Originally created 01/30/97

After 20 years `Star Wars' still as exciting, funny and thrilling



It was 20 years ago today that George Lucas brought his band to play. And now they're back.

"Star Wars," re-released on its 20th anniversary, is still as exciting, funny and thrilling as it was the first time around (the lousy dialogue is still there, too, and even it's kind of fun). It's hard to imagine that anyone doesn't know the story of how innocent Luke Skywalker, brave Princess Leia and cynical Han Solo join forces to battle the evil, bronchial Darth Vader. But, no matter how many times you've seen "Star Wars," there's still lots to enjoy:

1. Alec Guiness, as Obi-wan Kenobi (or, as they're currently claiming on the Internet, OB1 Kenobi). Is there another actor whose career has given us so much pleasure? "Great Expectations," "The Lavendar Hill Mob," "Kind Hearts and Coronets," "The Bridge on the River Kwai," "Lawrence of Arabia," "Dr. Zhivago," "A Passage to India," even his recent, clever cameo in "Mute Witness" - he is one of our wiliest and most modest performers, and he gives the "Star Wars" trilogy its soul. Warning Luke about a dangerous city, he says, "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy." Luke, like the rest of us, believes him.

2. John Williams' musical score. I saw "Star Wars" only once 20 years ago, but I dreaded having to listen to that over-played music again. I was nuts. Gorgeous, stirring and delicate when it needs to be, this is great movie music. Even if Williams did swipe it from composer Paul Hindemith.

3. The mid-'70s hair. Princess Leia's cinammon-roll hairdo, of course (and how long would her hair have to be to create that kind of volume?). But it's also fun to note that there are an awful lot of shag haircuts walking around in this galaxy far, far away.

4. The androids. The humans in "Star Wars" are a bit deficient in the sense of humor department, but the supposedly stiff, robotic androids - C3P0 and R2D2 - are hilarious. A warm, clever touch.

5. The new stuff. Purists may cry foul, but most of the new material simply adds texture to the background of scenes. One whole conversation is added: a chat between Han Solo and Jabba the Hut, who has been fitted into a scene originally shot in 1976. Star Warriors will instantly recognize the clever in-joke/mistake when Harrison Ford walks "through" Jabba's tail. Ford couldn't have stepped over the tail back in 1976 - it wasn't there.

6. The Friend-of-Luke curse. Watch for the way the movie introduces characters, allows them to get close to Luke Skywalker and then, once the bond is secure, kills them off.

7. The story. When it opened, "Star Wars" was touted as a breakthrough in special effects, but now that technicians have gone so far beyond "Star Wars" in creating miraculous but soulless images, we can see what "Star Wars" really is: a classic battle between good and evil, and a darn good story.