A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...
A New Hope
It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.
During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.
Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy....
In the mid-‘70s, George Lucas got the idea to make a classic space-opera, like the Buck Rogers serials of his youth, but infused with all the Campellian myths and eastern philosophies he was really getting into at the time.
As his script ballooned, he decided to split it into three parts and mainly shop the first part around to studios. 20th Century Fox ended up taking the gamble, even though they had little faith in it. The result? What was then known simply as 1977’s “Star Wars.” It was an explosion, a cultural phenomenon. Lives were changed. Filmmaking as we know it was altered forever.
And…if I have to be honest, this is my least favorite of the franchise.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie. I love it to death. I also don’t think there is such a thing as a “bad” Star Wars movie, and even then this isn’t the worst-made. I just get into it slightly less than the others.
I think my problem with this film is time. More than any of the others, this film really feels its age. The rest remain sort of timeless (for the most part, more on that later), but this one really feels like a ‘70s movie. A lot of it has to do with it being the first. It was so groundbreaking that the subsequent films had to top it to stay afloat, and in my opinion they succeeded far too well. Whenever I go back and watch this film, it always strikes me as very claustrophobic and very small-scaled, even with the SE additions. Also, I have to admit, seeing obviously British actors overdubbed with ridiculous American accents is almost too silly, even for me. Almost.
But those are just my nitpicks. Is there anything objectively wrong with the movie? Well, this movie does set a precedent for what I feel is the one true flaw in Lucas’ style: few things are really spelled out in the film proper. I mean, you can follow it okay, but the nuances needed to fully appreciate the story are left to ancillary texts to explain. Even the names of a lot of the characters are barely spoken on screen if at all. I think Tarkin’s name is mentioned all of once in the film and it’s spoken so fast you barely notice it. This is a problem that’s plagued the entire Saga and it started here.
Plus, I never noticed this before, but…were the Stormtroopers always this awkward? It seems like half the time they don’t really know how to walk.
But still, at the end of the day, there’s a reason why this broke barriers, and there’s a reason it became a cultural phenomenon. It’s a very good movie. The characters are great, the ham and cheese of the acting and dialogue are great. The John Williams score carries this picture. The designs are cool. The effects, the first of their kind, still age relatively well – for the most part. The opening shot of the blockade runner being chased by the Star Destroyer is rightfully a defining moment of cinema. Chewbacca and the droids look real, they don’t look like people in suits. Even the SE changes, while sometimes awkwardly integrated, do a good job at enriching the world. The Jabba scene is one of my favorite scenes of the film.
Also, for my money, who shoots first in a shootout isn’t as important as who walks away from it. Cool your jets.
So what made it so popular? I think it’s because it’s an immersive world with its own set of rules, and that really speaks to the target audience…which is to say 7-12-year-olds. Think about it, stuff like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Superheroes, even Pokémon – That’s the age range one typically starts obsessing about those things. Adults can appreciate the nods to their own childhoods, but it’s the 7-12 year olds (or those who remember what it was like) that really latch onto this stuff and delve into it.
This film is, in all senses of the word, a classic.
Luckily for George Lucas, the studio’s lack of faith in the project allowed him to keep merchandising rights, thus netting him tons of cash and allowing him to finish his story with minimal interference. Would Lucas be able to catch lightning in a bottle again? Well, meet me next week…
* “Commander, tear this ship apart until you’ve found those plans, and bring me the passengers – I want them alive!”
* “Don’t you call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight glob of grease!”
* “Don’t act so surprised, your highness, you weren’t on any mercy mission this time.”
* “Moppit! Moppit! Crust!” [this is what it sounds like, but wookiepedia’s list of Jawa-ese phrases don’t match this at all.]
* “Luke’s just not a farmer. He’s got too much of his father in him.” “That’s what I’m afraid of.”
* “Well of course I know him, he’s me!”
* “It’s the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.”
* “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The power to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.”
* “I find your lack of faith disturbing”
* “Mos Eisley Spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”
* “The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.”
* “I don’t like you either. You’d better watch yourself, we’re wanted men. I have the death sentence on twelve systems.”
* “Jabba, you’re a wonderful human being.”
* “Governor Tarkin. I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.”
* “You’re far too trusting. Dantooine is too remote for an effective demonstration. But don’t worry, we’ll deal with your rebel friends soon enough.”
* “I see your point sir. I suggest a new strategy, R2: let the Wookiee win.”
* “That’s no moon. It’s a space station…”
* “Who’s more foolish: the fool, or the fool who follows him?”
* “Ah…Had a slight weapons malfunction but..uhh…everything’s perfectly all right now. We’re fine. We’re all fine here…now…Thank you…how are you?”
* “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?”
* “Wonderful girl! Either I’m gonna kill her, or I’m beginning to like her!”
* “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”
* “Listen to them, they’re dying R2! Curse my metal body, I wasn’t fast enough. It’s all my fault! My poor master…”
* “You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
* “Evacuate? In our moment of triumph?! I think you overestimate their chances!”
* “Goin’ in full-throttle. That oughta keep those fighters off our back.”
* “You must repair him! Sir, if any of my circuits or gears will help I’ll gladly donate them!”
Biggest “What Do You Mean It’s For Kids?!” Moment:
The charred corpses of Owen and Beru Lars.
(on a scale of 1-6, where 1 is the best)
As a film: 4/6