Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Hidden Fortress (1958)

George Lucas credited this film as a heavy influence on Star Wars.  The initial draft of the latter film was apparently more-or-less just "The Hidden Fortress in space", without Jedi or Sith or any of the now familiar motifs of the series.  Obviously things evolved over time, but one or two elements of the Kurosawa movie made it to the final version.  In particular, C3PO and R2D2 draw heavily on two of the central characters of this film: a pair of bickering peasants who are the first characters we meet and whom we follow until they stumble into the main plot.

One major difference however, is that whatever their foibles, Lucas's droids are basically decent sorts.  Sure, Threepio is rather querulous and prone to cowardice, but he'd never betray someone to the Empire, or try to cheat Artoo, both of which are things that his analogue in this film attempts.  The Artoo analogue is just as big a jerk, attempting much the same things.  In fact, both characters are completely reprehensible for most of the film; hitting their nadir when they draw straws to decide which of them will sexually assault a sleeping young woman.

Yeah.  That was about the time when I started actively hoping these point of view characters would die horribly before the film was over.

The "main plot" I mentioned involves a recently-completed war.  A general from the losing side is attempting to get his princess and a big pile of gold to friendly territory.  Since he can't carry all the look without help, he enlists the two farmers as colleagues.

Given the pair's subsequent, regular attempts to either abandon or betray him, they're pretty much the worst possible allies he could have chosen.  Of course, if this is emblematic of his usual recruiting skills, then it would explain why his army lost.

Anyway, various shenanigans happen in the attempted escape, and some of them are quite neat set-pieces, but I found it ever more difficult to care about them, since the two schmucks still hadn't got their comeuppance (spoiler: they never would).

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