• warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/includes/theme.inc on line 171.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
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313195.1230

 

"The interesting thing about Star Wars is, and I don’t ever push this very far, there’s a lot going on there that most people haven’t really come to grips with yet. But when they do, they will find it’s a much more intricately made clock than most people would imagine." - George Lucas, Vanity Fair

“Stanley Kubrick made the ultimate science fiction movie, and it is going to be very hard for someone to come along and make a better movie as far as I’m concerned. On a technical level, [Star Wars] can be compared but personally I think that 2001 is far superior.” - George Lucas

"...with Star Wars (A New Hope) I achieved about 40% of what I was going for" -George Lucas

In the wake of dystopian nightmare THX-1138’s death at the box office, George Lucas began gathering notes and writing in longhand a film project he called The Star Wars, an epic he based on his own memories of cheaply made serials. Among the westerns and crime serials were the proto-space operas Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Lucas even tried optioning Flash's rights only to discover Fellini had beaten him to it. These low budget, action-heavy serials, designed to precede feature films beginning in the 1910’s, slowly disappeared by the late 50’s. The role of delivering steady cliffhangers easily transferred to any of television's many genres.

To compete with broadcast, the Hollywood experience was condensed. News, short-subjects and serials, adding an hour to past moviegoing, were simply excised from the program and concentrated into now panoramic feature films. Cinemascope, VistaVision, Cinerama and finally Panavision formats became the norm. Around the World In Eighty Days, a grand travelogue adventure exemplifies the strategy. It opens with newsman Edward R. Murrow's documentary-like intro and ends with a seven minute Saul Bass animated ttile sequence. These widescreen adventures, known as roadshows for their release method, ruled movies erratically for roughly fifteen years (big event films like Ten Commandments and Lawrence of Arabia). By the 70's, this bravura answer to television was pretty much spent. Musicals and spectacles lost their audience while other movies flourished (2001 was a slight roadshow success that became a second-tier hit in the summer of 68, its wide release success into smaller theaters was an omen of things to come; Bonnie and Clyde flopped initially and hit it big only on its second-run).

The roadshow eventually gave birth to the summer blockbuster through the reinvention of Hollywood's keystone genre, the serial. The blockbuster is a hybrid by design: a genre made by merging two or more genres into a dominant action strain. The summer blockbuster arrived June 1975 with Zanuck-Brown's/Spielberg's Jaws, released with commercial novelties: the wide release and TV spots. King Kong was Dino DeLuarentiis's response to Jaws, opening wide the winter of 1976. In May 1977, it was George Lucas's turn with his Dolby stereo masterpiece space opera. Predicting Star Wars, Lucas opened the nightmarish THX with a prologue of a Buck Rogers 1930's preview, dropping a bit of contrast to let audiences know just how off their bets were (and secretly how similar, if the tones are adjusted), the future of THX was not only doomed, but even the predictions were fantasies.  Imagine the inverse, Star Wars opening with THX's trailer, the opposite of THX's message, and you can see what Lucas is suggesting. Serials have an immense impact on American film, both Star Wars and Indiana Jones are mutations of this genre. Through carefully calibrated updating, they blend three-act structures with stop-start action rhythms, and somehow behave as if they’ve ended explosively while allowing key heroes and villains survival to reappear years later, primed for repeated attacks. For a genre that first saved the film industry and now seems to be eating it alive from within, no study has been made of the blockbuster's unique properties, or its sources. Local era reviewers sensed the amplified mood and cutting, but that's as far as most of them got. As the genre's co-initiators, Lucasfilms's proto-blockbusters Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark are complex epics-in-hiding; they seem indelibly simple yet their plotting is complexly visual, and the nostalgia's updating is not entirely giddy or healthy ("where did you dig up that old fossil?"), darknesses are hidden behind brightness, they are woven as subtle, free-form satire at times (Strangelove and Star Wars are both hysterias of differing absurdities from their respective decades - both shot by the same DP). Do we laugh at them or with them? Clearly adding thematically to Kubrick's spaceship-visualisations of 2001, Lucas ends the film with an inversion of creation, mechanical X-wing and Y-wings (sly variables: X and Y chromosomes) attempt insemination of creation's opposite, a vast Death, battling defenses, only one torpedo is necessary. Look deeper and the forms are clearly in play. Similar forms at different scales offer restraint (bolt), escape (pod), and restraint (the tractor-beam Kenobi disables). Once you see how Lucas's forms interrelate, integrate and contrast you can easily see why adults were as entranced as kids, it's practically a cognitive videogame. And then there's Lucas's thematic sharpness: a comic book tale that laughs at and with nostalgia while overloading on visual wit. You laugh at it or were awed by it without really knowing why. And audience glee veers dual, it requires a lack of awareness (or an absolute state) to ignore things as horrific as a mecha-planetary holocaust (audiences cheer as an entire population of Imperial humans are PG annihilated at film's end); perhaps Star Wars is the most avant-garde studio film of the 70's since it is both homage and brazen satire of the source genres while its ulterior function, maybe its most magnetic and unconscious aspect, is to explore and test audiences with layers of visual conformity and conflicts they seem entirely unaware of.

