A long time ago (about 30 years ago), in a galaxy not far away at all (our own), George Lucas dropped on the world a movie that would prove (if inflation is taken into account) to be the highest grossing film ever made and would go on to spawn 5 more films, a seemingly endless series of official novel tie-ins, a bunch of video games, and more licensed merchandise than I even want to begin to think about. That movie was, of course, Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. With just one movie, George Lucas would change not just the face of science fiction in film forever but the very nature of blockbuster films for all of eternity. The first outing isn’t necessarily as perfect as history wants it to be, and I think The Empire Strikes Back is definitely the far better film, but this film’s place in cinema history is locked and guaranteed like few others.
I wish I could say that I literally don’t know a single person who has never seen the Star Wars films but that’s not true anymore, literally as of this watching, because my roommate’s girlfriend walked into the living room while I was watching this and told me she had never seen Star Wars before. I had to pause the movie so I could pick my jaw up off the floor and let that information sink in before I continued watching it. So, if you’re like my roommate’s girlfriend and have never seen a Star Wars picture, here’s a basic plot synopsis. Young farmer Luke Skywalker gets mixed up in an intergalactic battle between the evil Empire, headed by Emperor Palpatine (not named or even mentioned in this film) and Darth Vader against the Rebellion, led by Princess Leia. Luke is introduced to the concept of the Force, a mystical energy that flows through all life in the universe and gives us our strength and power, by an old Jedi knight named Obi-Wan Kenobi. With this new found power and a rag tag group of comrades like Han Solo, a mercenary, and his Wookie Chewbacca, along with robots R2-D2 and C3PO, Luke sets off on a journey to rescue the galaxy from the Empire.
If you thought the effects in this movie would age fairly poorly for something that’s over 30 years old, you’d be wrong, and I really am incapable of comprehending why George Lucas feels the need to go back and ruin his old classics by inserting digital upgrades and new scenes and computer graphics that weren’t in the original and feel completely out of place and forced. His effects and his genius still look great now and he really should just leave his own movies alone. South Park had it right when they devoted an entire episode to skewering this particularly sad trend of his. A shout out must be given to John Williams who gives perhaps one of the most iconic scores in film history in this movie. A lot of his scores have gained an iconic status, and there’s definitely a reason for this. He is simply one of the most talented scorers in the history of cinema.
The movie is not perfect despite what some people like to claim. Mark Hamill is an absolutely atrocious actor. It has its fair share of pacing problems. The character development is pretty bone dry and a lot of the characters are, in this movie and it’s fixed with the other two, caricatures of archetypal figures in fiction. However, there are a lot of great things working for it too. Despite being the most copied and mimicked movie ever made, its story and plot still hold up as genuinely entertaining despite all of the dopplegangers out there. Alec Guinness is spectacular in his Oscar-nominated role as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Harrison Ford has never been cooler than when he’s Han Solo. C3PO and R2D2 are my favorite characters in the entire series despite the fact that R2D2 can literally only make indecipherable beeps and bloops. They just give the film the comic touch it definitely needs.
What is there left to say about Star Wars that hasn’t already been said. If these films (I’m referring to the original trilogy here, not the let’s just say less than fantastic new ones) weren’t as amazing as they truly are, the Star Wars franchise wouldn’t still be making more money in merchandise alone than whatever the biggest box office draw of the year makes in theaters. The Star Wars saga holds an absolutely special place in the hearts of countless people, and it’s really a shame that George Lucas hasn’t made a truly great film since The Empire Strikes Back. While A New Hope isn’t my favorite film in the series, it is still one of the finest science fiction epics ever made.
Final Score: A