Sci-Fi · TV & Movies

Are Star Wars Characters Interesting?

Star Wars Cast

Today, during the Great Snow of 2014 here in the South, I rewatched the original Star Wars trilogy. I realized, much to my surprise, that I don’t have a favorite character.

Let me explain why I took special note of this. It’s not “They’re all so awesome I just can’t decide.” I do enjoy the movies, I want to be clear on that, I just don’t feel strongly enough about any one character to say he/she/it is my favorite. That’s odd for me. I have a compulsion to determine my favorite character in any of my fandoms. I wouldn’t say it’s something that usually takes a lot of effort, I’ve just always done it.

I saw Star Wars early on but never became a really big fan, and I’m partly inclined to pin it on this character thing. During my formative fandom years, when I was madly in love with Mr. Spock and would’ve sold my soul to travel with the Doctor and was emotionally invested in those shows at an astounding level, I just enjoyed watching the Star Wars trilogy as movies. I certainly didn’t want to live in the Galaxy Far Far Away, not only because it seemed kind of sucky for the average citizen, but because there wasn’t a particular person I wanted to meet. If I’d given any thought to being “in” Star Wars, I would’ve just felt adrift in this huge, cold, mostly-threatening galaxy.

Again, I like the movies. They’re fun on a casual level and rewarding on a deeper level at the same time. There’s enough analysis material to keep a person occupied for life. They have that marvelous “wacky tour of stunning space future” quality that I so enjoy in sci-fi. The characters work splendidly as an ensemble, and I can’t think of anyone I dislike in the original trilogy. It’s just really interesting to me that a favorite character never emerged, and I wonder why. This is obviously not the experience that most people had. I have many friends who are deeply invested in the fandom and feel strongly about the characters, and the level of commitment Star Wars people have to this fandom is legendary!

Maybe it’s because they’re a good ensemble, and I was more interested in their dynamics than in the characters themselves. Maybe Darth Vader was the most memorable personality in the movies, so him being scary overshadowed my vague attachments to the other characters. Maybe it’s just a matter of personal preference, and I was more attracted to other fandoms. Maybe it’s exposure; I had huge seasons of Star Trek and Doctor Who to watch, but just these three movies for Star Wars. Maybe it’s because they’re tropey characters in a grand epic storyline, maybe a little less individualized than they might be. Maybe it’s a script failure, and the characters I would’ve loved didn’t get enough attention — I liked Leia in this rewatch, but I was surprised how little screen time she really had. A lot of my friends love her and she’s always an example of kickass female characters in sci-fi, and I can see that now, but I had to be looking for it. (Here’s a list of awesome things about her from my friend Rose, all true, but in my opinion her potential still goes unrealized).

For what it’s worth, after this rewatch and a lot of thought in an attempt to figure it out, the position of favorite character is wavering somewhere between Darth Vader and C-3PO. Make of that what you will. I also realized that the trilogy bears some thematic similarities to my sci-fi book project, so maybe it influenced me more than I thought. (I’ve got two guys in a spaceship going to save a girl with whom they’re in a love triangle, although a skewed one… I’ve got quasi-magical forces permeating the galaxy that humans can learn to manipulate… I’ve got villains with planet-exploding satellites…)

At any rate, I often enjoy something much more when I understand why others enjoy it, the way I did with Leia. Tell me about your favorite Star Wars character in the comments, and especially tell me about why you like that person!

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26 thoughts on “Are Star Wars Characters Interesting?

  1. I think one reason why I was so influenced by just 3 movies had something to do with just HOW MUCH I watched it. Heh. I also spent endless hours talking about the movies with Jase, about what went on between the movies and before A New Hope. That’s part of the reason I didn’t like the prequels when they came out. We had this whole idea of how it happened and they didn’t live up to the grand story we’d made up in our heads.

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  2. I think you hit the mark when you said they’re better as an ensemble. Lucas even admits to casting them that way. While each character on their own is good, none of them are as good alone as they are with the rest of the group. They feed off one another. And within the larger ensemble you have smaller groups, like R2 and C-3P0 or Han and Chewie. The great moments of the films don’t happen to just one character, but to groups of them.

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  3. Reblogged this on Sourcerer and commented:
    – Yes, I think they are. What do you think? Hannah would like to know. (The comments thread is good, and the Facebook conversation referred to on the thread was also good.)

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  4. I’m sticking with Han, and it’s because he has to learn to be a good guy. He is very romantic, but not heroic in the early stages of the story.

    I am still thinking about R2D2, Though. One of these days I will do a proper reading of Star Wars and put R2 at the center of the reading.

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  5. I really like the original Star Wars trilogy, and Darth Vader was my favourite character. He was so menacing and evil, yet also a very tragic figure, and by the end of ROTJ he ultimately finds redemption by saving his son and killing the Emperor.

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  6. The things you’re mentioning here are valid points. Leia doesn’t get enough screen time and SW is not about a cult of personality centered around a single individual. Luke’s not a strong enough personality for that. The story is idea driven; the development of the chars is plot driven, and much of what happens is off-screen, so I think that’s why you have trouble. The story doesn’t quite know what it wants to be because it evolved a lot between the first and second movies. Lucas has been on record saying he didn’t know if he’d ever get to make the trilogy and there are lots of old script drafts floating around that show how much the story changed.

