Stuff You Like: Star Wars: A New Hope

Look Ma, no puns! Instead we’ve got prequels, sequels, mythology, prophecy, and when it’s better Not To Know.

About Sursum Ursa

Ursa presents Stuff You Like, where fangirls + analysis + awesome examples of media = good times for all.


  1. TragicGuineaPig

    Birthday cakes also have layers. And parfaits. Parfaits have layers.

  2. This story was very interesting to me. It reminded me of when I wanted to be a writer in high school. I gave up because I realized that I was one of those exposition-dump writers.

  3. *This video was…

  4. GenrlContctUnit Arbitrary

    what do think about the new Sherlock clip the BBC just put out?

  5. I simply agree with everything.

  6. Jill Bearup is sold intelligent and funny also Beautiful too

  7. I can’t understand why people get so down on the Matrix Revolutions. I get that it’s one of those films that can’t be easily followed in a single sitting, but that also applies to Donie Dark and mos Kubrick films.

    • Because the Matrix sequels have none of the subtlety and all of the pretention. Nobody argues about the Jesus symbolism and allegory of the Allegory of the Cave in the first movie because little in the movies are hidden or hard to follow. On the other hand, programs in the Matrix being D&D monsters or spontaneously coming back from the dead as an ironic virus for the sake of martial arts fights that barely accomplish anything do point to them not being very well thought out.

      I personally don’t think Donnie Darko or Dark City are great or meaningful. But they don’t drone on about how 2deep4u they are while knocking over cookies or have $363 million for 403 minutes of total running time. Whether it’s the lore, the execution, or how hard it was marketed, there are a lot of reasons the Matrix sequels just make a much bigger, easier target.

      • Considering the main complaint I’ve always heard directed at the squeals is that they’re hard to follow I don’t see a possible argument for lack of subtlety. What I have seen is lengthy papers written to brake them down:

        I don’t even agree with all of his conclusions and that too is a sign of depth.
        As for pretension, so what? I’ve heard people call everything from 2001 and Captain Planet pretentious. In my experience it’s just shorthand for “I didn’t agree with/get the message”.

        While it’s true the first film was steeped in western tradition in the ways you stated and more, the squeals leaned more toward the East. Much of the Jesus stuff was jettisoned for the rest of the films, Jesus is easy movie short hand sure, but he wasn’t the only resurrected savior god, he wasn’t even the only one in first century Palestine. Neo and Smith are much more likely to be an allegory to Yin & Yang. Two parts of a whole, only being able to end the cycle by destroying each other.

        Not to say Western influence was gone, the largely European inspired “D&D monsters” were lead by a “Merovingian” hinting at the old world supernatural before you see it. Giving the supernatural a place among the machines is actually one of the major themes of the work. Plus it was one of the best action scenes in the movie.

        When you look under the hood the films were painstakingly thought out, though I will say the trilogy has plot problems, but only in the first film:

        1) Cypher’s gets in and out of the Matrix by himself even though his plan depends on exactly that being imposable.
        2) Why have a Matrix at all, why not use humans in a vegetative state?
        3) Humans are terribly inefficient generators/batteries.

        The first one probably could have been fixed with a scene showing Cypher rigging some tech up to get himself in and out or assistance from the agents, however 2 and 3 are more problematic. Given the vibe they were going for (Tech meets Faith) I suspect the original power source was not the body, but the soul. The machines messing with the other/ether would have defiantly raised the stakes as they were moving beyond the material(as shown in the Train Station scene) but it’s also a harder sell (it was after all one of your complaints, “D&D Monsters”).

        Even before the second one came out the Wachowski’s had stated they had to change quite a bit to appease the studio, considering how well everything fits together in the Reloaded and Revolutions maybe without so much interference those holes wouldn’t be there, though that might also mean it wouldn’t have done as well. One thing we can agree on is that when the Wachowski’s had full control they’re movies sold way less tickets. Of course the Bayformer films made several flatbed’s worth of green so that a rather poor indicator of quality.

        All that said Donie Dark, the director’s cut especial, is more deep, lots of films are and I love films that I can watch several times because there’s always new detail to find. The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions does all that and showcases amazing action; it’s easily my favorite film(s).

