Today Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker hits a screen (or, in all likelihood, multiple screens) near you today, some 42 years after Episode IV: A New Hope — or, as it was known at the time, plain ol’ Star Wars.
But the truth is, it may well have escaped your notice. Why? Is it because Star Wars no longer holds the cachet it once possessed? Not at all. Acquired by Disney in 2012, the franchise is just as powerful, at least financially. More tickets were sold for Rise of Skywalker in the first hour of availability than any other film ever, and it has so far outsold all previous Star Wars movies.
So, what’s the problem? Well, check out this set of beguiling — and yes, alright, kinda dumb — shots from Rolling Stone in 1983, promoting what was, at the time, the last Star Wars movie, Return of the Jedi.
The magazine’s editors surely figured that if the 27-year-old Carrie Fisher’s character Leia wore a gold bikini in the first third of the movie, then why not go all in and create a shoot at — where else? — the beach. They also managed to rope in Leia’s dad — aka Darth Vader — plus a Gamorrean Guard, and an Ewok. Oh, and a Beatbox (it was, after all, 1983).
The point here? The shoot worked because they were ridiculous, and they were ridiculous because in 1983, the characters meant something to us. We cared. We loved Princess Leia.
Yes, she was beautiful, but she was also tough, inspiring, witty, bossy, imperious and vulnerable. We knew Leia, and loved her and her flaws.
We loved Leia, and we feared Darth Vader. Genuinely. His name, his size, his voice, his breath, his helmet and, also, the sense that this embodiment of cold evil had another side. Vader was sinister, terrifying and fascinating.
A more unlikely scenario than this haunter of our nightmares cavorting with an Ewok in the sun, we could not imagine. Vader meant something to us. All the characters did.
These photos worked because they took the emotions we had about these characters, and played with them.
Fast forward to 2019. Would you get excited about seeing Rey and Kylo Ren on a beach?