Star Wars Snit | Letters | Chicago Reader

Star Wars Snit 

Dear Reader,

[Re: Movies, January 31]

Whenever Jonathan Rosenbaum writes a film review he seems to find it imperative that he reference at least one utterly obscure film as a kind of testament to his sagacious grasp of moviemaking history. "Wow, this guy must really know his stuff," we are supposed to mutter to ourselves. (I can usually hear the faint pat on the back as he extends his arm behind his shoulder in hearty self-congratulation.)

Yet in Rosenbaum's scathing review of Star Wars--arguably one of the most well-known movies in our culture--he can't even get his facts straight. As fodder for his condemnation, Rosenbaum cites that this new "Special Edition" has been "retooled" as "Episode IV: A New Hope," heralding the upcoming release of three prequels. Regardless of the film's worth (or lack of it), ol' Johnny is just plain wrong.

When Star Wars was first released, I remember sitting in the theater reading the rolling opening title sequence and suddenly coming across the words "Episode IV: A New Hope." I turned to my father anxiously and said, "Hey, did we miss the first three parts?" I couldn't understand how they were able to slip by without my knowing. I soon discovered that the three prequels and the three sequels (nine chapters in all) would come later. This was 20 years ago. There was no "retooling." This was the idea from the start.

Now one would think that a guy like Rosenbaum--who can probably tell you how many sub-par remakes of Yojimbo have been produced--would take the time to know at least the basic details of a film like Star Wars. It is a film which, after all, as Rosenbaum says himself, has seeped so deeply into our collective blood.

Apparently, however, Rosenbaum is too busy impressing us with obscure filmic lore to bother with such petty details.

Matthew Palm


Jonathan Rosenbaum replies:

When I first saw Star Wars on opening day in Los Angeles in 1977, the title "Episode IV: A New Hope" wasn't there. But even if my biased memory can't be trusted, a 20th Century-Fox spokesman recently verified that the title did not appear in the original version of Star Wars. It was added when the movie was rereleased in 1989.

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