Its massive success was unexpected.

 

Surrounded in the late sixties by successful, dark, ominous films about underground and spiritually underwater countercultures (Bonnie and Clyde, Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The Godfather), Lucas probably thought he was adding a science fiction bend to the cultural zeitgeist when he hired Robert Duvall and asked several actors to shave their heads and walk zombie-like through the unfinished corridors of the Bay Area's BART rail system, but on THX's release, reviewers had a hard time swallowing Lucas’s monochromatically radical vision. It opened three months after Clockwork Orange and quickly disappeared. In the unnamed underworld of THX, humans no longer have names, they live as paired roommates that avoid physical contact but derive pleasure (and punishment) from prescription drugs, projected media and physical apparatuses that create sanitized, orderly climaxes (Lucas doesn’t shy away from any of this, a machine descends from the ceiling to fellate Duvall while he watches blue-hued holograms of a black woman dancing). The society is ruled by an unseen group or being (or computer) and colors are carefully separated and appear in electronic forms, in monitors, in work environments behind shielded-glass, and time is an abstraction that Lucas reveals intermittently as beeping pulses that accompany bisected numbers. THX is a masterpiece of disorientation and conditioned behavior, populated by cauterized brains that peer into an inward slow burn spiritual nightmare in the name of genetic and political stability, a tale of a hero’s rebellion we are unable to relate to, or with. THX is a future born of 60's radicalism, beyond the scope of basic dystopias of cold-war flavored literature like Brave New World or 1984 (both were distinctly European, THX is clearly North American).  It flopped so badly Lucas considered giving up his director’s chair.

