In 1983, Roger Ebert opened his Return of the Jedi review with the description of a moment “that helps explain the special magic of the Star Wars movies.”
Luke Skywalker is engaged in a ferocious battle in the dungeons beneath the throne room of the loathsome, Jabba the Hutt. His adversary is a slimy, gruesome, reptilian monster made of warts and teeth. Things are looking bad when suddenly the monster is crushed beneath a falling door. And then (here is the small moment) there’s a shot of the monster’s keeper, a muscle-bound jailer, who rushes forward in tears. He is brokenhearted at the destruction of his pet. Everybody loves somebody.
That moment isn’t one of the 100 listed in Ken Napzok’s new book Why We Love Star Wars, but the author would certainly agree with Ebert. “We seem to gravitate toward little moments just as much as the big themes,” he writes in a prologue.
Napzok, a Star Wars podcaster and all-around Fan of Note, has written a book that’s completely inessential and yet, for just about any fan, compulsively readable. What awesome little moment is he going to list next? Did he include your favorite? Did he catch anything you missed?
He doesn’t restrict himself to the original trilogy, or even to the movies: he also includes Star Wars TV shows, books, comics, and video games. Whether out of consideration or just for sanity’s sake, he does restrict himself to current canon — so, the original trilogy, the prequels, the Clone Wars TV show, and everything that’s come out since Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012.
(Napzok does concede that there are some great moments in the sidelined stories now known as Star Wars Legends, but “Palpatine’s three-eyed son Triclops, Luuke the clone, and Chewie being crushed by a moon are not among those moments.”)
The title is fair advertising: this is a book by a person who loves Star Wars, for people who love Star Wars. There are a few behind-the-scenes tidbits, but there’s much more detail about how the stories and characters connect to form grand arcs — or intersect to reveal telling details.
For Napzok, Luke’s snowspeeder gunner has a first and a last name (Dak Ralter, mentioned thrice). When Darth Vader remembers his former Padawan while landing on Ryloth in the “vastly underrated” novel Lords of the Sith, it’s a moment Napzok was waiting for because once you watch all of Clone Wars, you have to wonder if Vader ever thought of ol’ Ahsoka once he turned to the Dark Side.
Napzok even reminds readers that the planet has a special significance: Vader was with Ahsoka last time he visited Ryloth, in the first season of Clone Wars. While most of the moments will be familiar if you’re a fan of the franchise, Napzok’s attention to detail is bound to open your eyes to at least a few things you missed. For example, do you know when Wedge Antilles was promoted? It’s in the original trilogy. Do you know the name of the walker formation the First Order used to attack Crait, and what its significance is? You’d need to be familiar with the Last Jedi visual dictionary from DK to know that one…but don’t worry, Napzok will fill you in.
Fans who’ve delved into material beyond the movies will appreciate Napzok’s recognition of the rewards to be found in books like Claudia Gray’s star-crossed romance Lost Stars, and the New Hope 40th anniversary tribute anthology From a Certain Point of View. If you want to avoid spoilers, of course, you’ll have to skip a few entries drawn from comics you haven’t read or video games you haven’t played. (That said, I couldn’t resist reading about the Battlefront II Ewok Hunt.
Aficionados of any franchise could come up with a book like this, but there is something particularly apt about paying tribute to Star Wars in this way. George Lucas did exert himself to get the little moments right, even the ones you’d never think to single out for special recognition.
For example, in the Star Wars Archive book we learn that he decided to set up the little Empire Strikes Back insert where Luke says goodbye to his medical droid before heading out to lasso a walker. 2-1B tells Luke to take care, and the young hero cheerfully reciprocates. It’s a tiny moment, but it makes the Rebel base feel that much more real…and over the course of an ever-expanding saga, those little moments add up.