In what is now Episode 4 but what was the first episode filmed, the story starts right in the middle of the action, with a battle on a spaceship. Two robots or “droids” escape, the elegant C-3PO and his counterpart, the gurgling and beeping R2D2. They carry a message from Princess Leia to Obi-Wan Kenobi, asking for help. When they arrive at a desert planet, they are bought by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is then captured by “sand people,” but rescued by Ben Kenobi (Alec Guiness). Ben gets the message from Princess Leia and tells Luke they must go to help her fight the Empire. He tells Luke that his father was once a great fighter, a Jedi knight, “the best star pilot in the galaxy and a cunning warrior.” Luke says he cannot. Although Luke is restless and eager to explore the universe — he had begged his farmer uncle to let him go — he tells Ben, “I can’t get involved. I have work to do.” He will do as his uncle insisted and stay on the farm another year. Besides, this is not his fight. It all seems very far away.
But he gets back to the farm to find his aunt and uncle have been killed by Empire warriors trying to capture the droids. He and Kenobi hire Han Solo, a sometime smuggler, to get them to a planet called Alderan. Ben teaches Luke about “the force,” a power within and around everyone.
They arrive only to find that Alderan has been destroyed. The Empire has a new weapon capable of eliminating whole planets. Luke, Leia, and Han, trapped on this “death star,” must first escape, and then find a way to destroy it.
Discussion: George Lucas, who wrote and directed this movie, was deeply influenced by Joseph Campbell’s work on myths, and by his love for the great movie classics. This movie is rich in classic themes from both. The scene in the bar, with all the aliens, is very much like the bar scene in a Western movie. Han Solo resembles the cowboy ideal, the loner with no loyalty to any cause, but with his own sense of morality. Even his costume is reminiscent of a cowboy outfit, with boots and a gun holster at the hip.
Han and Luke must both decide whether to join the fight. At first, both are reluctant; in fact, Han leaves. But they accept the responsibility, as they must. The concept of “the force” in the movie may be something your children want to know more about.
Questions for Kids:
· Why does Luke decide to fight the Empire? Why does Han?
· Why does Han leave, and why does he come back?
Connections: There are two sequels, “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” both re-issued in 1997 with additional scenes and special effects, and both exciting adventures. A new cycle of three movies, set a generation before “Star Wars” is currently in production, with Ewan McGregor as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi.