Saturday, September 25, 2004

The editor strikes back

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This week, the three original "Star Wars" movies were released on DVD for the first time. Like, ever.

For unabashed or moderately abashed geeks like myself, this is marvelous news. I feel as ecstatic as Luke Skywalker was after he skimmed his X-Wing over the surface of the Death Star, Darth Vader hot on his tail, looking death right in the face, and delivered his last torpedo right on target to destroy it with one blast -- and he shot it, I may remind you, without instruments!

The original "Star Wars" films -- "A New Hope," "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi," released in 1977, 1980 and 1983 -- are the brainchildren of director, writer and gazillionaire George Lucas. Essentially, they're westerns set in space.

Except there are no horses. And no Indians. And instead of John Wayne, they star a shrimpy, tow-headed dork named Mark Hamill, who's about six feet tall when standing on a foot-high box.

The script is often laughable ("Traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy!"), and the acting is hammy ("Curse my metal body!"), and the situations sometimes awkward ("You will therefore be taken to the Dune Sea, and cast into the pit of Carkoon, the nesting place of the all-powerful Sarlaac!").

But silliness aside, "Star Wars" is a touchstone for many members of my generation. It's part of our common history and culture -- it triggers memories from our childhoods, when it was easier to be impressed by plastic-looking robots and laser guns.

It's a club that's easy to join. Just watch the movies. Then, forever after, you'll know the secret handshake -- when someone greets you with, "I should have expected to find you holding Vader's leash," you'll know to respond with, "I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board."

For people who aren't familiar with "Star Wars," or want the short version, or people who don't have the scratch to buy the new DVDs, I'm including the following handy, clip-and-saveable, condensed version of the "Star Wars" trilogy:


NARRATOR. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

SCENE: Space. Crawling across the screen comes a summary of the petty details of the story:

NARRATOR. Episode IV -- A New Hope. There are bad guys, called The Empire. There are good guys, called The Rebellion. There are other good guys called Jedis. You can tell the difference because the bad guys usually wear helmets...

(We cut to a spaceship, where bad guys in white helmets -- see? -- are capturing a distressed damsel named Princess Leia.)

LEIA. (aside) I only hope my cry for help gets to a lonesome farm boy who will find inner strength enough to save me! And if he could find a ragtag bunch of misfits to help him, that would also be nice.

(Enter Darth Vader, the chief bad guy. He wears the evilest helmet of them all, plus an evil cape. He's got a deviated septum, so he constantly whistles through his nose.)

DARTH VADER. And now, princess, we shall discuss the location of the hidden Rebel base.

LEIA. Never!


LEIA. Not a chance!


LEIA. A thousand times, nay!

DARTH VADER. (whistles through his nose for a long moment) Take her away!

(Cut to young Luke Skywalker, a lonesome farm boy on a desert planet that's got a lousy climate for farming. So they probably don't grow much, frankly. He's visiting an old man named Obi-Wan Kenobi, with his robots, C-3PO and R2-D2, in tow.)

OBI-WAN. Son, have you given any thought to your future?

LUKE. Shucks -- I've been a farm boy for a while, but I don't really want to be a farm man. I have an interest in saving the universe.

C-3PO. We're doomed!

OBI-WAN. Sure. The Jedi Knights can help with that "universe" idea, and they give you money for college, too. You'd get three hots and a cot, and you'd learn to use a lightsaber. It's made from light. Never needs sharpening.

LUKE. (turning on a lightsaber and waving it about) Coooool...

OBI-WAN. (handing him some pamphlets) Look these over, and give me a call.

R2-D2. Beep bop borp!

(Cut to the inside of a space station. Beside Luke, Obi-Wan and the robots are new friends Han Solo, a ragtag misfit, and Chewbacca, a large Irish setter-pug mix.

OBI-WAN. Have you guys heard of The Force? All the cool people believe in it. It's a great way of life.

LUKE. I'm an Episcopalian.

OBI-WAN. Hear me out, now. The Force lets you move stuff with your mind, and you can read people's thoughts. (Hands him some pamphlets.) Read these over and let me know.

SOLO. That Force stuff is a lotta hokey superstitions. Right, Chewie?


(They run into Princess Leia, who is fleeing laser fire.)

C-3PO. We're doomed!

R2-D2. Blip borp gloop!

LUKE. My name is Luke Skywalker. I'm here to rescue you!

LEIA. Thank you. (At Solo:) Who's that fetching rogue?

SOLO. Can it, Your Worship! (aside) We hook up later.

(Darth Vader enters, lightsaber at the ready.)

DARTH VADER. Luke -- join me in The Dark Side. It's like The Force, except depraved. (Hands him some pamphlets.) Look these over and we'll talk about them sometime.

OBI-WAN. Don't do it, Luke! They encourage tithing!

(Darth Vader kills Obi-Wan, then cuts off Luke's hand.)

DARTH VADER. Luke -- I am your father. You were raised a Dark Side, and you're staying a Dark Side, and that's final.

LEIA. Curse you, Vader!

DARTH VADER. I'm also your father.

LEIA AND LUKE. No! We kissed!

DARTH VADER. And let that be a lesson to everyone -- cross me, and I'll be your father so fast it'll make your head spin.

(Enter Jabba the Hutt, a giant slug; Ewoks, these irritating teddy-bear things; and Yoda, a puppet who's wicked into The Force.)

JABBA. Ishkoop jingla Solo!

EWOKS. Prrr! Click click!

YODA. Trust The Force, you must, Luke. The Dark Side, resist. A Jedi you are!

C-3PO. We're doomed!

LUKE. That Muppet's right. I'll never be like you, Vader.

(Using The Force, Luke snatches Obi-Wan's lightsaber and cuts off Vader's hand. Vader falls dying and Luke reveals Vader's face.)

LUKE. I'm sorry, Pop, but I had to save the universe.

DARTH VADER. (nose whistles laboriously) I feel so less evil without that damn helmet on.

(The Ewoks begin to dance irritatingly and sing an irritating song -- but I always turn it off around then.)

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