This week Kelly and JJ are back from a two-week hiatus, yay! Also they begin a new series, where they take a fictional property and examine it from a storytelling perspective: character, plot, pacing, structure. This week they will tackling one of the most famous: Star Wars.
Kelly watching the movies for the first time at #padawankelly
Star Wars is a very typical Chosen One story, with very familiar tropes. What makes this property work is the strength of the characterization and dialogue.
There's not much actually original about Star Wars, but it resonates with us on a visceral level. It's archetypal enough to be familiar to us, and both specific and vague enough for us to fill in the edges. For example, the Force is something that connects all life forms together, but is essentially magic. The worldbuilding works because it's simple.
Having different characters contrast and play off of each other makes them more interesting, e.g. Han's cynicism contrasted against Luke's idealism. Leia is somewhat in the middle, more of a pragmatist.
We're shown a lot of things about these characters. Han shooting first, Leia coming up with escape plans, Luke's desire to leave Tattooine in that scene when he's watching the twin suns of the planet set.
The dialogue also illuminates a lot of about characterization. "I'm Luke Skywalker and I'm here to rescue you!" tells us that Luke is earnest and sincere, "Get in the chute, fly boy!" tells us that Leia suffers no nonsense, and "Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid" underscores Han's innate cynicism.
In terms of plot, pacing, and structure, Star Wars has clear goals in each act. Act I: Find Obi-Wan Kenobi and get information to Princess Leia. Act II: Rescue Princess Leia. Act III: Destroy the Death Star. Also any time our intrepid trio has a success, then a wrench is thrown into it: they get to Princess Leia, but they're caught in a firefight, etc. Tension is maintained because stakes are clear: if they don't destroy the Death Star in time, then the Death Star will destroy them.
Star Wars's mythic quality works because of the simplicity of the narrative. Simple is not simplistic; Star Wars might be straightforward and uncomplicated, but that works in its favor.
A clear, direct plot and compelling characters make this movie a winner. The story doesn't feel dated, despite the special effects of the period, because it is timeless.
What We're Reading/Books Discussed
The Star Wars Legends books (formerly the Extended Universe, now no longer canon)
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph by Jan Swafford
What We're Working On
Earth Kingdom Radio, an Avatar: The Last Airbender podcast hosted by Kelly and JJ and their friend Mike!
JJ had a phone call with her editor and agent about the Wintersong companion with the caveat that EVERYTHING MIGHT CHANGE. #pantserproblems
Off Menu Recommendations
JJ recommends the entire city of New Orleans, especially its food
That's all for this week! Next week we will be dissecting Episode V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Stay tuned!