In researching Star Wars in Context I was time and again surprised to find that answers to many fairly obvious questions about the Star Wars franchise--even discussion of those questions--were awfully scarce on the web. Some of it was even nonexistent.
For example, "everyone" knows that George Lucas based Star Wars on Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress to a considerable degree. Indeed, in a typically shallow and pointless display of erudition, Ted Mosby even dropped this little factoid on Stella while sitting her down for her first viewing of the movie on How I Met Your Mother.
Yet, just how did one film inspire the other? And not less important, what are the significant differences? Actual discussion of the connections and parallels between one film and the other, even of the most superficial kind, is actually quite elusive for a Googler--and for anyone in general.
This was not a problem for me because I had plenty of my own to say about that; and anyway, to the extent that I was saying something others weren't, well, that said to me that writing the book wasn't so pointless as I'd feared.
All the same, why is this kind of thing so often the case?
Simply put, it's a lot easier to serve up generalizations than home in on the finer details, easier to offer impressions than analysis, easier to assert than to really explain--and while generalizations, impressions and assertions are not necessarily uninformative or unhelpful (some of them actually are informative and helpful), we could generally do with a whole lot more detail, analysis and explanation than we are getting in our online chatter.1
It probably doesn't help that the comparative few capable of doing better--who have the grasp of the history and technique of the medium they want to write about, who really know something about film and actually see films like Hidden Fortress (black and white, subtitles, etc.) so that they understand them and can communicate that understanding--rarely (not never, but rarely) write about films like Star Wars. And when they bother, they rarely take the same trouble that they do with more "serious" subjects.
And so a Mosby can get away with such a pointless display of erudition as dropping the name of Kurosawa's film--pointless because I'm not sure what significance this could have had for Stella in the scene, unless she was familiar with the other film, and it was some sort of cinematic touchstone for her, and we were never given reason to think that she was; and because making too much of the connection has doubtless confused the issue for many.
SFTV for the Younger Crowd: A Few Thoughts
Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress: Thoughts on my First Viewing
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Just Out . . . (Star Wars in Context, paperback edition)
Just Out: After the New Wave: Science Fiction Today
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My Posts on Star Wars
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