5 Weird Things You Notice Watching ‘Star Wars,’ Minute By Minute
While there's certainly no shortage of opinions about Star Wars floating around the internet, one podcast about that galaxy far, far, away boasts a distinctly unique approach. Each week on Star Wars Minute, affable hosts Alex Robinson and Pete The Retailer dissect sixty seconds of the Star Wars franchise at a time, in an episode that lasts considerably longer than a minute. They began with A New Hope back in 2013 and now they're smack in the middle of the Disney era about to tackle all 152 minutes of The Last Jedi after finishing up Rogue One earlier this year.
The micro-approach to film analysis works especially well with a franchise in which even the most fleeting background details have their own surprisingly thorough Wookieepedia page (the drunken walrus dude who hassles Luke in the Mos Eisley Cantina, for example, boasts an epic backstory that includes an honest-to-goodness brain-swapping machine). And since so much of today's Star Wars discourse has devolved into hyperbolic toxic crankiness, breaking down the movies into Fun Size chunks is a refreshingly pleasant way to unpack these familiar stories.
Of course, this is also a completely insane way to watch your favorite films. We recently spoke with Pete and Alex about some of the weird ways this project has changed their view of Star Wars, such as how ...
Maybe The Force Doesn't Actually Exist
When watching the original Star Wars, it's clear that The Force wasn't yet the crazy superpower it eventually became. George Lucas once likened it to yoga because "everybody can do it." And it makes way more sense that Han Solo would casually dismiss someone's spiritual practice rather than a relatively-recent government-sanctioned telekinetic wizard army. According to Pete, he always preferred the Force as more "of an internal/spiritual thing" rather than "a high sorcery thing" where you can "throw spaceships around."
In A New Hope there's no levitating, power-jumping or astral projection. In fact, there's really nothing that couldn't be explained away by the power of suggestion. The first time we see Obi-Wan use the Force, he basically just hypnotizes a random stranger not unlike a Vegas casino act; a power that may even exist in real-life.
Similarly Vader's Force-choking routine could be chalked up to the same sort of Kreskin-esque mind-games. And there aren't any Force ghosts in the first movie, just Luke briefly hearing the disembodied voice of Obi-Wan, which could simply be due to Tatooine's lack of accessible CAT scan machines.
So really, could it be that there's no such thing as The Force? Is it some kind of outer space mass delusion, or hoax? That tongue-in-cheek line of questioning continued into the sequels, but required "leaps of logic" in order to stick to their working theory -- including discussions of powerful magnets and the possibility that Palpatine wore a hidden generator with "lightning shooters."
Another hypothesis conceded that, while the Force may in fact exist, perhaps Luke couldn't actually control it, and all of his magical powers were secretly the handiwork of ghost Obi-Wan's interference; guiding Luke's X-Wing and invisibly tossing him lightsabers -- which Alex admits is "a sitcom premise ... like Bewitched basically."
Luke's Plan To Rescue Han Solo Makes No Goddamn Sense
At the beginning of Return of the Jedi, Han Solo is still frozen in carbonite, hanging on the wall of Jabba's filthy drug den in lieu of a tattered Phish poster. Luke Skywalker, of course, triumphantly comes to the rescue. And we all just accepted that his plan made sense. And we were all fools.
It's not unlike "church," Pete says of the original trilogy "stuff we were indoctrinated with when we were young, that we don't even think about the meaning." But in watching the scene minute by minute, it became clear that Luke came up with a "terrible plan." According to Alex: "I hadn't even thought of how dumb the plan was until I was forced to come up with something to talk about."
For starters, Luke's cunning strategy involves sending several others to Jabba's Palace before he bothers to show up himself; he dispatches R2-D2 and C-3PO but doesn't tell them he's offering them up as gifts. Then Leia shows up as a bounty hunter with the voice of a prepubescent Tom Waits only to be promptly captured -- and, really, if your plan involves letting your sister get turned into a giant slug monster's scantily-clad slave, maybe you should burn that plan, bury it in the woods, and never tell another living soul about it.
Most insanely, this convoluted scheme is predicated on Lando getting a job as one of Jabba's skiff guards (for which the former gas mine entrepreneur was vastly overqualified). And even when Luke shows up, he immediately falls through a trap door and is almost eaten by a beady-eyed monster. Later we learn that R2-D2 is secretly housing Luke's lightsaber, allowing him to take down Jabba's sail barge -- but what if Jabba had scrapped R2? Or not put him on bartending duty that day?