With a eureka worth a few billion dollars, Lucas shifted his films’ mood and atmosphere - he gave them an upbeat-upgrade - and his initial experiment with elation became his first mega-hit, a low-budget cheapie cryptically named American Graffiti.  Like Saturday Night Fever and Satyajit Ray's The Music Room, Grafitti is a musical without character lip-synching (both films may be members of a rare sub-genre, the 'unsung' musical). It ends wryly, with Lucas's closest alter-ego, Curt, going faster than any racing in the film, finally overtaking the mythical white T-Bird from above as he speeds to college. While tooling around on paper with Star Wars, Lucas kept the same themes he began with in THX, control, policing, escape, and merely made adjustments to mood (both THX and Luke stare at setting suns at their moments of awakening). The conflict of Star Wars is the outer to THX's inner.  Stormtroopers and rebels are extracted from his chrome-faced robot-guards and citizens of the unnamed monochrome underworld and this color-free conflict is instead played out in saturated colors chased by a monochrome Empire across a canvas of limitless spherical locales and faunas. While we can’t read Lucas’ mind, we can explore Star Wars on any number of levels and spot a complex and ingeniously arrayed mythic past.  5000 BCE-20th century recreated as a brilliant pop-summary of human aggression and conflict; in he plops a series of characters that sustain their historical archetypes in summary as well. As deflection to the mythic-historic skeletal structures, scholars point to film-history as stand-in sources for Lucas (The Searchers, Hidden Fortress, Dam Busters) but these films are adroit and personalized visual studies of global and individually scaled conflicts, he's not stealing history or narrative from them so much as form, movement, shadowplay, archetypes. The Searchers is about a western/colonial conflict sustained by a racist hatred of natives (racism or now, specie-ism, is a key undertow), John Ford's Scar, the hated Comanche, is transformed into the permanantly hidden and mutationally scarred Vader. Lucas adroitly recognized the imbalances lurking in nostalgia and knew that creating a dialogue with an audience unconsciously rather than consciously was key. What it feared could be slyly incorporated instead of draped everywhere as in THX.  Once studied, the differing plots of his early Star Wars drafts, characters, even props (a one point a magic crystal was source for both the force and sabre's power) and music, showcase a writer whose research is so thorough that each new book or field of thinking is added as absorbed (sometimes verbatim) to the epic. As he wrote he didn’t so much as alter his drafts to please studios or friends who gave criticism, he merged ideas he was amassing, developing a cognizant alternate mythology based on elements from our planet's past to fabricate an elaborate filmic sky-mirror.  Altering his hero’s name at one point from Starkiller to Skywalker, Lucas migrated the meaning of the central family’s name and gave them a native source (the name Skywalker is Ojibway). Wisely, he converted the metaphor buried in the former name and made it mechanical, literal: The Death Star.  And as his metaphors evolved on paper, a highly nuanced myth took shape, culled from the simplest of contrasts. A Skywalker now faces and destroys a Starkiller.  He equates Tatooine (Tataouine is a city in Tunisia at desert's edge, Jawa was a 8000 year-old lost city on the edge of Syria's desert) as a Sonoran, Death Valley, or Saharan expanse, the wild west and middle east as one planet; the filmic fauna has a collective series of source archetypes, a key element in the saga's global success is its interplay between geology and biology. And as Star Wars departs explosively on its universal tour on a ship perfectly labeled The Millenium Falcon, Lucas generates his galaxies with spheres of our faunas (and darkest ideals). Alderaan, Yavin, and the Death Star all extend from our protective, earthly consciousness.

And to top it off its name, Star Wars, an apt projection into parallax space, a naming convention like no other. The ultimate brand to the human race is this seemingly childlike expression of control (or a total lack of) into outer space, Lucas is well assured that once, or judging by Crystal Skull's ending, if humans expand their horizons in time-travel, we will certainly, endlessly sow the universe with conflict and weirdly, he labels the myth somewhat mistakenly (at its most visually eloquent, Star Wars is a sequel to 2001 and an evolution of its own cosmogonic conquest of the inner.). No stars go to war, but the beings and their planets that orbit these self-generating gravity-light sources do.  The war is so heightened that these humanoids (speaking English with a colonial accent), once made aware of the sphere’s possible total dominance, build a massive one that murders other spheres with glowing green beams.

Notice how the matte painting (2nd image above) of the temple left mirrors the actual pyramid edge angle above, right.