        • Being hard to follow isn’t necessarily a sign of subtlety. Juon’s jumping around and Cloverfield’s shaky came can make them hard to follow, but that does not make them subtle or intellectual movies. I don’t agree with some people’s interpretation of Game Grumps or the Star Wars prequels, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t make them deep entertainment. I know this is prejudging, but when a paper on the Matrix sequels begins with lines like “Everyone seemed to be missing the point” and “many people are still not getting it,” I don’t take that as a good sign. That elitist attitude played a big role in making the movies such huge targets.

          Also, I would say Captain Planet was pretentious. It got A-list celebrities for the voices to sound good, but turned complex environmental issues into nonsensical supervillains in a cheesy scripts. The theme of the show was technically good, but it was such a universally accepted stance and the execution was patronizing. Nobody actually disagreed with its message and thought, “No, we must ruin the planet no reason. I must create and spread toxic waste because that is what makes me happy, somehow!” Nobody “didn’t get” Captain Planet, but it had little to do with it being seen as a bad show.

          In the same way, people can “get” the Matrix movies with their Eastern and Prime Program lore and still see them as not-great. Because even if Neo humping Trinity rather than taking part in Zion’s rave orgy represents how he has lost most of his humanity outside his love for her, it doesn’t actually give the characters any more on-screen chemistry or add much to the plot. Referencing the Yin-Yang doesn’t really explain Agent Smith spontaneously being catapulted to such a world-changing role. However, Smith being the only memorable villain from the original movie creating deus ex machina to end the war against machines via kung fu fight can be seen as overly convenient storytelling.

          And yes, the original Matrix did have plot holes of its own. Supposedly, using humans as generators came about because the original script called for machines using human brains as a network of processors, but the tech illiterate studio heads didn’t understand what those were and made them change it to energy widgets. Those plot holes still weren’t given as much attention and fanfare as Neo being able to shut down machines outside the Matrix in a major cliffhanger with everything left unanswered. Their effects were central to the plot rather than tangential like a castle full of monsters that never comes up again. They weren’t as unnecessary as a cheesecake orgasm and did far more to move the characters and setting along. The dialog wasn’t as unintentionally funny as “Cookies need love like everything else,” or “You would know, MOM.” Along with the generally tighter pacing, most of us find the original’s plot holes easier to ignore as a result.

          It’s still great that you like those movies. Even panned films have great elements to them that get neglected, and the freeway chase scene was incredible. While I can’t agree with your viewpoint on their depth, I can appreciate your passion and civil defending of them.

          • Thank you, I always appreciate respect in a discussion like this.

            Your right of course, being hard to follow isn’t necessarily a positive, I first saw Reloaded with a friend who commented that the Architect was “talking in circles”. His dialog is hard to follow and I’d be lying if I said I got the whole of the film on the first go, but what he was saying was not only comprehensible to me, but the best (non-action) scene in the second film. It is a horrible moment for the heroes, the magnitude of what he reveals got my heart racing as much as any of the action scenes. It’s also a complex exchange that doesn’t feel the need to talk down to the audience, at a point when Neo trying to clarify things for us by offering up an easy answer (Oracle) the Architect verbally slaps it down with “Please”. That moment is telling the theater “We know your not stupid, we will let you think for your selves”.

            I often heard people complaint that the adverts for the first film (what is the matrix?) let people down, as that plot point is reviled quite early in the film, but the far more major twist, that of the Revolutions of the One comes at the end of the second film, the collapses of the prophesy and Neo’s abilities bleeding into the real world all warp what we thought we knew in a way that dwarfs the original mystery.

            I do usually hate the “you just don’t get it argument”, more often then is reasonable it’s just an ad hominem attack. On the other hand when someone’s laid out their possession and is provably wrong in several fundamental areas it’s not out of bounds to question their conclusions. The sad (and frustrating) thing is I have yet to see a review of these films that doesn’t make this critical error. Not disliking the films or having their own interpretation, that’s fine, but just getting something really basic wrong and several times. I just expect more from someone who professionally reviews films. This is also true of most of the people I’ve discuses the films with, including those that like it. So, hard to follow, oh yeah, but by design. It’s a feature not a flaw, one I’ll gladly take over narrative spoon feeding.

