Watching Star Wars with Teenagers

I watched Star Wars with a group of teens, most of whom had never seen it before. Here are some of their questions and remarks:

–Is Yoda in this movie?

–Does anyone read that? (referring to the opening crawl)

–Is this one A New Hope? (we were watching the Silver Screen edition, which doesn’t have Episode IV in the title)

–I love that noise, that’s my favorite noise in all of Star Wars! (referring to the sound of R2D2 getting shot by the Jawas)

–(mockingly) “I was going go to Toshi station to pick up some power converters!”

–Why does he [Luke] whine so much? Dude should just listen to his dad.

–That’s like a snap on repeat (referring to R2D2 showing “Help Me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope!” on repeat.)

–His Dad is Darth Vader! (even the kids who had never seen the movie knew this)

–Oh hell no! (when Wuher tells Artoo and Threepio “We don’t serve their kind!”. It was a black teenager who made the comment)

–Oh shit, they look so fake! (speaking about the aliens in the Mos Eisley cantina. They were in hysterics looking at all the various creatures)

–I know this music! This is in that one game… (The Cantina theme)

–Chewbacca’s my husband!

–That’s so gross! Did you see how his mouth went like…! imitates Greedo’s mouth sucking inward to say “Ya-bocca”

–That dude’s got no chin! (Grand Moff Tarkin)

–The is the lowest energy sword fight I’ve ever seen. (I didn’t point out the pun)

–Isn’t that his sister? (I clarify that we don’t learn that until Return of the Jedi)

–But don’t they have the same last name? (I let them know that Leia’s last name is Organa, not Skywalker, because she was adopted.)

–How do you know so much about Star Wars?

Overall, the kids were rapt throughout. A couple of them were locked to the screen from start to finish, only pausing occasionally to get popcorn but otherwise never breaking eye contact. Even the ones who were normally rambunctious and disruptive were really enjoying themselves. We only had one drive by who just wanted snacks who informed us that “Star Wars is stupid and gay” and the other teens shouted him down as he left. Good gender breakdown, about 60% female to 40% male.

They were very eager to see Empire and Jedi soon.

Solo: a Star Wars Story Complete Spoilers

Solo: a Star Wars Story
Final Approved Story Draft

Han is a hip young pilot fresh out of the academy. He’s talented and flashy and doesn’t play by the rules, but he’s also a loyal friend to those he cares about, and committed to causes that engage him.

His arch rival was the man who graduated second from the Academy, Lorn Faloon. Lorn is everything that Han isn’t: uptight, bound by the rules, and under the impression that the Empire has the world’s best interests in mind. We symbolize this by having them dress mostly the same, but Lorn’s collar is buttoned, as is his vest. His ship is also a X-shaped, boxy thing, in contrast to the Millennium Falcon’s circular shape, but that comes later. If we can have them play tic-tac-toe at some point, that would be good. He is angry that someone like Han could graduate first in his class, because Lorn has done everything right, and should be ranked far above, but Han’s hot shot unorthodox tactics have always placed him higher, and his willingness to take risks, despite putting his own life at risk.

Right after the big graduation ceremony, Han receives a coded message from his childhood pal Dal Thanoken, who reveals that Han’s sister, Gretel, has been kidnapped by the Dathomir witch Dortchen Yaga, and taken to the swamps of Kodos, where she will be sacrificed and eaten if someone can’t stop her.

Han needs a ship, and fast!

Calling on an old pal from Corellia, Lando Calrissian, Han enters into a high stakes game of Sabacc, a deadly game that involves throwing cards which represent monsters, traps, and Force “spells” that effect game play. Han easily dominates the tournament, which showcases a number of fan favorite monsters from the other films, such as the Sarlacc, the Bossk, the Great Pit of Carkoon, the Rancor, and more. Han’s arm mounted “Sabacc Rack” and “Duel Gauntlet” are sure to be popular accessories with the kids and cosplayers, too.

Han reaches the final round of the tournament, only to discover that his final opponent is none other than Lando himself! Lando ponies up his favorite space ship, the Falcon, as an additional prize, and to match it, Han is forced to bet his Sabacc deck, composed of countless rare and out of print cards that are worth an Emperor’s ransom. But this means that if Han loses, he’ll have no way to quickly earn the money to rescue his sister. He’s staking his entire future on this one game!

