Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope is pinnacle of original sci-fi films
Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope is one of those rare films it’s impossible to exaggerate its significance to Hollywood and its impact on pop culture.
Not only did it revolutionize the sci-fi genre, launch Harrison Ford to superstardom, introduce the greatest movie villain ever and made ‘May the Force Be With You’ into a legendary quote, but it’s also one of the finest movies ever made.
The film is laid out the traditional hero’s journey played out in countless films before it, but the unique twist to the formula is what makes Star Wars so special.
One of the cooler aspects of the film is that the story hasn’t been waiting on the audience forcing them to catch up quickly. Director/Writer George Lucas puts viewers right in the middle of this ongoing intensifying conflict between the evil Empire and the heroically outmatched Rebel Alliance.
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), an idealistic teenager desperate to leave the desolate Tatooine farm run by his Uncle Owen (Phil Brown) and Aunt Beru (Sheelagh Fraser), who have little interest in seeing their nephew become a fighter pilot in the galactic conflict. Hamill is frequently overlooked compared to his co-stars, but he embodies the hopeful young adult who envisions a better life and desires to make a positive impact perfectly.
A pair of droids C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) soon forever change Luke’s destiny as they lead Luke to Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), a reclusive Jedi Knight summoned to aid Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). Leia has been captured by the Empire’s insidious enforcer Darth Vader (David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones). With his infamous breathing, towering frame and imposing all-black outfit, Vader cuts a mean presence.
Vader’s only matched by Grand Moff Tarkin (a tremendously arrogant Peter Cushing), the only Imperial agent with the authority to command Vader.
Obi-Wan convinces Luke to pursue his destiny and become a Jedi like his father, who was killed by Darth Vader when he betrayed and helped murder most of the Jedi.
After watching the entire saga, it’s fascinating reading into character expressions and reactions to names and news suggesting a much deeper meaning. Guinness is at his best in the scenes foreshadowing events that will eventually be revealed as the series plays out. Clearly, Lucas had some of it in mind, but it’s cool seeing how smoothly it all comes together.
With the aid of pilots Han Solo (Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), Luke is able to rescue Leia as Obi-Wan has a fateful encounter with Vader.
In no small part to Ford’s performance, Han becomes the template for every roguish best friend/mercenary character in sci-fi and action films since. It’s hard to find fault with the strategy as Han nearly steals the film from the moment he’s introduced.
Luke is a traditional heroic character and Star Wars would have been just fine focusing squarely on him, but it’s the addition of Han (and Chewie) that takes the film to that extra special level.
There’s some great small bits from the non-human characters that add to the fun of the film from Han being the only one who can understand Chewbacca’s howls to C3-PO’s responses to R2-D2’s sarcastic responses. The dynamic between the characters is one of the main reasons the series has endeared for so long and holds such a special place in the hearts of everyone who loves this saga.
Beyond the outstanding characters, nearly every scene shows the vastness of Lucas’ imagination. From the numerous creatures at the Mos Eisely Cantina, the impressive variety of ships from the timeless X-Wing design to the signature Millennium Falcon to technology like the Death Star and of course, the lightsaber.
With all the wondrous creations, none would resonate if the action didn’t deliver. From the Death Star escape shootouts to the space dogfight in the Death Star trenches in that intense finale, Star Wars boasts some of the best action scenes ever. That these fight sequences still hold up nearly 40 years later is all the more impressive.
John L. Williams’ revered theme is just as magnificently melodic hearing for the 50th time as it is the first time, which truly helps give the film a space opera feel.
Rating: 10 out of 10
New to Star Wars, but want to catch up on all the hype before Force Awakens? Buy Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope Steelbook [Blu-ray] from affiliate partner Amazon.com or buy Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI) [Blu-ray]
Check out some of the stories and movies that influenced Lucas in creating Star Wars:
The Hidden Fortress (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray + DVD]