By Tom Kapr
This month I’m looking at the best and worst that alien sci-fi cinema has to offer, beginning with my countdown of ten great scary movie aliens.
#7. Luke Skywalker: “I was born here, y’know.” Han Solo: “You’re gonna die here, y’know. Convenient.”
Yes, chances are, wander too far on the Skywalkers’ home desert-planet of Tatooine, and something will either try to kill you or, at the very least, capture you and sell you into slavery–to somebody that will likely end up trying to kill you.
Many of the horrible nasties to be found on Tatooine make appearances in the rousing opening scenes of Return of the Jedi, when Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2, and Lando Calrissian make their multi-phased attempt to rescue a carbonite-frozen Han Solo from the clutches of the evil gang-lord Jabba the Hutt. Jabba dumps Luke into the den of the rancor, a huge mass of claws and teeth that we’ve already seen munch on two unfortunate alien folks. (The rancor surely was nightmare fuel for many a young Star Wars fan–I know it wasn’t just me. Right?)
Not long after Luke kills the rancor (in an oddly sympathetic death scene complete with a dog-like whimper), Jabba attempts to throw him and his friends to the sarlacc, in whose belly they shall, as C-3PO translates from Jabba, “find a new definition of pain and suffering as [they] are slowly digested over a thousand years.” One would assume it would take a far shorter time than a thousand years for that digestion to actually kill you, but the idea alone was enough to scare… um, many a young Star Wars fan. Then to actually see some of the bad guys falling into the sarlacc’s gullet during our heroes’ glorious escape scene is enough to solidify that horror.
We can go back to the first Star Wars film as well, when Luke, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the droids had to contend with not only the profiteering Jawas and a cantina full of hard cases that would shoot you as soon as look at you, but also the terrifying Tusken Raiders–who are not an overly aggressive football team, as their name might suggest, but a race of savage “sand people” who look like something out of a post-apocalyptic nightmare. They are a warlike race who are known to raid farms and settlements.
(As if that were not enough, Darth Vader’s stormtroopers are on the prowl searching for the two droids, and resort to burning the Skywalker home while Luke is off contending with the sand people, reducing his unfortunate aunt and uncle to charred skeletons–another image for children to dwell on while lying awake at night.)
There are other vile creatures that live on Tatooine that are never seen in the films, like krayt dragons and womp rats, but let us not forget the horrors of Jabba himself. During the time period of the original trilogy, Jabba is the head of the Hutt gangster clan that rules Tatooine through violence, intimidation, and shady dealings with the Empire. He looks like a putrid slug, he sounds like a demon, and he uses that long disgusting tongue on Leia. Ick.
No wonder Luke was in such a hurry to join the rebellion.
Next on the countdown: “She says the jungle… it came alive and took him.”