next up, Rise Of The Resistance And The First Order Era.
Check out, Height Of The Empire, Early Rebellion Era
Check out, Prequel Era