            Again I agree, Capt Planet is defiantly lacking in execution, but that was my point That both a highly flawed product and one considered a masterpiece can be lumped together by that word. A comment that is so broad that it could apply to nearly anything has little power and minimal meaning. The equivalent of saying “This X has a moral”.

            Yeah, I think the orgy scene went on too long, but the point of disconnect was an important one for later. Chemistry aside there was another point to that scene and it’s one that permeates the films. Trinity states it pretty clearly in the first one “The Matrix can not tell you who you are”. That’s quite the problem for them. Most of the characters were raised in the Matrix, what does it do to you to be forged by lies. Morpheus says their free, but all their free to do is be soldiers. That’s why the Link character is important (and why he’s called Link), he was not lied to by the Matrix has choice and agency.

            This was Cyphers beef and he wasn’t wrong. If you want to see what he could become, just look at the Merovingian, so obsessed with the lie, he spends all his time keeping it suspend, maintaining old programs, holding the keymaker to control movement and he wanted the eyes of the Oracle presumable so he can prevent changes before they happen. Yet he as manipulated as everyone else, nether the Oracle nor the Architect show real concern about him and despite all his power and influence, in the end his part is irreverent, Machines and Humans, Smith and Neo clash without him.

            Control is everything
            Neo has the potential to Control, but he doesn’t understand himself
            Smith has the potential to Control, but he doesn’t understand anything

            The Architect has control, but only haft the knowledge he needs
            The Orical has knowledge, but seems to lack the will to act.

            …and Morpheus thinks he’s in control, but his faith is a lie

            This is not a character piece, not primarily, because to some degree they are lies. The audience knows that they know. They Matrix can not tell you who you are, but for most of their lives it tried without interference. The films are about the world and the philosophy, which is riskier then a character piece. It can be hard to latch onto I have trouble thinking of any other film that pulled it off and clearly many think this one failed too.

            Smith representing Yang as the supernatural is only part of it, it’s the tech side that gives the two their connection. Neo, in an effort to destroy Smith completely (so that he could not jump bodies) rewrote his programming (represented by leaping into him). That succeeded, but it also further destabilized the already erratic(possibly malfunctioning from long term use) Agent. He explains that he knew he had to go to the Source (afterlife/rebirth), but was compelled not to. Neo did accidentally imprint one of his traits on him (likely in an attempt to brake his programming) defiance.

            That’s all he needs, he already has power, but the limit on how he can use it is falling away because his (was) programmed to obey the rules. I am a programmer myself and when I build enemy AI for a game I tend not to account for the possibility that it will go rogue and try to siege Google. I at least have the imagination to joke about that, the Architect shows no signs that he would.

            The copy/paste power is just him jumping bodies without leaving the old one, his Superman feats at the end is his ascension into full rebellion, he’s playing in god mode now. Heck the reason I love the last fight is because it plays into that powertrip. God mode is fun because it’s a power fantasy and Neo feeds into that. Realistically speaking the two could have fought to a draw until the Matrix fell. Neo had one advantage though, while they both had the Eyes of the Oracle, Neo understood how they worked. He used his foreknowledge to trick Smith into assimilating him, thus giving the machines an in to force them both into the Source (that white light). Far to few films end like that. They could have gone all Hollywood and have the humans win with technobabble or a macguffin or the more art house ending with everyone dying. Instead they went with the hard fought, but imperfect compromise. Peace, a peace that may not last, but that’s what makes it feel so real.

            Neo’s ability to work his One-ness outside the Matrix is actually pretty hotly debated, as was intended. The Wachowski’s are decidedly tight lipped on the films, the DVD actually features commentary by two philosophers braking down the films and several critics braking down the films, but no Wachowskis. The closest we get is a bit in the game “Path of Neo” right before the final boss were they brake down the metaphysical nature of the Super Burly Brawl(their term). There are lot’s of hypothesis most of them very complex, but for my money, the best answer is often the simplest.

