Star Wars’ turns 30Written by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
For thousands of local 30- and 40-somethings, May 25, 1977 is the flashpoint for all things pop culture. On that day, the Showcase Cinemas on Secor Road debuted a little-heralded film called “Star Wars,” which changed nearly every aspect of the entertainment industry, especially marketing, special effects and merchandising. The film redefined the concept of cool and fostered an obsessive devotion that has survived 30 years of hype, a shoddy prequel trilogy and Jar Jar Binks.
Here, in tribute, is one fan’s list of the 10 greatest characters from the Original Trilogy, before the Special Editions, before the George Lucas revisions, before the Roman numerals: “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.”
10. The Emperor. Played by two different actors (Clive Rivell in “Empire” and Ian McDiarmid in “Jedi”) to one great impact, the Emperor made a shocking first appearance. To see the black-suited personification of evil, Darth Vader, kneeling and supplicating himself, was to understand that even the Dark Lord’s merciless wickedness could be surpassed. Shudder. That promise was fulfilled in “Jedi,” as the cackling Emperor pit father vs. son in a hellish match to the death.
9. Jabba the Hutt. Lucas isn’t the most subtle writer, so for him to portray greed and corruption in the form of a giant smelly slug was an obvious, borderline lazy choice. But the effects team created a gangster icon in Jabba, who murders as casually as he stuffs his bloated, rotten face. Jabba proved to be a lousy businessman, but for an immobile and soft blowhard, he came as close as anyone to terminating the rebel heroes.
8. Millennium Falcon. A spaceship with so much impact, it serves, like the Death Star, as an organic character in its own right. Anyone who’s ever owned a POS car can identify with the Falcon. From its sleek design to the fuzzy dice hanging in the cockpit, the ship with the “special modifications” deserves its place in the pantheon.
7. Ben Kenobi. A hermit and desert rat with a crazed reputation, old Ben also happens to be one of the greatest of all the Jedi Knights. Calm, wise and still powerful enough in old age to out-wit the Empire, Ben and his “certain point of view” defined the ravages and sacrifices of war.
6. Slave Leia. Princess Leia made her mark as a strong leader and rebel fighter who stood her ground against Vader’s darkest torture devices, but these are basically boys’ movies, so the iconic Leia, cinnamon bun hairdo not withstanding, is the metal bikini-clad captive in Jabba’s palace. And she still kicks ass, taking out Jabba with her bare hands and the chains that bind her. Lucas kept sex far, far away from his movies, but as everyone from Kevin Smith to the nerd on “Friends” can tell you, Slave Leia launched a lot of young libidos into orbit.
5. Darth Vader. After seeing Vader’s helmeted visage on everything from cereal boxes to Taco Bell toys, it’s tough to conjure the original power of his character. But the first time he walked on screen, silently surveying battle damage, strangling a rebel officer with one hand and confronting the princess, Vader established himself as one of the all-time great villains. That he was allowed to be even more cold and evil in “Empire” adds to the legacy, even if you can’t shake the image of pre-teen Anakin yelling “Yippee!”
4. Boba Fett. Cons: He barely speaks five lines. He wasn’t even in “Star Wars.” He dies like a chump. Pros: Coolest uniform in the galaxy. Second-coolest ship in the galaxy. Backtalks Vader and lives. Inspired MC Chris’ “Fett’s Vette.”
3. Yoda. Another Lucas example to don’t judge a book by its cover. If Yoda were as big and fierce as his warrior spirit, he’d be larger than a dozen wookies. Best Muppet ever.
2. R2-D2. The real hero of the entire saga, the little astrotech droid is shot, swallowed in a swamp, captured by rodent Jawas and forced to endure C-3PO’s nonstop complaining. Fearless, loyal and as human any character in science-fiction.
1. Han Solo. Pirate, mercenary and scoundrel, Solo offers a welcome shady alternative to Luke Skywalker’s callow farmboy. Cold enough to blast Greedo out of his chair and smooth enough to win a princess, Solo, as brought to life by Harrison Ford, is the most fully realized of any of Lucas’ creations. He emerges from carbonite deep-freeze with less cynicism and more sentimentality, but he still has the coolest ship, the best co-pilot in Chewbacca and a mouth as fast as his gun. Plus, he gets to play nerf-herder with an intergalactic hottie (see No. 6).