Time for Day 2 of James Kennedy’s analysis of Luke’s introduction in Star Wars! (And when you’re done, check out the mini-masterpieces that James curates as proprietor of the 90 Second Newbery Film Festival. He’s always looking for new submission, too!)
20:26 As soon as C3P0 mentions the rebellion, Luke gets super excited. “You know about the rebellion against the Empire?” “Have you been in many battles?” He demonstrates real enthusiasm and excitement, perfectly prepared to listen even to this babbling robot. We love people who are sincerely enthusiastic and excited for worthwhile things!
20:43 Luke is trying and trying to dislodge something from R2D2. He’s been trying for a long time in this scene! Subliminal message: Luke won’t give up on solving a problem, even if it takes a long time, even if he has to force it a little.
23:15 In the very next scene, at dinner with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, Luke has the first line: “You know, I think that R2 unit we bought might’ve been stolen.” Again, Luke is thinking ahead, floating hypotheses, drawing conclusions, figuring stuff out. A much worse line would be: “Hey, what’s up with that R2 unit? It’s acting weird.” By giving Luke definite informed opinions about what R2D2’s problem is, we show that he’s a problem solver -- not by showing him solve big obvious problems, but just by exhibiting a problem-solving attitude, which makes us trust him. Luke goes on to float more hypotheses, conjecturing it might have to do with Ben Kenobi, which causes Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru to exchange significant glances which Luke doesn’t see -- the equivalent, socially and conversationally, of the Hitchcockian bomb-placed-under-the-table. When Luke asks Uncle Owen a direct question about it, Uncle Owen just grunts. Folks are withholding information from Luke! Just as they’re withholding info from us, the viewer! So we identify with Luke! We want to know more too, but when Luke presses Uncle Owen for more info, the old man just says, “I told you to forget it.” Hey, that’s not fair, but does Luke snap back or get snotty? Nope, he just takes it, because he’s respectful.
Now: Luke’s parent figure Uncle Owen is breaking a promise to him. Does Luke yell or scream or complain? No, he excuses himself, non-dramatically. Aunt Beru says “Where are you going?” and Luke just says glumly, “It looks like I’m going nowhere. I have to go finish cleaning those droids.” So even when he is stalking off from a family argument, he’s still going to finish the cleaning chore Uncle Owen gave him. Even though he’s entitled to his emotion, he going to do his work anyway. This is whiny? This is petulant?
24:55 Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen discuss Luke. Since Luke is not in the room, the movie implicitly promises that everything they say here will be more or less true. Aunt Beru says of Luke, “He can’t stay here forever. Most of his friends are gone. It means so much to him.” (How can anyone not identify with this? Being unfairly held back while all your friends are going on to great success. Luke is practically like George Bailey, here!) Uncle Owen replies, lamely: “I’ll make it up to him next year. I promise.” No he won’t. He can’t. There’s nothing Uncle Owen can give Luke that Luke wants, that’s clear. And anyway, we all know that, any promise that is about “next year” will never be kept. So then the bombshell -- Aunt Beru says, “Luke’s not a farmer, Owen. He has too much of his father in him” and Uncle Owen responds, “That's what I’m afraid of”, now we’re truly intrigued by Luke -- there’s more to Luke than even Luke knows, and they key to it all is his father! So we’re subtly prepped for when Ben Kenobi starts talking about Luke’s father: whatever Ben says about Luke’s father (great star pilot, Jedi knight, cunning warrior) is something that is potentially true about Luke. Aunt Beru has promised it in this scene! She’s planted the seed here!
Come back tomorrow for Part 3!