The Star Wars films use characters to play common roles and functions within the franchise. By ‘roles’ I mean less plot central aspects of the story such as ‘comic relief’ and by ‘functions’ I mean more directly plot relevant tasks such ‘character who delivers secret message’. To make the films both different and yet familiar roles and functions are repeated between films but divided between different characters (and/or objects).
This approach begins with the original Star Wars film (‘Episode 4’, ‘A New Hope’, or if you wish to troll two fandoms simultaneously ‘The Original Series’). Lucas takes roles and functions from other films but creates new characters around them. Lucas draws upon films like The Dam Busters, 633 Squadron, The Guns of Navarone and takes aspects of those films and reworks them into his film. The fjord in 633 Squadron has a function that is shared by the trench on the Death Star that leads to the exhaust port for example.
The most substantial source though is Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress. The roles (Princess, former general, former general’s rival on the enemy side, a hidden resistance base etc) are lifted from Kurosawa’s tale of rival clans in feudal Japan and placed in a new setting. However, there is not a simple mapping of Hidden Fortress to Star Wars, mainly because new characters and plot points are added but also because functions map out differently or brought in from other films.
However, one of the earliest points at which both films map is the classic shot of the bickering couple trudging through a desert. In Hidden Fortress the couple are the the two peasant soldiers Tahei and Matashichi, survivors and runaways from a battle. In Star Wars the couple are C3PO and R2D2, who have just escaped a space battle. The role of the couple are similar in both films – comedic banter and commentary on what the main characters are doing. In that latter role they provide a bridge between the main characters and the audience, wondering aloud (in Star Wars only C3PO actually intelligible) what is happening. The function they couples play is different. R2D2 has a very specific Star Wars role – carrying the Death Star plans to the Rebellion that does not have a simple parallel with Hidden Fortress.http://www.scene-stealers.com/wp-content/uploads//2014/04/hidden_fortress_blu-ray.jpg
In the sequels and prequels to Star Wars the couple role becomes less attached to the two droids. At times it passes to Anakin and Obi Wan in parts of episode 2 and 3, to Han and Chewbacca, Luke and Yoda but rarely lingers for reasons I’ll get to. In the Force Awakens (episode 7 or if you prefer ‘Star Wars:TNG’) the couple role bounces around multiple characters but is often centred on Finn (Finn and Bo Dameron, Finn and BB8, Finn and Rey, Finn and Han etc).
The couple role naturally connects with comedic relief. It turns up in classic comedy duos (Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy), buddy-cop movies and isn’t confined to male-male pairs. Nick and Nora Charles in the Thin Man series, Lucy and Ricky in I Love Lucy, Abbey and Martha Brewster the ageing sisters in Arsenic and Old Lace. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/11/01/cf/1101cf64a6acf86304650b57510d5508.jpg
The pairing can be platonic or sexual but the familiarity of the role/trope is the married couple – two people who have known each other a long time. The role is not about sexual tension but it doesn’t preclude two characters between whom there is sexual tension sometimes playing aspects of the role (Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd in Moonlighting, even on occasion Mulder and Scully in the X-Files). The issue is not that the couple cannot ever have other emotional aspects to their relationship but rather when those other aspects come to the fore they play a different role. It is for this reason that the Star Wars prequels never maintain a consistent couple role in the way that Star Wars Original Recipe does with R2D2 and C3PO.
Rogue One passes the comedic relief role to K2-SO and the delivery of Death Star plans function to Bodhi Rook. R2D2 and C3PO get a cameo (of course – and establishing that R2D2 is busy controlling the rebellion on Yavin…). However, it also reinvents the couple role with Chirrut Iwe and Baze Malbus. Their role is less comedic but it is essentially the couple role. You can, if you wish, take it as a platonic friendship but as a supporter of the principle & traditions of marriage, I prefer to assume they are actually married (mind you I assume the same about R2D2 and C3PO so I’m easily persuaded towards this position).
As a pair, they have both overt differences from both the Star Wars IV couple and the Hidden Fortress couple but also distinct similarities.
Unlike Tahei and Matashichi they are season warriors who are brave and face danger. They are selfless and eager to help. They are competent and highly skilled. They both show wisdom and personal insight.
However, like Tahei and Matashichi they are found in desert surroundings amid (sort of) a battlefield. They are allied with the losing side in a conflict but have become separated from it. They are drawn back into the centre of the conflict by a woman protagonist. They form a nucleus of a small army under that woman’s leadership.
Likewise, they have a similar alternate-reality relationship with R2D2 and C3PO. The similarities are weaker than those with the Hidden Fortress pair. Most notably is the related but muted colour scheme of the pair that mirrors the droids.
Chirrut is dressed in blue and white (with a small amount of red). Baze is dressed in yellows/beige. They are not, of course, the R2D2-C3PO of Rogue One – they are different characters and have different functions but their role has distinct parallels with both the Droids and Tahei and Matashichi that also highlights the extreme differences.