The duel is fast and furious, with monster card leading into spell into trap into counterspell, the two grandmasters anticipating moves ten turns down the line. The audience is rapt as their monsters battle upon the field, dodging force bolts and smashing barriers, titanically slashing into each other in a manner similar to the arena battle from Attack of the Clones, but much cooler. Finally, when it looks like both men are exhausted, their decks nearly empty, Han plays “Force Friend”, a card that only appeared in the very first Sabacc release, and which has never been seen since, a card few know the existence of, and uses it to become friends with the monster closest to Lando, a Wookiee legend named Chewbacca, who was a hero in the clone wars. With all his defenses aligned in the other direction, Lando is powerless to stop Chewbacca’s crossbow attack, and loses the match one turn before his Tears of the Rist would have cost Han the match.

Lando is impressed, and is gracious in his loss, handing Han the keys and the title with a smile, promising to win her back next time. Chewbacca, who has remained on the field after all the other monsters have been desummoned, decides to accompany Han on his journey to save Gretel, and they take off. Inside the cockpit, Han finds a letter from Lando, wishing him luck, and telling him, cryptically, that the Falcon is “special” and that Han will figure out why in time.

Needing space fuel, Han and Chewie stop at a space port (good spot for advertising joke here, if Exxon or Shell or someone wants to pay for it), and while Han pumps his gas, Chewie goes inside to buy some drinks. Inside the Space Station is the usual: big guy besalisk with greasy trucker’s cap reading a girly magazine, some Jawas playing an arcade game (space invaders? Or is that too on the nose?), and, in the corner, a pretty human space pilot in a wedding dress and holding a space helmet, being harassed by a greedo. Chewie goes over to intervene, because he has a strong sense of duty and justice, and the greedo tries to get in his face, telling him to mind his own business, and in response, Chewie rips his arm off. It turns out that the filling station is attached to a quickie chapel, which is next to a small time casino, like the kind they have in Vegas. “Say, think you could give a girl a lift?” she asks. “My other ride seems a little stumped as to our next destination.”

The girl, it turns out, is Miss Qi’ra Faloon, of the Valengore Faloons. She mentions that she has a cousin at the academy, but Han doesn’t say that he knows Lorn quite well. Han tells her that they’re headed for the Swamps of Kodos, on the planet Kansaw, which suits Qi’ra just fine. She’s got no interest in marrying that lout Lugo Tice, no matter if his daddy is Sheriff of the whole system. Han’s eyes grow wide — this is some dangerous cargo he’s just picked up!

Meanwhile, Lorn Faloon has learned of his cousin’s disappearance, and the implications it may have for his family’s spice trade. Without the ties to Sheriff Tice, they would have to pay horrific tariffs that would destroy their profit margins, leaving the Atreides and the Kessels in charge of the universe’s spice. He heads off in his Raptor X. Sheriff Hugo G. Tice isn’t taking this laying down either, scooping up his now one armed Deputy Remvo and his son Lugo, piling them into his Police Interceptor, and speeding off after the Falcon, determined to get Qi’ra back.

The Raptor has a better hyperdrive than the Falcon, so in the middle of hyperspace, the Falcon’s proximity alarms begin to ring, and Han gets the shields up just in time to avoid being blown out of space by a photon torpedo. “Where are your fancy tricks now, Solo?” Lorn taunts over the space channel.

We cut back and forth between the present and the past, with Han as a young academy recruit, saying he wants to make a difference, and be the best pilot in the galaxy, and then sparring with Lorn in the test ship simulators, and then smash cut back to the present as they dog fight, IN HYPERSPACE, jockeying for position back and forth, trying to lock one another missiles on one another. Switches are flipped, dials turned, back and forth between laser bolts flying then freezing in mid-air because they’re moving faster than the speed of light, and suddenly, Han lets loose the Falcon’s garbage, which crashes into the Raptor at light speed, dropping Lorn out of Hyperspace, and disabling his ship, leaving his floating alone and disfigured…

They arrive at the planet Kansaw, only to meet a Star Destroyer, which begins to loose a bunch of TIE fighters, led by Sheriff Tice. “Thought you could get away, did ya boy?” he shouts over the comlink, his southern quadrant accent making him sound simultaneously threatening and ridiculous. More space combat here, only this time, with Chewie piloting, and Han and Qi’ra on the guns like in New Hope. “It could be worse…” Han says to himself.

Still outmatched by the sheer number of TIE fighters, Chewie begins to guide the ship down towards the cloudy planet, looking for some place to hide, only to discover that it is covered in gigantic tentacles. “It’s worse!” They deftly avoid the tentacles, while one wraps itself around the star destroyer and smashes it to pieces.

