To begin, here’s some stuff I agree with:
- I certainly agree that Star Wars is a much weirder story than most people realize.
- Good point that Luke doesn’t have to sell us on the world or tone of the movie because he’s not our POV character, which means that he doesn’t have to be as likeable. He’s not saying, “Hi, I’m Luke and let me show you my crazy world!”, he’s just saying, “Now that you’ve accepted this crazy world, here’s a hero!”
- That said, it’s still truly bizarre we put up with 17 minutes of prologue without a clear hero. As you point out, it helps that everyone (except 3PO) is pursuing goals hardcore while we wait. (Of course, this problem is just a result of the fact that the first two Luke scenes were cut out. We’ll take a look at those scenes next week and consider what effect they might have had.)
- You make an interesting case that giving Threepio a bath is “saving the cat.” Not sure I buy it, but it’s possible.
- The “Sir Luke” line is very key, of course. “Just Luke” is a mini-version of the false philosophy: “A guy like me can’t be a knight.”
- Ben being too old is key: “I’m smarter and more bad-ass, but I’m too old to do it myself, so I have to train you.”
- I definitely agree that one of Luke’s big strengths is that he’s cheerfully gung-ho: Looking for the droids, rushing to fight the sand people, rushing back home, selling his speeder, rescuing Leia, eager to blow up the Death Star, etc.
- We read the dinner scene differently: I think Luke is trying to break the agreement: To me the implication is that he already agreed to stay on another season until the end of the harvest, but now he wants to get out of that by saying the droids could take his place instead. I could see how you could read it either way.
- You say: “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?” In a word, yes! There’s a difference between petulance and defiance. Luke is not defiant, he’s not angry, he’s not surly…he’s petulant. This is the dictionary definition of petulance: “childishly sulky or bad-tempered”
- I totally disagree with your contention that Luke puts 2 and 2 together about the dead Jawas. Just the opposite: he’s totally fooled into thinking the Sand People did it until Obi Wan figures it out and corrects him.
flip-side strengths as “idealistic and eager,” but thanks to you I now realize that this isn’t quite it. The naïve/idealistic pair is definitely there, but the other pairing (which is more prominent) would be better described as impatient/gung-ho (Yoda pretty much says this outright in the Empire, come to think of it). This is why we aren’t bothered by his petulance (until the 4th or 5th viewing, when we suddenly notice it): It’s not his personality, it’s his flaw. We sense right away that it’s the aspect of his personality that he needs to change, which makes it a bug, not a feature. The flaw is the one aspect of the hero that we are not asked to identify with.
This also links back to a previous post: the flaw should usually be something you would admit to in a job interview. When an interviewer asks you about your flaws, you would never say “whiny”, but you might say “impatient”, because that’s the more sympathetic version of that flaw.
So thanks again to James for the illuminating discussion! ...But wait folks, there’s more! Spinning out of James’s thought and my re-watch, there are many more storytelling tips that can be gleaned by re-examining this movie:
- The pros and cons of cutting out Luke’s intro scenes
- The value of the droids wandering around (including one more argument from James’s letter that I haven’t included yet)
- The value of semi-random worldbuilding
- The value of a legacy
- The value of the “half-fact”
- Lucas’s respect for “the way the world works” (even though it’s not our world)
- Luke as emotional manipulator
- Obi Wan’s counterintuitive metaphor family