During the months of November and December, leading up to the release of The Rise of Skywalker and the end of the Skywalker Saga, I’ll be highlighting my favorite scene from each of the ten Star Wars movies.
This week, I’ll be tackling the movie initially called Star Wars, and subsequently called Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope.
As far as this “Favorite Scenes” series is concerned, I knew I’d eventually hit a bit of a roadblock.When I got to the Original Trilogy, I knew it’d be hard to pick one favorite scene per movie.
In my estimation, I think that the movies are generally of a higher quality than those that have come after it. They’re near-perfect. All three movies were something I watched so frequently as a child that its hard for me to think of one scene that I think drags or doesn’t belong. (After a few days’ consideration, I suppose that the early scenes with C3PO and R2D2 on Tatooine might go on for just a tad too long, but are still worthwhile.)
My point is that I feel familiar enough with all the scenes that it is hard for me to point to one and say, “Yes, this one is my favorite from A New Hope.” And for a brief while, I had difficulty coming up with a selection for this post. I had asked my friend and co-contributor Hugh (who just put together a list of his top 100 Saturday Night Live Sketches of the 2010’s) – he recommended the scene where our main three protagonists fall into the Death Star’s trash compactor.
“Why the trash compactor scene?” I asked him.
“I watched the movie when I was ten,” he explained, having seen it perhaps five or six years after I had, “When I first watched that scene, I had no clue what would happen next!” And I can totally see how that’d be exciting. It’s a neat detour from the main plot.
That being said, after careful consideration, I do think I have to go with Luke watching the Binary Sunset on Tatooine.
Also, this will be a recurring theme going forward; after The Last Jedi, with the completion of his story, Luke became my favorite Star Wars character, by far. Don’t be shocked when probably three of the remaining four posts in this series also focus on Luke. (As you might guess, the post that won’t be about Luke is the movie where he has approximately 60 seconds of screen time.)
Anytime a movie can convey a complex emotion outside of the standard ones, it’s worth admiring. What Luke is feeling goes well beyond the standard ones of joy, sadness, or anger. More than that, it goes far enough beyond words, it feels almost futile to explain what makes this scene. You just need to feel it.
But that’s the thing – who hasn’t felt what Luke is feeling here? The desire to be somewhere else. To travel beyond the horizon. To ride into the sunset(s). And this is perfectly captured by John Williams’ score.
And again, just like in Episode I, here we have storytelling that is strengthened by music. Does this scene still have meaning without the music? I would say that we do, but it is much more impressive with the music. Without, it’s just Mark Hamill emoting in the sunset. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad scene, but it certainly wouldn’t be a great scene.
Speaking of Mark Hamill as a performer – this scene enriches Luke’s last scene in Last Jedi, and is enriched because of that last scene. His final moments provide a visual mirror to the first moments we spend with him on Tatooine. I apologize if this irks people who didn’t like it, but this scene is definitely enriched by Luke’s last scene in The Last Jedi. The fact that his last moments involve looking into the binary sunset on Ahch-To is a very deliberate callback to this scene, puts a very nice bow on his story. I particularly like that it wasn’t established earlier in Last Jedi that Ahch-To has a binary sunset – is Luke really seeing two setting suns, or is his life flashing before his eyes? I think it’s worth wondering how much this scene in the first movie is later bolstered by The Last Jedi.
This is the beginning and end of Luke’s story, the best character arc in Star Wars. Without a doubt, it is certainly my favorite scene in this first movie.