It's as though this part of the script were written by a coked-up improv troupe who skipped down after the first draft. Pete mentions that even when reading the Return of the Jedi Storybook, his three-year-old had "questions" about what the hell was going on here. We are what they grow beyond.
What If Obi-Wan is Just a Big Fat Liar?
Before the prequels, we never really get any evidence that Luke and Leia are actually siblings. Yoda mentions there's "another Skywalker" but doesn't go into detail. When Obi-Wan mentions that this mysterious twin has been kept "safely anonymous" Luke just kind of blurts out that it's Leia and Obi-Wan doesn't correct him -- perhaps because he still wants to keep the real twin (who the show dubbed "Marie Skywalker") safe and anonymous.
While Vader being Luke's father is inarguably a great twist, the Leia reveal represents the series' first step into the larger world of familial connections that would make the galaxy feel like an in-bred suburb rather than an expansive universe. The reveal "does more damage to the franchise than a lot of the other stuff people point at from the prequels or the Disney films," says Pete.
So "Marie Skywalker" is really their "curmudgeonly preferences manifesting as a fan-theory." If Obi-Wan didn't outright confirm Luke's guess, there was "wiggle room" for interpretation in the pre-prequel days. A far darker theory speculates that Obi-Wan was really the one who slaughtered the Jawas at the beginning of A New Hope. And he may have even murdered Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, then blamed it on the Empire. Why? It was all to ensure that the otherwise reluctant Luke would leave his home and train as a Jedi with the "desert hobo he just met an hour ago."
The Podrace in The Phantom Menace Is Shockingly Long
Initially the Star Wars Minute guys thought that the show would just be "something we'd do with our friends for a little bit" spanning three movies-worth of content, but the podcast's burgeoning popularity inevitably compelled them to tackle the much-crapped-upon prequel trilogy. By far the toughest part of covering The Phantom Menace was the podrace sequence. While similar action scenes such as the Speeder bike chase in Return of the Jedi only lasted for a few minutes, the podrace required fifteen goddamn episodes. If it seemed long to you as an audience member in 1999, imagine trying to generate two weeks-worth of conversations about alien drag racers like Sebulba, Cy Yunga, and Ben Quadrinaros, the sad sack alien who easily ranks among the franchise's least-popular Bens.
Of course this wasn't the only unnecessarily overlong prequel scene that drove the hosts to the brink of madness, lest we forget the brain-numbing horrors of the droid factory sequence from Attack of the Clones.
It's incredibly hard to judge the length of certain scenes before going through them minute by minute. Conversely, other arguably unsuccessful scenes, like the Rathtar escape in The Force Awakens, seemed "interminably long" but ended up being only two or three minutes -- sparing them from weeks of discussing an aged Harrison Ford limping away from giant CGI Madballs.
Somehow All Of This Hasn't Ruined Star Wars
You'd think that after more than 1,000 episodes, these guys would feel about Star Wars the way a meatpacker does about hunks of raw beef, or an Ikea employee does about flimsy wooden desks that have unpronounceable names. But amazingly this experience hasn't proton torpedoed their enthusiasm for the franchise. In some ways it's actually increased their enjoyment of some of the series' more terrible moments, which they now associate with the fun they had on the show, kind of like what "memes did for Revenge of the Sith."
Analyzing and scrutinizing the movies to such a degree "helps lift the lows" but it also admittedly sometimes "sands a little off the highs." And, amazingly, Pete claims that he has a newfound admiration for The Phantom Menace which is "nowhere near as bad as people think" -- although he admits that he's also a fan of the famously terrible (yet actually pretty good) Ishtar.
And while they still have Solo and The Rise of Skywalker to tackle after The Last Jedi, with the cinematic future of Star Wars somewhat up in the air, the show may have to take a "forced break" prompting the hosts to wonder: "what will become of Star Wars Minute?" But with the announcement of a Rogue Squadron movie and more TV spin-offs than Law & Order andCSI combined, these guys are probably fated to talk about Star Wars from now until the end of time itself -- or until Disney decides that the franchise is no longer lucrative and focuses on fleshing out Lucasfilm's Radioland Murders cinematic universe instead.
Top Image: Lucasfilm