Reviews: A New Hope

Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope

Star Wars is obviously one of the most influential and important science fiction films ever made. It takes classic fantasy archetypes and transplants them into a deep space setting. It was also essential in popularizing the concept of Used Future.

Story: A farmboy's guardians get killed, so he decides to follow his father's (a famous Jedi Knight) footsteps, lead by his father's Old Master. Meets a smuggler, rescues a princess, and joins the rebellion against The Empire.

Content: Lots of blasters and the offscreen deaths of millions of people.

The good:
  • An excellent overarching plot, with a variety of characters, who are all well developed.
  • Special Effects that are excellent for a movie released in the 70's. They still hold up 30 years later.
  • Highly entertaining action.
  • Darth Vader. One of the best villains ever devised.
  • Han Solo. Bad Ass. And played by Harrison Ford.
  • John Williams

The bad:
  • Luke can be...a bit of a whiner.
  • The lightsaber fight sort of pales in comparison to the ones in later movies.
  • Suffers from Seinfeld Is Unfunny, due to it's incredible influence on nearly everything that followed it.
  • Fan Dumb. With this many fans, some will inevitably be jerks.

Overall: An absolute classic of the genre. It helped define science fiction as we know it, so even if you don't like the movie itself, you should still watch it anyway, if only to better understand it's influence. Even years later, it is still one of the best sci-fi films ever.

It's Aged Beautifully but...

A New Hope (originally titled simply "Star Wars") is both a classic and a landmark film, changing the face of cinema since its arrival over thirty years ago. Even as someone who saw it for the first time in the 21st century, I can say that it holds up spectacularly well. In both the unaltered and special editions, the effects (especially the ships) are as convincing as ever. Here and there, one might note an occasional alien that stands out as fake, but it's never enough to take you out of the film. The story itself is the hero's journey down to its most distilled form with a hero, a princess, a rogue, an old master, a "dragon," and an Empire to be overthrown. It's a movie that can (and did!) appeal to an enormously broad swathe of the audience and continues to do so to this day.

This is also my least favorite of the Star Wars films. Not because of any inherent flaw in the film itself — no, it succeeds in exactly what it sets out to do — but because ANH lacks the emotional depth of the other films in the Saga and also feels like the least connected iteration, oddly enough. Luke, Han, and Leia are all fun characters and both Han and Luke have arcs (from selfish rogue to good guy and farmboy to hero respectively), but they're rather limited. Points of the film which could be emotional linchpins are glossed over — the death of Luke's Aunt and Uncle and Alderaan's destruction being the two most prominent. Neither of these events are referenced within the context of the film again (nor any other film, for that matter) and the characters show littler reaction to such horrors. Which is intentional, in many ways, so that the audience can move on with the fun and adventure, but it does reduce my investment in the film.

I would argue, though, that this film's greatest asset is its world building rather than the characters (which are rather bland until they're nicely fleshed out in the sequel). Instead, the original film was a transportive experience, bringing viewers to an ingenious, imaginary sandbox to play in. The plot itself is largely unimportant and, in the grand scheme of the Saga, the only things of importance that occur are bringing the main trio together, bringing Luke to the attention of the Emperor, and having Obi-Wan die.

It's a fairytale in space, not terribly deep, but few films have ever been so enrapturing.