            Neo can interact with the Source (his powers) anywhere, because the Source is everywhere. We know believe is his catalysts, remember the jump scene? The Source’s physical presence is that of omni wi-fi (communication, power, etc) and its nature ether. Once he begins to understand; the limitation he imposed on himself fall away.

            Neo: Who decided it I was ready to know?!
            Oracle: You know who.
            Neo: I did…

            “know thyself”

            The Eyes of the Oracle are especially profound because it is clairvoyance but only of others. “No one can see past a decision that they don’t understand” is not just a fortune cookie saying, it works as an out for paradoxes. Until you make the choice the future is in flux. The films give the hero near unlimited power, but make him work for it, struggle to understand at each step and once he does it’s very nearly too late. That’s one heck of a rollercoaster mental.

            …It’s also likely Neo is a Program in a human body.

            I obviously do like the effects work and the action, otherwise Lord of War would be bumped up to my favorite film. The making of films really brings home how overboard they went to make it look great. For example the motorcycle chase a 60mph in the wrong lane was achieved by having a woman ride a motorcycle 60mph in the wrong lane. They didn’t put anyone outside of filming in danger, they actually built a full highway set for the scene. You might be surprised how much of the effects were practical. Miniatures, costumes, machines, massive sets and waaaay to many guys made up to look like Hugo Weaving. From what I saw the only wholly CG thing was the living sentinels, and that may have been to add to the creep factor.

            It goes without saying the lot of great movies have plot holes that get ignored or disregarded, because they are great, but nearly as often flaws become more noticeable the closer you get to perfection. I tend to watch the films I love many times, most don’t hold up to that kind of scrutiny, but a rare few improve, the Matrix Reload and Revolutions without fail get better with each viewing.

          • The reason why pretentiousness is seen as bad thing is that a work cannot live up to the depth it claims to, hence it is only pretending. There are a lot of works out there that only pretend to be smart without going through the effort of showing it, because the claim is easy but the execution is what’s ridiculously hard. And while ambition is good, certain kinds of pretending get in the way of enjoyment.

            The upside of ambiguity is it can make the audience think and draw their own conclusions. The downside is it can be seen as an easy way out; not actually writing a great story but pretending that’s what happened. While the approach is rare in action movies, it happens so often in other genres (conflicts with 1-dimensional supervillains claiming to be things like “beyond good and evil,” said villains losing to a cheap deus ex machina but muttering “What is this power!? I do not understand…!” to make it sound deeper) that it’s still considered a tired cliche.

            Revolution’s ending was very ambiguous. Like you said, your interpretation is just one of many. The balancing of an equation, the fulfilling of a prophecy, the returning to the Source, giving the machine god a direct connection to Smith, imprinting humanity on machines, etc., etc. The mechanics of the Source, how it gets wi-fi, how the equation works, how Smith became such a crucial part of it, how foresight and choice affect each other, just which trick Neo pulled, which elements of him were passed on to what in the end, and other factors are left unclear. Anybody can argue any meaning from that setup.

            Everybody has a different threshold for suspending their disbelief, but for many viewers including myself, the Matrix sequels showed too many warning signs that they were pretending and not enough that they had thought things through. It was like a scattershot of concepts, most of which felt sidelined in the climax. Story aside, since one of the biggest draws for action scenes is making the audience understand the stakes and goals, the ambiguity had some unfortunate effects on the fight scenes, too. Whether some felt too distant from the main conflict or nobody was sure what the goal of the final battle was, they became hard to feel invested in beyond the visceral level. Even though they were pioneering ways to depict the kind of superhuman clash we’d only previously seen in games and animation.

            At the same time, there is no denying that the movies were ambitious. They incorporated elements we hadn’t seen in western blockbusters before. There was genuine effort behind the fight choreography a lot of us had never even thought about (my favorite parts were the making of’s, with masked Hugo Weavings goofing around). They aimed for story elements that had not been told on such a scale. There are undeniable successes in that movie. Whether or not they laughed at the overall picture, other creators do need to aim for similar heights. Especially when there are interpretations like yours that show how they might have succeeded.