And what is Star Wars’s hidden source in mythology? By ending the original movie on the moon of Yavin, Lucas hints at a laymen's understanding of archeoastronomy easily available to any well-read grad student of the 60's. Establishing shots in the film and design of the interior hangar temple and procession room are distinctly Mesoamerican. Lucas is even specific enough to add a skywatcher, a guard who uses a calibration device for a moment (aiming at the center of the frame) as the Falcon arrives. Lucas shows us in the near distance two temples of similar height that jut above the lowland forest of Guatemala (these acted as skymarkers for Mayan astronomers). Shot at the ancient city of Tikal, jewel city of the Early Classic and Classic eras, this was a central city of the Peten lowland that, like all Maya centers, extensively utilized astronomy.  Here astronomy could be perceived as a unifying religious practice.  The astronomers of Tikal were timekeepers as well as scribes that defined a framework for all local and mythic history. Most Maya mythic data is integrated with the night sky (The Popol Vuh, the Maya creation myth, is heavily encrypted with sky related metaphors and symbols). The Maya elevated ancestors to a supernatural status, blurring the lines between myth and story. Both occupy the sky as an astrologically complex vision of storytelling. What Lucas probably didn't know was how fluid his Death Star invention paralleled actual Mayan warfare. Movement in the sky was highly valued as mythical reference, so much so that eventually wars were divined astronomically through an object the Maya mistook for a star. At Tikal and its neighbors (6th-7th Centuries AD), unaware Venus is a planet, the Maya called this glowing and speedily moving sky-dot “The Morning Star” designating it a tool of war. The Maya of the lowlands, Tikal included, began using Venus as a divine conquest marker, allowing its movements to point to conflicts with other cities, aimed at their representational constellations or points on a horizon on a particular date. Now look at the parallel: in Star Wars a glowing dot comes from the stars and immolates you, in the Classic Maya a glowing dot shows you where to wage war.  In Maya studies, there is a famous, as yet untranslated glyph that is found in numerous classic and post-classic stela that precedes a date of war, and not so strangely, until it can be properly decoded, has been labeled “the star war glyph.”


The Star War glyph.


“One verbal compound over all others expresses the total event of warfare waged against another city-state. This is the “star-war” event, consisting of the “star” sign with falling droplet extensions, placed over the syllabic sign yi. It cannot be read, but is is a verb since it can take the verbal suffix –YA. The ‘star-war” glyph is usually placed before or even over the main sign of the enemy city’s Emblem Glyph, as seen in these (above) examples:”

-from Reading the Maya Glyphs Michael D. Coe & Mark Van Stone Thames and Hudson

Through Star Wars, Lucas revolutionarily mutated mythic archeoastronomic warfare into the physical. Into outerspace, converting a mythical prediction tool into a projected, mechanized version out into the sky we still utilize somewhat as a mythic repository (astrology). Weaving myths and tales and astronomic knowledge, he replaced mythic mirror wars in the sky from our past with a physical form in an alternate past (or read as a far future). Unconsciously, Lucas replaces the Maya's Morning Star's meaning with the physical Death Star.

Is this a direct reference to Mayan warfare systems? Do I really think Lucas made this conscious choice, choosing a specific tangent in Mayan mythology? No. But there is a choice coincidence here, a parallelism, as if film-myth and anthroplogy are different sides of the same collective tool. One cosmology relates to others metaphorically through star movement and enacts warfare, another narrative, a fictional cosmology, shows space warfare as literal, technological. And the warriors there are awaiting it, planning to wage war against it. They're the first geological sphere to wage war against a technological one (Alderaan puts up no possible defense, Yavin does). The signifiers are there and are operable in both realms along similar paths of conflict. Warfare marked by an approaching, glowing object in the sky. The skywatcher in front of Tikal’s temple complex is one giveaway, he's awaiting a sign for war from the sky, a task not unlike what was required of ancient astronomers. Star Wars, as it relates to other cosmologies, may be a step on the psyche's ladder, the isomorph relating to the universe, however simplistic, evolving technologically. This quick compression and simplification allows for unceasing blendings of our earthly mythic mirrors blasting non-linearly through a cosmological universe populated by forms and beings. It IS after-all a human war he's projecting into all levels.  Along the way he crafts a linear fable using subliminally complex visuals, mirrors and portals, blended into what must be seen as filmically conscious mythmaking, he initializes his own myth using various resources: he draws from both history and film’s own myths and mythical structures, advancing knowledge systems (storytelling and inner components like wipes and cuts) primitively developed by Kurosawa, Ford, and others, developing further an advancing and evolving motion-language. As you’ll see they are wordless (or better yet, label-less) progressions. Metaphor slides into metaphor bordered by interlocking shapes.  The art and process of filmmaking have component values inside the film as well, he also coopts Kubrick’s ultimate form, the monolith, the darkened movie screen turned upright (notice in 2001 both the overture and intermission music is played only when the screen is pitch-black or when the monolith appears in the film, he tells us when the monolith is 'present' by playing Ligeti) and uses this within the screen's frame to underline both ship departure/arrivals (both docking bays' entrances are in the screen's ratio).  Even the empire's views keep the ratio's (the viewing windows from the Death Star and Star Destroyer).  Though nowhere as complex structurally as Kubrick, Welles or Hitchcock, Lucas is more inventive in other ways: his compression. Notice the simplicity and complexity of doorways in Star Wars, the variety of entrances, rejections, exploded ones versus opened ones, almost all involving men in white plastic. Consider the other forms you see reused (but largely remain unaware of), forms like spheres, tubes, light, voids, even starfields. Lucas is at heart an animator with a clear design-sense. He invents visual forms and then puts them into conflict (the sketch below is his, prior to hiring any designers).  He seamlessly blends these disparate worlds while keeping their visual aspects in both communion and conflict, he even advances Kurosawa's wipe-transitions as proof of these forms' connections and oppositions:

That Japanese, Nordic and Native American myths literally merge within shot is proof of his elaborate skills, and that he keeps this madness upbeat, pulpy and swift proves he also has his pulse on mass consumption. Here below is a scene by scene guide to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

 

Color-coded, the Star Wars films begin with Lucas' former logo against black, basic Helvetica greens that initiated in THX-1138A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... is colored blue and it predicts more reading (...). And with the blast of music that predicts its unceasing emotional explosions, the curved yellow (and black, no stars appear inside) Star Wars logo recedes symmetrically and quickly (a reverse explosion, its curves and color cloned from the 2 in the 20th in the opening logo, in fact the whole move backwards mimics the Fox logo's depth backwards extrusion, now an animation, fully centered), until it disappears, and to the steady marching of the beat, text appears below us, like soldiers marching to war in formation. By blending the 20th logo with the Star Wars logo even alternating still with motion, he's just teased the audience graphically, unconsciously.  And he's showing the audience, simply, what he's going to do for the length of the film, how he's going to entrance them, this is a kind of grammar, a signature of Lucas's. The text passes symmetrically, a below horizon movement aimed at a centerpoint. It speaks of a "civil war," a paradoxical phrase borrowed from our own relatively recent past. Purified colors like this yellow will later appear as pulses of conflict, laser blasts that kill and defend.


Using the Fox Fanfare music as a guide, Lucas and John Williams continue the uptempo key and Star Wars begins with a British Marching Fanfare, the type of music used excessively to code the colonial might of the British as they conquered one nation to the next from late 18th through 19th centuries. Incredibly, inversely, this same musical form returned in film to showcase both these excesses (Gunga Din) as well as the force required to expel or interact with subsequent World Wars 1 and 2 (Bridge on the River Kwai).  In effect, this theme codes the conquerers and its rebellion and it is unusually successful since it is both propellant and satiric. Lucas even hires english-accents to both lead the Empire and play one of the last surviving Jedi, its single spiritual foe. And he leads a team played by young, upstart Americans. He leads them on a mission to destroy the Empire. Their key villain and faceless minions voiced by American accents, and Darth Vader, a turncoat American now leading the Empire, a former student like Luke.  Perversely, as the crawl disappears into the starfield, peaceful music plays. None of the stars are at any form of war, he shows you the starfield we see when looking into outer space from earth. Peaceful. And now you see the idea of any literal Star Wars is as paradoxical as a Civil War. An adventure film coded in parallel to a satirical film that plays alongside.