“Wait, “you say, “this is somewhat convoluted. Where are you going with this? It’s not another…oh it is, isn’t it? For goodness sake…”
Yes, yes! This blog has only the one official fan theory and we will use any and all means to promulgate it.Chirrut is the R2D2 analogue in Rogue One *and* he is, as we also contend R2 is, a force user!
Chirrut is the R2D2 analogue in Rogue One *and* he is, as we also contend R2 is, a force user!They even both use the force to do the same thing!
Chirrut uses the force and personal focus to walk through a volley of blaster shots unharmed. R2D2 does the exact same thing only a few hours later (in-universe) on Captain Antilles ship!
No, don’t walk away! I’ve all sorts of other proofs to show you!
I linked to a positive review of the new Star Wars by Brad Torgersen in my last round-up and over at File770 I was discussing John C Wright’s negative review.
There seems to be a real difference of opinion on the film that divides between Sad and Rabid and I’m wondering to what extent a major SF event such as Star Wars says about SF as a whole. To that end I hopped into my memetic boat, put the cat into a life-vest and set sail again.
NOOOOOOOOO!!!! Was the last we heard from Darth Vader near the end of Revenge of the Sith. The Machete order really works neatly by placing Revenge next to Return. Our last sight of Darth Vader and the Emperor is them gazing at the half built Death Star I. We’ve seen Anakin fall from grace and we now know who Leia really is.
For the first time the text crawl at the start is a genuine reminder of where we are up to in the story. Han has been captured by Jabba and the Star Wars pals have to save him. Meanwhile… (only a standard three dot ellipsis this time)
Star Wars aka A New Hope, used a variety of strategies to tell a fairly shallow tale. Lucas applied every trick he knew borrowing from multiple sources to create a visually complex film that still feels fresh today.
The Empire Strikes Back avoids many of these same strategies. The film is still very visually appealing but it now assumes that the audience knows what needed to be stated previously. In terms of space being big, the seemingly never ending shot of an Empire ship is not repeated, nor the shot in which a planet is too big to fit on screen. The only shot which cleverly invokes relative size is when we see an Empire ship become eclipsed by shadow. Initially it isn’t clear why the lighting is changing over this ship until we are shown that it is below and even bigger ship.
I very much doubt this is original but a long running joke at Felapton Towers is that R2-D2 is a Sith. Now it is important to note that when I say ‘Sith’ I don’t mean he is in league with Vader, Maul, Sidious or the Empire. What I mean is that R2-D2 is a disciple of the Dark Side of the Force and manipulates events to his own ends.
The current consensus is that he is the former master of Darth Sidious, whom was believed to have been murdered by Darth Sidious to gain all his awful Sith secrets. In reality he transferred his Sithy-Soul to an astromech droid and started working to bring about the downfall of Sidious/Palpatine.
Assuming R2 is behind many of the events in Star Wars allows for some easy rationalization for:
- His odd ability to be around key events in Galactic History
- His odd ability to not get blown to smithereens
- Why Luke keeps hearing and seeing Obi-Wan Kenobi after he is very much dead (one of the first things we learn in Episode 4 is that he can project holograms and voices – I mean, seriously, isn’t it obvious once we know that?)
- Why R2D2 is quite so awesome
As I may make regular mention of this when discussing Star Wars I thought I’d better mention it up front.
So I’m re-watching the Star Wars movies in preparation for new movie and naturally the issue of what order to watch them in arises. I’ve decided to go for Phantom + Machete order.
For those who don’t know, Machete order was first suggested here: http://www.nomachetejuggling.com/2011/11/11/the-star-wars-saga-suggested-viewing-order/ and the case is made compellingly. Essentially the order suggested is this:
- Episode 4: A New Hope aka Star Wars. Start with where the story actually starts.
- Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back aka Everybody’s Favorite. OMG! Darth Vader is ….
- Episode 2: The Clone Wars. The story goes into flashback mode to explain the big reveal at the end of Episode 5.
- Episode 3: The Revenge of the Sith. We learn about the Emperor and we see Darth Vader come into being.
- Episode 6: Return of the Jedi. Han is rescued. The Emperor is killed. Vader is redeemed.
The order is clever because it keeps major twists and surprises from the first trilogy as twists and surprises and it all makes dramatic sense. The problem is The Phantom Menace doesn’t sit well anywhere in that order, mainly because it isn’t terribly relevant to most of the story. Obi-Wan is introduced better in Episode 4, Anakin has to be re-introduced all over again in Episode 2 because he is now grown up. Qui-Gon and Darth Maul die and don’t appear again. Really only Padme is introduced as a reoccurring character played by the same actor and even with her she has a different role (Senator) in Episodes 2 & 3 than in 1 (where she is a Queen Amidala).
So I’m treating The Phantom Menace as a introductory film – a prologue to the main story. In it we learn about the Republic and Jedis and the Skywalker family. The only twist spoiled by The Phantom Menace is that the weird green muppet guy in Episode 5 is the Jedi Master Yoda. I think we will cope.