The Falcon lands, barely, at the epicenter of the tenticular mass, where his sister Gretel is inside an oven-like contraption, and the dread witch Dortchen Yaga is about to finish her spell. What begins is a massive four way battle between Dortchen and Han, Chewie, and Qi’ra, their blasters proving meaningless against the power of the Force, and one by one, Chewie and Qi’ra end up imprisoned alongside Gretel. Han is barely holding on, when a strange calm comes over him. He looks at the Falcon, which seems to look back at him, and he remembers his hand to hand training back at the academy, his instructor Arden Lyn telling him to clear his mind and become one with the environment. The Force is powerless against someone who has the will and the way. A Master of Teräs Käsi is unstoppable. Han touches the outside of the Falcon, and the two merge, becoming a gigantic armored robot combination of man and ship. The Solenium Halcon proceeds to use its massive strength and technique to karate chop through the tentacles that protect Dortchen from his attacks, and then he seizes her ala King Kong, her powers proving useless, and he tosses her upwards, into the sun. Careful viewers will see a little “blip” on the surface a scene later, to confirm that she did, in fact, burn up upon entry.

Han de-transforms, and looks out of breath and ragged. “Phew, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that again, even if I wanted to!” The Falcon, meanwhile, has transformed from pristine to dirty looking, having gotten all mucked up in the fighting. “Grrrragh!” says Chewie. “Yes, maybe someday we’ll be able to afford to have her cleaned!” replies Han.

Everyone is safe, and Qi’ra decides to take Dortchen’s ship as her own, to strike off and figure out life without living under her family’s thumb. She wears a red cape, and reprograms Dortchen’s droid to serve as her sidekick. “Think we’ll ever see you again?” Han asks. “Who knows?” she replies, and then proceeds back up the stairs into her ship. “Oh,” she says, looking over her shoulder. “I left a little surprise for you in the cargo hold. Hope you like it.”

Inside the hold are a ton of crates filled with Spice, enough to set Han and Chewie and Gretel up for life. “Oh, this is hot stuff, and no tariff stamps! I didn’t think you could get this brand on this side of the galaxy! Who do we know that might be interested?” “Grr grogh grrrowww arrghl” says Chewie. “Jabba the who?” replies Han. “Well, lets call him up and see if he’s interested. I just hope we don’t get boarded or have to dump it on the way there.”

Back up in the cock pit, Han asks “Is there anywhere we can drop you Gret?” Gretel replies “Sure, back to Kessel might be nice. I’ve got some scores to settle there. After we pick up my ship from Tattooine.” “Tattooine it is, then!” Han says, making the jump to hyperspace.

Cut to credits with 70s funk music, and a series of jokes and outtakes about Hugo trying to buy fuel from the Space Station attendant playing in screen on the left, while the credits play on the right.

Post credits: Title Card: Central Medical Center, Gand Prime. Lorn lies on a hospital bed, wired up to a chest plate and looking much worse for wear. The insect-like doctors work over him, fixing what they can, and replacing what they cannot. Finally, one in a white labcoat stands at his side, and says “We’ve done what we can for you, Mr. Lorn, but with the damage you’ve sustained, I’m not sure what you’ll be good for–”

“Yes!” he interrupts. “Lorn no longer.” He takes the face plate that was to be installed, and clicks it into place with a metal hand. “Yes, yes, Dr. Zuckuss, what am I good for? Combine the R and N, like your nurses here. I am now 4-LOM! Beware, Han Solo, beware!” he cackles with his robotically modulated voice as we cut to black.

Black Box

This is a flexible black box theatre stage:

They are one of the most common types of theatre, along with prosceniums, thrusts, and arenas. They are highly configurable, because all they are is a room painted black, and both the seating and set can be placed where ever one chooses.

Much black box theatre is performed with either minimalistic or no set, and minimal costuming. Everything from very traditional Shakespeare or Greek tragedy, to very modern experimental or absurd theatre can performed black box. The audience uses their imagination to fill in the blanks, and the show goes on.

The actors, meanwhile, get over themselves and do their damn jobs. They idea that you can’t act against a blue or green screen is patently false.

Even on a very built up and detailed set, there’s this thing called the Fourth Wall. It’s the one that the audience sees through into the action.

In a film or TV, this area is completely covered with cameras, crew, other actors, people’s girlfriends, craft services, runners with script changes…

In modern one camera filming, the cameras will often be directly in your face, over your shoulder, between your legs, kneeling in front of you shooting up your nose, or in a myriad of other very close positions.

