Margaret Atwood, author of dystopian classics The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake, is widely considered one of the world’s greatest living novelists. She is not, however, considered the world’s greatest movie critic.
That much became clear Tuesday after Atwood attempted to draw a connection between the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and … the plot of the original 1977 Star Wars?
As part of a Variety interview on The Handmaid’s Tale, now an award-winning Hulu show, Atwood recalled an operatic adaptation of the book in 2000 that showed eerily prescient scenes of the Twin Towers exploding.
“They didn’t get the idea from my opera, don’t worry,” Atwood added. “They got the idea from Star Wars.”
When the interviewer asked if she really believed that, Atwood doubled down with a description of a plot that … didn’t sound very much like Star Wars.
“Remember the first one?” she said. “Two guys fly a plane in the middle of something and blow that up? The only difference is, in Star Wars, they get away.”
Presumably Atwood is referring to the attack on the Death Star by Rebel pilots in single-person X-Wing fighters at the conclusion of the film. But the attack on the Death Star’s vulnerable spot— a small thermal exhaust port — doesn’t really track with her description.
Possibly, she’s confusing it with the similar ending to Return of the Jedi, in which “two guys” — General Lando Calrissian and the alien Nien Nunb — fly the Millennium Falcon into the middle of the incomplete (but fully operational) second Death Star.
Somehow we doubt that Al Qaeda’s 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed got the idea for the attack from either Star Wars or Return of the Jedi.
We’ve reached out to Atwood for further comment, but we doubt she intended her remark seriously. She has a tendency to joke around in interviews, even though her jokes are hardly ever this near the knuckle.
However, shorn of the 9/11 reference, the idea of the Death Star as a symbol of American power isn’t too far from what George Lucas intended.
When Lucas first sat down to write notes on the movie in 1973, the Empire was inspired by the technological might of the American military in Vietnam, and the Rebellion was inspired by the low-tech Viet Cong. It was a variation on an age-old tale: sometimes all you need to bring down a giant is a slingshot.
That may have been what Atwood was aiming at, even if her remarks were ineptly put. Will she be forgiven for drawing such a comparison, though? We have a bad feeling about this.