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The camera pans down to reveal a large planet and its two moons. Suddenly, a tiny Rebel ship flies overhead, pursued, a few moments later, by an Imperial Star Destroyer—an impossibly large ship that nearly fills the frame as it goes on and on seemingly forever.
The effect is visceral and exhilarating. This is, of course, the opening of Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hopearguably one of the most famous opening shots in cinema history, and rightfully so.
Now compare this to the opening of Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace It opens with some boring pilot asking for permission to land on a ship that looks like a half-eaten donut, with a donut hole in the middle.
The problem, though, is that it may not be the fairest of comparisons. In Menace, a Republic space cruiser flies through space towards the planet Naboo, which is surrounded by Trade Federation Battleships.
The captain requests permission to board. On the viewscreen, an alien gives the okay. The space cruiser then flies towards a battleship and lands in a large docking bay. In the opening of Jedi, an Imperial Shuttle exits the main bay of a Star Destroyer and flies towards the Death Star, which looms over the forest moon of Endor.
The captain requests deactivation of the security shield in order to land aboard the Death Star. Inside the Death Star control room, a controller gives the captain clearance to proceed.
The shuttle then flies towards the Death Star and lands in a large docking bay. As you can see, there are some definite similarities between the two sequences. And they both consist of a similar series of shots. But, at the same time, there are some clear differences between the sequences.
Third, the screen direction is reversed. The Republic cruiser moves across the frame from left to right, the Imperial shuttle moves right to left. Even some of the camera angles are reversed in a way.
The cruiser enters the docking bay in a low-angle shot, the shuttle in a high-angle shot. From this standpoint, then, the two sequences seem almost like mirror images of each other. Now, the prequels are filled with frequent callbacks to the original films, to be sure, but this seems particularly odd.
Assuming it was intentional, why would the opening of Episode I reflect the opening of Episode VI and at such an incredible level of detail, no less? It comes off like a script written by an eight-year-old.
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Episode III—Revenge of the SithStoklasa does offer up two possible explanations for any and all of the similarities between the old films and the new films: Anne Lancashire, professor of Cinema Studies and Drama at the University of Toronto and whose seminal writings on Star Wars form the basis for much of this essayoffers a third, perhaps more thoughtful, possibility that might help shed some light on the matter.
Lucas himself alluded to this in an interview following the release of Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones Like Luke, Anakin accepts the opportunity and is flown through space with his mentor to face a test for Luke, the Death Star rescue of Leia; for Anakin, a literal test before the Jedi Council.
Details of the narrative also correspond from one film to the other: This is also both the plot pattern of each of [Star Wars: The integrating viewer can now perceive that Star Wars 1 through 6 will give us the same pattern arching over all six films, in relation to Anakin as hero: Overall, though, Lancashire sees the repetitions as playing a significant part in the design and purpose of the films.
Now, Lucas has spoken often about the use of repetition in Star Wars. He typically puts it in a musical context: Every stanza kind of rhymes with the last one.
Now, it should be fairly evident at this point that Menace and A New Hope are intricately woven together. But what about the other episodes?
And as mentioned elsewhere, this is clearly evidenced by comparing the final shots or almost final, in the case of Empire of each pair. So, if we were to examine the other two pairs of corresponding films, we would find that the episodes in each pair are related to each other in much the same way that Menace is related to A New Hope.
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