Sunday, September 7, 2008

Lucas' Hidden Fortress?

Apparently, I missed out on the Star Wars Geek Pack that fully outlines George Lucas' links to Kurosawa. That's fine, and I'm not at all surprised that another acclaimed director (in his former years) that is close to my heart was influenced by the clear genius of Kurosawa films. In any case, I watched Hidden Fortress the other night, which is the Kurosawa film which supposedly provided the seeds of inspiration for Star Wars: A New Hope. Here's what I have to say about it, which may or may not be the same things that Star Wars fanatics have been saying for years.

The connection between the two bumbling idiots of Hidden Fortress and C-3P0 and R2-D2 is undeniable, both in terms of perspective and in terms of the somewhat slap-stick humor the bring to their respective films. But Tahei and Matakishi do not serve so much as sidekicks to Rokurota as consistent pests to be exploited. Their greed drives them more than their altruism, whereas the droids of Star Wars fame demonstrate a degree of loyalty and selflessness which in the end is endearing. 

Then of course, the Princess Yuki character has obvious connections to Princess Leia. Although the characters are quite different, they share a strength and bravery that is likely not coincidental. And the whole idea of a protagonist serving as guide and bodyguard to a "rebel" princess leader is clearly inspired by this Kurosawa piece.

Aside for these similarities, which are the most obvious, I would say that Lucas definitely took a few cues from Kurosawa's use of misdirection in this film, and probably a few others of his. The Jedi mind trick could very well have been the result of a long, introspective brainstorming session of Georgie's after watching Rokurota distract the border patrol to allow for safe passage of a wagon carrying the Akisuki clan's fortune. At least, that's how I see it. Of course, one could argue that the whole concept of misdirection is something that was not novel to the Kurosawa film. But, I think it is the way in which it is used that is very reminiscent of its use in Star Wars. I couldn't help but think about Obi-Wan Kenobi tricking the storm troopers on the Death Star when I watched this scene in Hidden Fortress. 

I'm always taken aback by the timelessness of the Kurosawa stories. The fact that many of his ideas have been retold and retold again in forms that are different, but fundamentally the same, is really just incredible. Think about it. Lucas. Leone. Tarantino. Star Wars. A Fist Full of Dollars. Kill Bill. Incredible.

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