The film 'Star Wars' is really about... conception!
Back in the seventies, it wasn’t like that. Doctor Who stories were very good but he walked around slowly, spoke carefully and had long chats. If Tom Baker’s Doctor Who ever met David Tennant’s Doctor Who, Baker would have recited something by Longfellow in a deep, wry voice while Tennant ran around him in circles, shouting. Cinema and television weren’t that different. They were almost entirely low budget, well acted, slowly paced and completely lacking in pyrotechnics. Puppets got up to some wild stuff - Thunderbirds being a welcome dose of explosions and cliff-hanging drama - but anything involving people who could walk properly was sensible and thoughtful.
Sensible and thoughtful is good, don’t get me wrong. I liked ‘The Tomorrow People’ but I was seven years old and ripe for a full blown archetypal quest. I wasn’t old enough yet for ‘The Lord of the Rings’, the literary equivalent of a Hindenberg airship with the words ‘QUEST’ written in thirty foot high letters on its side. All I had in 1977 was puppets, thespians and the odd comic. I had been to the cinemas but only once, to see ‘The Cat from Outer Space’. It wasn’t very good.
Then, one Saturday morning, in the middle of ‘Noel Edmonds Multi-Coloured Swap Shop’, they put on a sample scene of a movie that was coming out at the cinema. It was the scene where Luke Skywalker and Han Solo fight off the tie-fighters after escaping the Death Star. I was gob-smacked. What was this? How did they do that? How could it look so good? It was like aliens landing, like finding an iPhone in my breakfast cereal. At school on monday, everyone was talking about it. Everyone wanted to see it.
Luckily, my parents thought so too. Off we went to the Kingston Odeon, the quality cinema in Kingston, a class above Cinema 7 that skulked next door like a wino outside a pub. That was a flea-pit, a literal flea-pit since I actually got flea bites while watching Clint Eastwood in ‘Firefox’ six years later. The Odeon was class. It had an organist. Half way through every film, a man would rise up out of a hole in front of the screen, sitting at an organ, and play music. I just can’t imagine that happening nowadays in a multiplex half way through ‘Make them die slowly’ or ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: the Squeakwel.’ If he did, he wouldn't look very happy.
We went in, we bought popcorn, possibly enticed by the sophisticated Butterkist advert that said ‘Butterkist, butterkist, ra-ra-ra, butterkist, butterkist, ra-ra-ra, butterkist, butterkist, raaa-raaa-ra!’ and sat down. The film started. We saw the Twentieth Century Fox logo and heard its signature tune. We then saw the star wars logo and heard the film’s signature tune. I was already hooked. Even now, when I hear see the Fox logo and hear its music, I’m waiting for the Star Wars music to follow. The narration text scrolled across a night sky, the black, starry scene tilted down to the edge of a planet and a ship flew away from us, firing its blasters and lasers. Cool, I thought, very cool.
Then the Star Destroyer flew over our heads.
Even now, thirty-five years later, I’ve got goose-bumps all over my arms just thinking about it. I didn’t watch a film that day, I had some sort of shamanistic journey. I walked out of the cinema an entirely different person.
But, being a much older and more experienced person nowadays, I can’t help but analyze the movie. Why did it work so well? It was ground-breaking, it was an archetypal quest, effectively a fantasy story where the peasant boy is told he has special powers that can help defeat the black knight in his evil castle, but was there more? What was it about the film, especially the end sequence, that made it stick so deeply into our hearts and minds?
I think I’ve worked out the answer. I’ve never seen an article express this point before, which does surprise me a bit, and so I feel duty bound to point it out. The attack on and destruction of the Death Star, the culmination of the ‘Star Wars’ film, was really about conception.
It is so clearly about conception that I’m not even going to describe it in words. I’m just going to give you images. Here they are:
And that completes the movie. It’s the greatest victory for peace and love in the galaxy; making a new baby! It’s no wonder Luke and Leia are so pleased at the end of the film. Darth Vader and Peter Cushing’s skeletal leader have failed in their attempt at contraception. That huge, black condom figure has been thwarted and a new life has been created. It’s a new universe of freedom and love and liberation... I think. To be honest, I’m not really sure why a space-opera re-enactment of the journey of sperm down the fallopian tubes was necessary but it seems to work very well. If anyone has any ideas why this is the case, do let me know.
Next time on ‘The film X is really about...’, why the film ‘Alien’ is really about the trials of maternal love.