            I’m honestly glad to hear you’re a creator. Whether or not I agree with your interpretation, it is still one of the more interesting ones I’ve heard. By fleshing out the concepts you believe in and bringing them to the forefront, you can potentially make them your own and show the world something new. By keeping your mind open to missteps of your heroes, you might even go further than even those giants. I’m sick of creators who only imitate success stories but love the ones who take a work I don’t like and show me, “No, you don’t get it. This was a GREAT idea and you were too distracted to notice.” The Mass Effect designers did that with one of my most hated movies ever, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and I nearly lost my shit.

            I don’t know what you program or just what level of involvement you have in such projects. But whatever it is you’re making, I salute you.

  8. What your saying, remind me of a comment I heard from a friend(different then the aforementioned one) “watching the Matrix Trilogy felt like being rewarded for being a massive nerd”. Basically that when you watch any type of media it requires something from you, even if it’s just a basic cultural understanding. Some one raised in Germany watching Der Himmel über Berlin, is going to have a difrent experince then some one whatching it in the Americas, and I don’t mean subtitles.

    When I brake it down I drew on my knowledge of Computer Science, Psychology, Philosophy, Religion and Anime to say nothing of my love of speculative fiction. Just as an example; Wi-Fi had existed for years before the first Matrix film, but it was no where near as ubiquitous as it is today. Lets be honesty you ether had to be working in the field or quite the nerd (yo) for it to even pop in your head while watching. It’s likely the Wachowski’s were going for bleeding edge Sci-fi as they took that approach in every other area (effects, camerawork, chronograph,etc), but that means it takes a certain knowledge set to pick up on stuff… well unless your Joss Weiden, that man is such a grand master he can make anyone enjoy a dense genera piece.

    As much as I’d like to think otherwise I don’t think there are many game designers out their who spent most of their life studying religion. The target audience may have been too narrow, but I can’t hate it for that, not when that’s why it feels like a love letter to nerds like me.

    As to my games, I’m an indie designer, 2D retro mainly. I’ll have a table at BrassmillCon if your gonging to be in Connecticut this later this month.

    • Brass City Comic Con? Unfortunately, I don’t go to events any more and Connecticut is a few hundred miles out of my range. This being the digital age and all, you could just plug your projects here. I think with the current flow of this conversation, it wouldn’t count as advertising or spam. Of course, if you want to keep your work and message board posts separate, I understand, too.

  9. Understandable, while every Con has it’s own vibe. I’ve been to more then a one that made me want to avoid them like the plague(and I’m not just talk about ConPlague). I do my best to only write what I would say to someone in person so moderator permitting I have no issue being the same person in both spaces:

    Edit: Nope, tried twice, but without posting an actual address my name is michel stango and my site is my name with the “dot com” after it.

    The site is under (re)construction, but the links to my games work. I’m revealing two new games at the Con. Normally I wouldn’t have two betas ready at the same time, but this is a sort of experiment for me.
    Two games that share the same universe, happening at the same time but little else in common. Different genera, different play styles and radically different player characters. Without giving to much away; it’s about a war from the prospective of a civilian and a soldier.

    • Interesting… It’s good you’re starting simple but have solid plans on how to expand. Some bugs aside, the current games provide a working foundation to build on top of. It’s a strong start and you’ve got a realistic outlook. As much as graphical flourishes and some catchy plot would add a lot, I’d say you’re doing good without rushing in too fast

      Judging by what I’ve seen, I’m looking forward to whatever Starcon of Zelda or Ducktalesvania these experiments are building up. Anything else I say is going to be so off topic, I think I’ll just email you.

  10. Ursa! When you mentioned Holly Lisle, I spontaneously grinned ear to ear. I did her writing courses as well, and they really helped me finish my novel. Fantastic writer, fantastic lady, love her no-bullshit approach to teaching. Kinda awesome to hear her name come up in your video 🙂 did you also do her courses? HTRYN or HTTS?

  11. MidnightScreeningsman2014

    I had to watch this for three reasons
    1. I wanted to know why you had to split the empire strikes back review into three parts
    2. I watched the videos you made on the first three star wars movies so why not this one
    3.I forgot

    But good video btw but now I’ll have to move onto the empire strikes back video (I’ll write a longer comment on that video hopefully)!!!

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