A Sense of Wonder

A young man steps into the hanger, accompanied by the wizened old mentor who has told him of his mysterious past, and the two slaved that have brought a mysterious message that could save the world. The young man has just sold his speeder, a vehicle that he treasured, but that he acknowledges is no longer in demand since a newer model came out. The old man has assured him that it will be enough.

We see the star ship that they will fly in: it looks nothing like the traditional rockets we are used to in science fiction, nor the “space plane” that we see from real life space exploration. Even in contrast to the other ships we have seen thus far in this world, this one is unique: unlike the Tantive IV or the Devistator, this ship is flat, more like a pizza or a hamburger, with a cockpit stuck awkwardly onto the side, and a loading platform more like that of a cargo plane.

“What a piece of junk!” exclaims the young man.

There’s a moment in most Steven Spielberg movies where, upon seeing the object of wonder (the dinosaurs, the aliens, the bicycle flying), we cut back to the people watching react. We see the children’s faces in awe, the parents with mouths agape, the government agents shocked and in disbelief. The film tells us what reaction we should be having.

Yet, we are all taken in by Han Solo. Luke, who is shown to have a strong interest in spaceships, is planning on attending the Academy to become a pilot, is later in the film shown to be quite a competent pilot himself, says the Millennium Falcon is a junk ship. When Han tries to justify the condition by saying that he’s made a lot of “special modifications”, Obi-Wan simply rolls his eyes.

This isn’t the first time that Obi-Wan hasn’t been taken in either. Take the famous “Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs” exchange in the cantina. Much ink has been spilled to justify that a parsec is a measure of distance, not time, and therefore the Falcon must have a very efficient navigational computer, or Han is much better at piloting than others, so in a treacherous environment like the area around Kessel, he must be able to blah blah blah. Almost no one considers that he’s a smuggler and con man who is trying to talk up a potential client, and saying whatever comes into his head to impress them. It’s much like his later bullshitting about a reactor leak caused by a slight weapons malfunction and that he needs a few minutes to lock down. Large leak. Very dangerous.

Again, watch Obi-Wan’s reaction:

This is not a man taken in by fancy words. He knows Han is bullshitting him, but he doesn’t have much choice, as he’s in a time crunch and needs to leave right now. Better a thief than a stormtrooper.

Han then proceeds to kill a debt collector, shooting him under the table (not unjustifiably, as Han was being threatened), unlike Obi-Wan, who merely maimed the thug who was bothering Luke, and tried to deescalate the situation first.

But the idea that Han Solo is a good person, is introduced to us as a hero, is from the get go a role model? There’s little in the film to support this. He gets his money and runs, just like he said he would.

And this makes his return at the very end to save Luke, and therefore insure the destruction of the Death Star all the more heroic.

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What’s in a Name?

Canon is pretty funny to discuss.

For example, what’s that lady in white’s name?

It’s Mon Mothma, obviously, and she’s about to tell us about how many bothans died to get the plans for the second Death Star.

But her name isn’t actually used in Return of the Jedi. It is mentioned once in Revenge of the Sith, and she’s in the Clone Wars cartoon, but those came out over 20 years later. We all learned it somewhere, through osmosis, through fan transmission, through the strange ways that we communicate knowledge to one another on the playground, on the internet, in the letter pages of fanzines…

But, during that interregnum, what counted as good enough evidence that her name was Mon Mothma? What counts as “canon”?

The ending credits, which aren’t a part of the narrative?

Jedi Credits

The shooting script, which isn’t part of the film at all?

jedi script

The novelization?

jedi novel

Trading cards?

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Action figures?

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Signed photos from the actress herself?

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I would submit that, rather than worrying if we have to accept that Art Carney is a member of the Rebel Alliance if we also want Chewbacca to have a family, it doesn’t actually matter where the information comes from, provided it makes for a better and more interesting story, and a more rewarding experience interacting with the film. Sometimes it’s trivia, sometimes it makes a big difference, and sometimes it’s meaningless.

More, of course, on this topic to come…