It is entirely understandable for first time viewers to find Star Wars incredibly boring. It is. Fans love it simply because of the emotional investment established by the fidelity of continuous consumption of films and comics. Much of the cultural craze over Star Wars stems from the first and second Star Wars films and the later ones are more like forgettable, money-making after thoughts.
I get quizzical stares when I say the first Star Wars film, the 1977 one, is my favourite and the film I would recommend first time viewers to watch first (although it is weirdly and technically fourth film in the series).
It is a beautiful and timeless film. While film students would cringe at the later Star Wars films, the first one is an outstanding achievement. It is a wonderful exercise in thoughtful story-telling.
The first five minutes has little dialogue but enough visuals to concisely and effectively establish the premise of the film – a powerful and tyrannical galactic state and a puny resistance movement. It is rich with a foreign and strange world but is yet accessible and easily digested. You don’t need title cards, you don’t need dialogue to explain things. Scenes flow naturally and the varied characters while mysterious are believable and emotionally-invested. You instantly identify with the rebellion and their heroes, you are instantly intimidated by Vader and his henchmen.
You feel apprehension when you are intended to, you feel excitement when it is intended to. It is the perfection of filmmaking technique – the perfected combination of visual and musical cues, the concise and expert editing.
I can rewatch the 1977 Star Wars over and over again but yet still feel the same emotions it intends you to feel. It has the same filmmaking magic that great films like Lawrence of Arabia has. Any first time viewer can jump into it and instantly enjoy it.
It has not a single bit of the blandness that characterises the later Star Wars films. I actually watched The Force Awakens with not a strand of emotion. I may actually have yawned at some points where I should have instead gasped.
Why is it the best introductory film for the first time viewers?
- It is made for easy digestion.
- While a film of the 70s era, it seems to fit more easily into the silent-era films that draws in the viewer with simple plot premises of good versus evil and keeps him happy without the trappings of action and cringe-worthy attempts at being brooding and complex but yet possesses hints of it.
- It can easily function as a stand-alone film.
The 1977 Star Wars on the other hand succeeds as pinnacle of story-telling and filmmaking. It is an effective stand-alone film and deserves its recognition as one of the best films of film history.
The Empire Strikes Back while suffering from some initial dreariness is a compelling follow up. Opening in the whiteness of a winter landscape, it recedes into a dark. emotional plot. I sometimes arguably enjoy ESB more than the 1977 Star Wars.
And then after the Empire Strikes Back, the rest of Star Wars becomes a forgettable money-making exercise. George Lucas became lazy. And after him, Disney was so lazy, it simply rehashed the same plot but with far less finesse and emotion.
I mourn the state of filmmaking these days.