|I can't show the Death Star due to copyright but here is Mimas, |
a moon of Jupiter that looks just like it! Thanks to NASA.
Yes, they are much better than the more recent clutch of three, saved by a knowing humour missing from the solemnities of parts I-III, but I had forgotten just how stilted the love dialogue was in them - or maybe I didn't notice. Add to that, I now see how much they reflect their era of late 70s, early 80s - they are a little history of what we thought the future would look like (though technically Lucas claims them for long long ago in a distant galaxy...). Good (American) guys fighting an evil empire - the men's hair - the futuristic white Leia costume that somehow look like a Biba trouser suit - the 70s is everywhere - I'm sure you know what I mean. Even the sexual politics is very much of its time - Leia a kind of Germaine Greer fighting for her rights among the masculine warriors while the Hollywood male (Harrison Ford) manages to quell her with a kiss. I missed this as a kid but now wish Leia had kneed him in the place where he did most of his thinking.
That set me thinking how futuristic films and novels are so often the best way of accessing the preoccupations of the present. To change my metaphor, they are a boiled down stock of all most intense flavours swirling around in society. One of the first futuristic novels I can think of is Mary Shelley's The Last Man (1826).
Next major work I thought of was The Time Machine by H G Wells (1895). Much better know, you are probably aware that this captures the ripples of the Darwinian evolutionary debate with a society that has divided in to useless, pretty Eloi and underground predators, Morlocks. There are also fascinating reflections influenced by the Marxist debate of where class and society is going.
And then there is Zamyatin's We (written 1921) - one of the best reflections in the Russian revolution even though it is sci-fi. And George Orwell's 1984 (1949) - we haven't come to the end of the lessons that teaches us, have we? The examples are popping up everywhere now I am looking for them.
So that leads me to the rather pleasing conclusion that to understand the past we need to be familiar with the future. I'd love to hear you thoughts as this is a huge topic and I'm sure you'll have your own gems to share.