After a beat in the peaceful starfield, Lucas pans downward, a reverse of Kubrick's pan into the stargate of 2001. Immediately he offers us a central moon, a nod to 2001's opening, and then an off-center, larger moon left and a vast, yellow expanse of Tatooine below. Here's where the war is. Mimicing the letters that marched off to battle, the chased/chasing ships duplicate the text's motion and the tilt down movement allows us to see these objects are another view of the words we saw from a different angle above. "Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her spaceship.." comes to life. Immediately our first view of any ship is overtaken by an explosion. The two monochromatic ships exchange green and red blasts and are propelled by red and blue glowing engines. Oppositions. The ships both aim left towards a horizontal centerpoint the first moon established (but has since disappeared, obliterated from view by the Destroyer). And the scales begin to be played with immediately: he shows us the propellant ports on the Destroyer relatively the size of the moon. And back to Lucas' clock quote above (it equals in a way with "A long time ago..."), if he is this adroit, if he says what he means, then Star Wars is a form of narrative involving numbers and time and space, Lucas even lucks out and has the century this emerges from begin the film as a logo. The first views in Star Wars affords us even counted sets of numbers: the Blockade Runner and Destroyer have sets, the Blockade's engines are arrayed 4-3-4, and the Destroyer has 3 (engines) 4 (docking ports). Numbers are even essential for the Droids who are forms that embody both numbers and language (R2-D2 is also Artoo Deetoo: in essence he makes their shapes the real "name" by defying both codes' ownership).

The shape-form the paragraphs took, rectangles that skew into travelling yellow arrows that moves into a parallax center, is split into two realms with the pan down: now the monochrome Star Destroyer mirrors them at a slight angle shifted left and from above and in the symmetric text's former place is the yellow of Tatooine. Lucas is deftly choreographing this color-play/form-play.

 

 

The Blockade Runner pulls away from the relative spot it's about to be drawn into under the Destroyer.

Above, a reverse, the angles of motion are crossed, the static shot switches to tracking, the ships match to the biped droids, the planet replaced by R2. In the first sequence he's just subliminally referenced the concept of the Death Star.

Above, notice the corridor's floor, both color and form match the Destroyer's underside. Even more complexly the corridor floor is mirrored to the angle the ship enters at initially.

The six frames above: The reverse, and we see Lucas employing relative motion, he increases the angle away from a centerpoint crossing this view with the previous: shows the Blockade Runner (named from British exploits on the high seas and colonial powers willing to risk life and limb to defy them) emerge from the space the Star Destroyer inhabits. And as they pull apart visually, we see both how different they are (the Runner is curvolinear to the straight lines of the Destroyer) and how similar (they both have sharpened axes at front, splitting them hemispherically and employ mirrored symmetry). Cut inside the Runner and we are now in a primarily monochromatic space, almost all white (in reverse to the blackness of space, Lucas employs optic white, a 'shade' of white rarely seen, and R2 has this pure white coloring as well), with a pair of nearly mirrored golden droids both with circle emblems, sun-star forms, at their midsection, they are yellow that follows text to planet to droid (the nearer is C-3PO) with the half-dome of R2-D2 in place of Tatooine's off center sphere. An animation from spaceships in motion to androids in motion, the first shot of bipeds in Star Wars is not of humans.  Lucas is suggesting we comprehend this conflict only in black and white terms, that all wars appear this extreme yet underneath these surfaces are unseen things that guide war to its conflicts. Lucas utilizes symmetries and color-forms as codes, portals, and passages, devices that create flow between scenes and among groups and forms. The question is meaning. By unifying these passageways of form Lucas is suggesting there is no inherent conflict, the conflict is self-created. Men in gray with white plastic helmets align the walls predicting invasion. To show you the purity of the white, he shows you the complexion of the rebels: they are ruddy.  Soon humanoids dressed in pure white plastic will explode into a corridor that they are best camouflaged against: they belong in here. These are clearly humans in a civil war,  dressed to hide and withdraw from color. This is precisely the same conflict that littered THX (even the helmets help to render the Rebels bald), except Lucas has simplified the conflict's focus and added animated color of energy and covering.  The robots are the only creatures here that have any color (besides the laser blasts that follow), and they have no real relationship to the battle, no one is really aiming at them. Men in gray with curved white helmets take up position along a wall, aiming for a doorway at parallax center. Above them, at an angle, are three light sources (rectangles) that mimic the three paragraphs of text we just saw parading off to a center point, they were below us and since we've panned, now they are above us, he even has the men glance at them while they unconsciously look for the source of the Destroyer's noise. Notice the angles are still crossing per cut, gray flooring has numerous cut-ins that mimic the Destroyer framing that follows. Back in the black of space, again in contrast to the white interior, the Blockade Runner is absorbed into a door underneath the Destroyer.