    We’re opposites as usual; I spend most of my time thinking about what’s happening off screen (entire imagined life histories for all the characters just SHOW UP in my brain based on tiny on-screen references) and “putting myself” in the story/world is secondary. I did mention that I wanted to marry Lando so I could hang out with Han and Leia. http://rosebfischer.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/confession-6-i-wanted-to-marry-lando-calrissian/

    The characters I like best in SW are the ones I see myself in.

    Obi-Wan, who lives a life dictated by his spiritual beliefs and integrity.
    Leia,who has strong convictions, believes in serving others, believes democracy is important, and is capable of doing whatever she wants.
    Han, who’s been through six kinds of hell and knows there’s a middle road between the empire and the rebellion, who knows what the galaxy is really like, and isn’t afraid to admit he’s a little selfish.
    oh, and…
    R2–Who I always thought of as a brave and loyal dog. Heh. Shah concurs.

    I love Vader, but I can’t list him as a favorite character because he’s an asshole. Nobody who blows up planets and tortures people gets on my favorite list.

    My biggest issue with SW is that the movies and books UTTERLY FAIL to develop Leia’s potential. The books turn her into an idiot completely out of step with the character she had in the films.

    SW fanfic seems to spend most of its time on Luke and Vader or the PT, unless it’s AU. I don’t know if you’d be interested in that.

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    1. Yeah, I think it’s the same with non-canon ships for me. I never used to do that. I never really saw things that weren’t on the screen. I do more now and I’ve got my fair share of non-canon ships and things that I wish had happened differently, but for most of them I’m still not “going down with the ship.” If it looks like the ship won’t ever happen, I’ll probably lose interest in shipping it, with a few exceptions.

      Now I’m more interested in characters as individuals and as stories than in picking the one I “like” the most or am crushing on, which is why Vader can be my favorite. He’s got a fascinating story. At the same time, the notable way my tastes have been changing is that my favorite character is now usually the one I’d most want to hang out with in real life. So, Sherlock is a very interesting character, but in real life I’d hate being in his company, whereas hanging out with Watson would be amazing. Hardison instead of Nate. I’m not sure there’s anyone on Star Wars I’d just really love to go to the pub with, although 3PO and I would get along famously… So I guess I’m developing a “two favorites at the same time” trend.

      I’m less interested in AUs and long fics, I know I won’t make it very far into them. I am interested in the major fanon and Word of God stuff though.

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      1. I’ve never really seen “on screen” as the only things “happening,” and Dune just cracked my brain wide open in terms of there being muliple “possible outcomes” that can happen simultaneously, so I don’t stop being interested in a relationship because it doesn’t look like it’s going to be consummated in the show or whatever.

        Vader makes the list of my favorite villains, and I do LOVE him, but “fascinating story” doesn’t trump “humongous ass.”

        I’d take off Threepio’s head in five minutes. He’d make me a nervous wreck.

        I’m not really cognizant of “fanon” that way in Star Wars, probably because there’s always been an EU, in some form, starting with the comics in the 70s-80s and then branching out into the books and the fans I’m aware of either accept the EU in the way that fanon develops in other fandoms or they stick to “movies only!” It may be there and I just don’t pay attention because I usually think in terms of multiple possibilities and fanon seems to pick one and assume it’s the only option.

        The only exceptions I’m aware of are things that were based on rumor and have been “canceled out” by the PT or based on speculation from the EU (like Owen Lars is/was widely accepted to have been Obi-Wan’s brother, and it seemed like the twins’ mother was often a non-Jedi type of light side Force Adept. I remember I used to hear a lot of speculation at one point that Mara Jade was Obi-Wan’s daughter, and “Jaina” seems to be fairly commonly accepted as the name of Han’s mother, although I don’t know where that idea came from. Jaina is the name of Han and Leia’s daughter in the novels.)

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  7. I always felt that the Movie characters were more archtypes then truly developed characters. They are fun and interesting to watch but there isn’t much depth. Any character growth is mostly plot driven. If it wasn’t for good performances and good on screen chemistry these characters would be flat and unremarkable. The books do a much better job of exploring the motivations and personalities. I’ve always enjoyed Han. He is your typical scoundrel with a heart of gold but Harrison Ford plays him with this resigned cynical and sarcastic smugness that is fun to watch.

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  8. I admit not being into either Star Trek or Doctor Who, so I can’t really compare much with those fandom. Star Wars was the first thing I ever saw on TV (well technically the Muppet Show episode with some of the SW cast) and Star Wars was what drove me to get into media studies and write in the first place. So these movies have been a driving force and one of the biggest inspirations for me, and still are.

    Leia has been one of my oldest role models (in terms of female characters) and I’ll ramble further this spring about it. Leia, Han Solo, Obi Wan Kenobi and Lando Calrissian are my favorite characters. There isn’t a character I actually dislike either, but those four are special to me. Vader used to scare me to no end and still is a villain I find iconic (and why I refuse to show the OT before the PT to my kids if one day i have any, otherwise I find that you miss a lot from SW).

    And now I feel like rewatching the movies, I just need to find the time!

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