121 Days of Star Wars
Minute 13:00 of 121:00
Thirteen is the unluckiest ghost for Tony Shalhoub, the unluckiest warrior for Antonio Banderas, the unluckiest 30 for Jennifer Garner, and the unluckiest minute for R2-D2. In reviewing Minute 13:00 of the original Star Wars for this 121 Days of Star Wars series, we see Artoo face certain doom, curse at some damn, dirty Jawas, and foretell the future direction of the franchise.
As Artoo wheels himself deeper into the desert canyon, the Jawas stalk him until they have the perfect opportunity to strike. He’s being hunted.
In this wide shot, Artoo rolls center-screen, following a lonely path.
His isolation reminds me of Taylor (Charlton Heston) and Nova’s long horseback ride along the beach at the end of the original Planet of the Apes. We don’t yet know where they’re headed, but we have a feeling the endgame won’t be good. Even though nobody’s watching Taylor from above like the Jawas’ POV shots in the desert canyon, it’s filmed like we’re spying on his big moment.
The solitary beach in Apes feels alien because the entire film up until that point has informed us that it’s set in another world. Planet of the Apes opens with space travel, commences with a crash landing on “another planet,” and features interactions with intelligent ape-like beings. The sand doesn’t have to be green and the water doesn’t have to be mauve for us to think this place is a planet other than Earth.
Same with Star Wars — the desert looks like it’s of Earth, but we’ve glimpsed advanced space ships, talking robots, and now, gibberish-spouting hooded creepers. The desert is an ideal place to set a low-budget sci-fi film because the forbidding environment seems far removed from our daily lives. Even though, most of the time, these planets are filmed right outside of LA.
Quick! Stop that Gorn before he reaches Reseda!
These cheap location decisions were spoofed in Amazon Women on the Moon, in which the surface of our moon happened to be Death Valley.
Lucas one-upped the b-movies that inspired him by shooting his desert scenes in a far-off country. Unofficially known as “Star Wars Canyon,” every rocky setting in A New Hope was shot in Artoo’s Ravine of Doom. This Tunisian landscape also served as a location for The Phantom Menace, The English Patient, and Indiana Jones. To prove it, here’s a handy video (posted by Youtuber Erik Hollander):
Keep in mind, I first heard about the Indiana Jones connection through this secondary source, which called it “Raiders of the Lost Arch” — you know, the classic blockbuster where Indiana Jones saves the fabled Golden Arches from a group of diabetic Nazis.
And while Artoo is rolling through the cracked terrain, distracted, probably thinking about chowing down on a metal McGriddle — or just listening to metal in the form of Mac Sabbath, an actual McDonald’s-themed, Black Sabbath cover band–
–He gets tazed in the face by a trigger happy baby-ringwraith.
The blast restrains Artoo and knocks him unconscious.
This electricity was animated by ILM and while it doesn’t look as good as the Emperor’s finger-lightning in Return of the Jedi, this superimposed electric current holds up nicely. Plus, you don’t see Jawas shilling their prowess with electricity the way the Emperor does nowadays. He’s a real sellout.
Somebody should tell Uncle Palpy that electric fingers aren’t much of a novelty when you can lightning-it-up in the comfort of your own home. Just listen to this Australian tell you how to create the lightning effect with all the excitement of a Happy Max. Sidenote: If you’re an Australian and you want to save money on your yearly Comic Con costume — just go your first year as Steve Irwin, then Crocodile Dundee, and then Muldoon from Jurassic Park.
Back to incapacitated R2-D2: the Jawas come out of hiding with some grunts, squeals, and a language that’s probably cobbled-together noises from the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs outtakes.
Comparing this moment back to the last big cinematic sci-fi series before Star Wars, this whole encounter is basically the Disney version of Taylor’s capture in Planet of the Apes.
These aren’t complaints, just observations. It’s all cute here, but it’s a tolerable level of cuteness. The Jawas hint at future decisions (Ewok teddy bears, Gungan punching bags, Padme Amidala twin-pregnancy playsets) in which the Star Wars financial enterprise had an influence over creative judgements. But, at this point in the series, we don’t know what to make of it and there are no characters that exist to make the audience say, “I love the relationship between that Hasbro action figure and McDonald’s top-selling Happy Meal toy.”
All this talk of selling out shouldn’t detract from the Jawas first appearance. Here, they’re just part of the environment.
Now, you might say these Jawas deserve a taste of their own medicine, inflicting unwarranted violence on lone travelers. And I’d say “yes, they do.” But please, don’t think that ALL Jawas are roving scavengers. Some are decent indigenous creatures, trying to make a living. Don’t take it out on them.
Rating: Three-and-a-half out of five original Planet of the Apes films (but this rating is weighted because it gets the good ones — the original Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and half of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.)
Best Performance by a Non-human: Kenny Baker / The R2-D2 Technical Team
Best Performance by a Supporting Non-human: Jawa with taser.
Best New Artist: (tie) Mac Sabbath and Burgërhead.
Originally published at mindctrlaltdel.tumblr.com.