Above, two insets at opposite scales, one shades an object the other blindingly flares. Motion to still.

By alternating human conflict in a single view, he pulls off Chaplin's kind of comedic mirrors, the droids pass through untouched.

The ten frames above: The Blockade Runner enters the Destroyer's portal and is darkened in shadow. Inside the corridor, we observe the centered door do the opposite, it flares in brilliant light as a prelude to its explosion. This door represents the conflict between two sets of humans that can no longer communicate, they must shoot colored lights at one another or face certain death. There is an absurd reduction the first sequence involves: from the infinite expanse of stars to a single, white doorway.  Lucas litters the film with doors of all shapes and sizes (and closing manners) across the movie, and the wipes he divides the film with behave exactly like them. Stormtroopers repeat this explosion-entrance later in the Death Star's cell-block and while another corridor comes to life with laser-fire exchanges (this time between fake and real stormtroopers), the princess is forced again to lurk in the dark and fight her way out. At one point early in the film, the droids shut a door in Mos Eisley that resembles this exploding one, and Stormtroopers react unexpectedy: "The door's locked, let's move on," yet behind both doors are the Empire's stolen plans. Rather than be a straight-laced adventure film, Lucas is toying with meaning and reaction, the Troopers behave differently per scene, one door is locked and it is blown open, another is locked and it can be ignored. The introduction of Stormtroopers as a naming convention is astute, he blends the English translation of Nazi shock troops then he parades their leader, a Sith Lord named Darth Vader, a German-Dutch wording for dark father. He flips the translation conventions to blend our history and myth and what the words actually mean as if he is cross-fertilizating them. And Lucas's film is unusual in that it is a non-stop dictionary of names, the opposite of THX's randomized labelling, and he reveals their names subtly, despite the audience's craving, Leia says "Darth Vader" one scene after his intro. Jawas are named by Luke's  throw away "..these are the same Jawas that sold us [the droids]." is followed by "...only Imperial Stormtroopers." Lucas knows how to seduce by making the naming use seem real, only used when necessary scenes later. Many things are left unnamed and allow for kids to find out their real names in supplemental material, the names of the fighters, TIE, X-wing and Y-wing are never spoken (or alternate names are never said, Sandpeople are also called Tusken Raiders). And what he gains is an audience's focus on forms instead of names, the shapes, visuals of beings/places/objects, a type of education rooted in how (we as) children access the world, they see (we saw) things before names, before language/labels are taught. This manner is compressed here, but succeeds nonetheless, perhaps exceeds. Star Wars is a futuristic, edupsychallucinational form that extrudes/explores our past. A free-form encyclops: the encrypting eye of knowledge.  After the door is blown, gray (monochrome) smoke fills the corridor's entrance and two mirrored Troopers (aimed like the droids were initially) emerge from the haze, guns blazing. At a standoff point, the droids emerge and walk between their shooting lines, Lucas has them pass through the corridor's center point and evade any laser fire humorously. The establishing frame shows at different points in time, both rebels and Stormtroopers, a deft mirror that the droids cross. They are not part of this gray-monochrome conflict. Also emerging from the gray is an entirely dark biped, Vader, who brings the darkness of outer space, the void, inside. White plastic men under the control of an entirely black leader. Hmmm-hmmm. Vader's entrance shot is deceptively asymmetrical, slightly left of center, like Kubrick's subtle asymmetries, it looks centered but it isn't. As Vader moves inside, he is offered an angle off-center like all shots that follow symmetry, near-symmetry focals (like the Destroyer's initial entrance following the text).

continues

 

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