And now, one from the archives. This is a vintage 2008 post that I wrote for The Film Frontier pop culture blog, long before The Mystery Train Elvis blog first rolled out of the station.
“I’m the only human who can do it.”
–Anakin Skywalker (on podracing), Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace
Could Elvis have been a Jedi Master? We may never know, but he sure raced like one. When I first saw Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace back in 1999, I remember thinking that the podracing sequence on the planet Tatooine seemed a little familiar. At the time, there were rumors that it was based on the chariot race in Ben-Hur, so I chalked it up to that.
I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure out why the race seemed so familiar. It didn’t hit me until I was watching Viva Las Vegas one day. Though some of these connections are admittedly a stretch, several of the similarities between the two races are quite striking.
In Viva Las Vegas, Elvis stars as Lucky Jackson, a down-on-his-luck racecar driver who enters the Las Vegas Grand Prix race. The event takes place in the Nevada desert. Much of the Las Vegas economy is based on gambling.
In Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace, Jake Lloyd appears as Anakin Skywalker, a young slave who enters the Boonta Eve Classic podrace. The event takes place in the Tatooine desert. Much of the Tatooine economy is based on gambling.
The beautiful Ann-Margret appears as Elvis’ co-star and love interest, Rusty Martin.
The beautiful Natalie Portman co-stars as Anakin’s eventual love interest, Padmé Amidala. I say “eventual” because Anakin is only nine-years-old in Episode I. The real romance for them doesn’t start until Episode II.
As a variety of cars take their places on the starting grid, Elvis is a late entry.
As a variety of podracers take their places on the starting grid, Anakin is a late entry.
Elvis’ main rival, who is favored to win the race, drives a red-orange racecar.
Anakin’s main rival, who is favored to win the podrace, pilots an orange-red podracer.
Elvis’ supporters take a helicopter to watch the race from the air above the desert.
Anakin’s supporters take a viewing platform to watch the podrace from the air above the desert.
In his silver and blue racecar, Elvis concentrates as the race across the desert begins.
In his silver and blue podracer, Anakin concentrates as the race across the desert begins.
Elvis tries to catch up to the leader.
Anakin tries to catch up to the leader.
Elvis checks to the right, wearing a lightning bolt on his helmet. (This actually looks a lot like the TCB lightning bolt that Elvis would later use as a personal emblem.)
Anakin checks to the right, while a lightning bolt helps power his podracer.
Elvis’ supporters watch the race with mounting dread.
Anakin’s supporters watch the podrace with mounting dread.
Elvis finally begins to close in on the leader.
Anakin finally begins to close in on the leader.
Elvis pulls alongside the leader, who has a much bigger racecar than he does.
Anakin pulls alongside the leader, who has a much bigger podracer than he does.
Elvis’ supporters can’t watch, for they fear he will crash out of the race.
Anakin’s supporters can’t watch, for they fear he will crash out of the podrace.
Elvis’ rival crashes and the rest of the field passes by.
Anakin’s rival crashes and the rest of the field passes by.
Elvis’ supporters celebrate as he takes the lead.
Anakin’s supporters celebrate as he takes the lead.
Elvis wins the race!
Anakin wins the race!
And Elvis gets the girl! (Lucky marries Rusty.)
It takes another ten years, but Anakin eventually gets the girl, too! Anakin (Hayden Christensen) marries Padmé in Episode II.
So, there you have it. Evidence that the Force was with Elvis Presley. As for Anakin Skywalker, sure, he may have been one of the most powerful Jedi ever, but could he belt out songs like “Viva Las Vegas” and “What’d I Say”? I don’t think so.
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