There is never a moment in which you are not aware that you are acting.


Scrubs was filmed in an actual hospital, but even then, it was chockful of camera people and assistants and such. 

You get over it and do it anyways.

The idea that “Oh, if only they’d had more real sets!” is garbage.

You can even act with something that isn’t there. There’s an entire movie where Jimmy Stewart’s co-star never makes an appearance. It’s widely regarded as a classic.

Acting is a learned skill that takes time and effort, and not some magical gift granted by the gods.

A Sense of Wonder

A young man steps into the hanger, accompanied by the wizened old mentor who has told him of his mysterious past, and the two slaved that have brought a mysterious message that could save the world. The young man has just sold his speeder, a vehicle that he treasured, but that he acknowledges is no longer in demand since a newer model came out. The old man has assured him that it will be enough.

We see the star ship that they will fly in: it looks nothing like the traditional rockets we are used to in science fiction, nor the “space plane” that we see from real life space exploration. Even in contrast to the other ships we have seen thus far in this world, this one is unique: unlike the Tantive IV or the Devistator, this ship is flat, more like a pizza or a hamburger, with a cockpit stuck awkwardly onto the side, and a loading platform more like that of a cargo plane.

“What a piece of junk!” exclaims the young man.

There’s a moment in most Steven Spielberg movies where, upon seeing the object of wonder (the dinosaurs, the aliens, the bicycle flying), we cut back to the people watching react. We see the children’s faces in awe, the parents with mouths agape, the government agents shocked and in disbelief. The film tells us what reaction we should be having.

Yet, we are all taken in by Han Solo. Luke, who is shown to have a strong interest in spaceships, is planning on attending the Academy to become a pilot, is later in the film shown to be quite a competent pilot himself, says the Millennium Falcon is a junk ship. When Han tries to justify the condition by saying that he’s made a lot of “special modifications”, Obi-Wan simply rolls his eyes.

This isn’t the first time that Obi-Wan hasn’t been taken in either. Take the famous “Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs” exchange in the cantina. Much ink has been spilled to justify that a parsec is a measure of distance, not time, and therefore the Falcon must have a very efficient navigational computer, or Han is much better at piloting than others, so in a treacherous environment like the area around Kessel, he must be able to blah blah blah. Almost no one considers that he’s a smuggler and con man who is trying to talk up a potential client, and saying whatever comes into his head to impress them. It’s much like his later bullshitting about a reactor leak caused by a slight weapons malfunction and that he needs a few minutes to lock down. Large leak. Very dangerous.

Again, watch Obi-Wan’s reaction:

This is not a man taken in by fancy words. He knows Han is bullshitting him, but he doesn’t have much choice, as he’s in a time crunch and needs to leave right now. Better a thief than a stormtrooper.

Han then proceeds to kill a debt collector, shooting him under the table (not unjustifiably, as Han was being threatened), unlike Obi-Wan, who merely maimed the thug who was bothering Luke, and tried to deescalate the situation first.

But the idea that Han Solo is a good person, is introduced to us as a hero, is from the get go a role model? There’s little in the film to support this. He gets his money and runs, just like he said he would.

And this makes his return at the very end to save Luke, and therefore insure the destruction of the Death Star all the more heroic.

What’s in a Name?

Canon is pretty funny to discuss.

For example, what’s that lady in white’s name?

It’s Mon Mothma, obviously, and she’s about to tell us about how many bothans died to get the plans for the second Death Star.

But her name isn’t actually used in Return of the Jedi. It is mentioned once in Revenge of the Sith, and she’s in the Clone Wars cartoon, but those came out over 20 years later. We all learned it somewhere, through osmosis, through fan transmission, through the strange ways that we communicate knowledge to one another on the playground, on the internet, in the letter pages of fanzines…

But, during that interregnum, what counted as good enough evidence that her name was Mon Mothma? What counts as “canon”?

The ending credits, which aren’t a part of the narrative?

Jedi Credits

The shooting script, which isn’t part of the film at all?

jedi script

The novelization?

jedi novel

Trading cards?

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Action figures?

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Signed photos from the actress herself?

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I would submit that, rather than worrying if we have to accept that Art Carney is a member of the Rebel Alliance if we also want Chewbacca to have a family, it doesn’t actually matter where the information comes from, provided it makes for a better and more interesting story, and a more rewarding experience interacting with the film. Sometimes it’s trivia, sometimes it makes a big difference, and sometimes it’s meaningless.

More, of course, on this topic to come…