When I was a child watching Star Wars, this was the boring-est scene of the boring first act…sand, droids arguing, power converters, boring. The pinnacle of the boring was the scene in Obi-Wan’s hut, where R2 finally coughs up the Holographic message, and everyone sits around talking. My only enjoyment of this scene came as it ended because the following scenes were the slaughter of the Jawas and the terrifying image of the murdered Owen and Beru. The Imperials were closing in.
Twenty years go by.
In 1997, I had the opportunity to go back to the theatre and see these movies as they should be seen and on re-watching I found a new appreciation for many things I had overlooked, most of all was this scene – the greatest exposition in film history.
The scene opens with the end of Luke’s naive innocence as Obi-Wan reveals his link to Luke’s family, and his participation in the Clone Wars, “I was once a Jedi Knight the same as your father.” Only a few seconds in and already Luke’s whole world is revealed to be a carefully constructed deception. Obi-Wan then goes on to casually mention…
“I have something here for you. Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn’t allow it. He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damned-fool idealistic crusade like your father did.” This should prompt questions about the relationship between Owen, Anakin, and Obi-Wan but Luke is distracted repairing C-3PO so it slips by unremarked.
Ben hands Luke the Saber hilt, and Luke asks what it is. Ben continues, “Your fathers Lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster, an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” Luke ignites the blade and casually waves it around almost slicing off 3PO’s face. By now Sir Alec Guinness has hit his stride, and every word is lovingly enunciated, and delivered like Muhammad Ali’s precision punches directly to your brain. Listen to the way he says ‘Light-Saber’, you can practically hear him pronouncing the TM symbol, and I look forward to him saying “turned to Evil” every time I watch.
“For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire.” Ben Explains his version of Anakin’s downfall, and neatly describes The Force before Princess Leia arrives via VHS level hologram technology to further reveal Obi-Wans true nature, addressing him as General Kenobi – “Help me Obi -Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”
Incredibly Obi-Wan isn’t finished with Luke as he demands he learn to use the Force, abandon his commitments to his Uncle’s moisture farm, travel to Alderaan, and take up arms against the Galactic Empire in some sort of crazy two man revolution. Luke protests and Obi-Wan finishes the scene with some Mum level guilt “You must do what you feel is right of course”.
In this one scene George Lucas has laid out the history of the Galaxy up to now, who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, and why Luke (and the audience) should care. George handily sums up completely unknown concepts such as why the Jedi are special and the nature of The Force, and while we’re at it, almost in passing here is your destiny and your Excalibur, let’s get going.
I invite you to enjoy again, the greatest exposition in film history.