I saw Star Wars when it premiered in 1977 and loved it. How could I not? To this pimply-faced 11-year-old it was the coolest thing ever. Plus I got to see all that sci-fi spectacle on a real, giant movie screen in a big old-fashioned “theater.” Not a tiny “multiplex” screening room. My friends and I watched it four more times that summer and then waited not so patiently for “Empire” and “Jedi.” Also awesome. Back then I had some nagging questions about the films and still do today. Before we begin, let me put the obligatory SPOILER ALERT, for the one schmo who managed to miss all these films.
1. Why were the controls to the Deathstar tractor beam placed over a dangerous, thousand foot deep shaft?
Some engineering school dropout must have helped with the Deathstar blueprints. A hot torpedo right down the blowhole destroyed the whole damn thing, for God’s sake! Let’s leave that aside, though, and get into those tractor beam controls. When Obi-wan goes to disable them, he has to balance on a narrow platform in a giant vertigo-inducing shaft. It’s a great sequence with amazing old school, matte-painting-on-glass SFX. But why are these controls positioned precariously over a deadly chasm? Nice design, ace. Good luck on your next OSHA inspection when they spot a technician dangling over a bottomless pit to do his routine maintenance. I suppose all of the Deathstar bathtubs have an electrical outlet installed in them as well.
2. How does R2D2 roll across the sand and rocky ravines of Tatooine?
Anyone who has tried to pull a beer-laden wheeled beverage cooler through beach sand knows that the wheels get bogged down in no time. And we’re talking simple plastic wheels. Artoo’s rolling apparatus must have all sorts of delicate gears and cogs with nook and crannies for sand to get into and gum up. The same goes for those barren, rocky ravines where he encountered the Jawas. How did he even get down there? It’s not like he has four-wheel drive with a triple, dual-quad axle rod suspension system. It gets even more puzzling when you consider the prequels, which show Artoo flying around with rocket feet. Huh? Star Wars true believers attempt to explain this with something about the rockets being disabled or deactivated at some point. Whatever. If Han and Chewie can keep that bucket of bolts Falcon flight-worthy with a couple of hydrospanners, then someone could have kept Artoo’s rockets running.
3. How is Princess Leia able to describe Chewbacca as a “walking carpet?”
It’s a great line that always gets a laugh, but what does she know about carpet? As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as carpet in the Star Wars universe. If there were, Han Solo would have totally outfitted the Millennium Falcon with some groovy shag. Speaking of his ship…
4. Why does Solo boast that the Millennium Falcon is “the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs?
A parsec is a measure of distance, not time. I’m no scientationator, but regardless of how fast you are travelling, I don’t think you can reduce the distance travelled. Imagine saying, “We flew from LA to NY in less than 2400 miles.” Wait, what? This reminds me of a kid in my junior high who used to mess with people by asking them, “Is it farther to Phoenix or by plane?”
5. Isn’t that syringe on the “torture droid” a bit cheesy and out of place?
In Star Wars, Leia is being held in a cell and they bring in a big round floating torture droid to force her to talk. This hovering menace moves into the room and as it closes in on her wee see a wicked syringe mounted on one side! DUNT-DUNT-DUUUHHHH! Only not so much. I didn’t buy the syringe at age 11 nor do I at 49. The world of Star Wars is made up of high-tech gadgetry and advanced robotics. That syringe just doesn’t jibe. A torture droid should have some whiz-bang method of extracting a confession. With a badass name, so a character could sneer, “activate the psychotronic neural nodes” or “let’s see you resist the cranial coercion pulse waves!”
6. Why talk like that, Yoda does?
Question good, is that.
7. Do you bleed from your lightsaber-severed limb or not?
In the cantina scene from the first film, a couple of space hooligans start to get all up in Luke’s grill and Obi-wan calmly convinces them to back down by whipping out his lightsaber and hacking an arm off one of them. There’s even a shot of it on the floor with blood leaking from the stump. In Empire, Luke escapes from an ice cave by slashing away at the arm of the Bumble from Rudolph the Red-nosed Reind- oops, I mean the Wampa (you can see how I’d confuse the two). Again we see the arm in all it’s dismembered gory glory. So I ask, when Darth Vader liberates Luke’s hand from his wrist in Jedi, why doesn’t Luke bleed like a stuck pig? Some will tell you that the heat of the laser instantly cauterized the wound blah blah blah. Ok, sure. But why not in the first two limb-lopping incidents? While we’re on the subject of lightsabers…
8. How does a lightsaber work, exactly?
That distinctive SKEEWW! sound when the laser is turned on or off. The satisfying hum of the glowing “blade.” The crackling and fuzzy feedback as the sabers clash. Lightsabers are cool, no doubt. Yet I can’t turn on a flashlight and limit the beam to three feet in length. Even if I could, I wouldn’t be able to use that shortened beam for batting practice. This is essentially what is happening with lightsabers. A device that emits a defined length laser with a solid property allowing it to clang against things. On top of that, do lasers even make noise? I’m no opticalphototicianist, but I believe there are a few of problems with this concept. I’ll hand it to Lucas, though. The lightsaber is an amazing idea and an iconic movie image, but it doesn’t make a lick of sense.
9. What’s the deal with Vader’s ability to choke people?
During the opening scenes of Star Wars, Vader storms aboard Leia’s captured ship and gets a chokehold on one of the rebel scum, dangling him like a marionette. He’s up close and personal, with his hands encircling the guy’s throat until he physically crushes his windpipe, before tossing him aside. I’m with you so far, Darth. Then later on in the same movie he chokes one of his disrespectful evil minions from several feet away with nothing more than a little pinching motion of the fingers. This choking fetish continues into the next two flicks. Eventually the pinching move isn’t even necessary. At one point he manages to choke some poor sap, miles away, right through a video monitor screen! Now you’ve lost me. So Vader could have used his nifty Jedi pinch to choke that first guy, but decided to go with the hands on approach? Or he’d been practicing the long-range choking technique during downtimes of crushing the rebellion and I’m seeing his abilities evolve with each film? Hmmm…
10. Why are Solo and Threepio using the expression “delusions of grandeur?”
The events of Star Wars took place “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” So how could they possibly know or use the term “delusions of grandeur?” It wouldn’t have existed! This is like the Leia/carpet conundrum, but with no debate. Maybe there is carpet in the Star Wars galaxy, even though you never see it. Leia could be aware of it. But “delusions of grandeur” was coined right here in the Milky Way galaxy, long after Han and Threepio were around. To me, hearing them say that is as jarring as if they used the term “Freudian slip” or “Murphy’s Law.” And don’t get me started on Solo’s use of the phrase “Then I’ll see you in Hell!”
I’m sure all of these questions have been hashed and rehashed over the years on hardcore Star Wars fan forums. I imagine any comments I get will set me straight about traveling through hyperspace (It ain’t like dusting crops, boy!), the power of the Dark side, wormholes, lightsaber construction, Deathstar schematics and what not. May the force be with me.