RETRO REVIEW – ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’

The original episode in George Lucas' thrilling saga is still as thrilling today as it was in 1977!

Review by J.T. Johnson

ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: May 25, 1977
DIRECTOR: George Lucas
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Gilbert Taylor
WRITER: George Lucas
MUSIC: John Williams

Before I start this review and the reviews for the other two films in the original trilogy, I want to very briefly address the changes made to later editions of the films. As we all know, George Lucas loved tampering with his original classics. I’ll just go ahead and say that I don’t plan to stress too much about said changes.

Yes, there are some that I like and some that I don’t like. Ultimately, though, I just enjoy the films and I simply want to talk about films that have thrilled me since I was the young boy. Now, on with the review!

When “Star Wars” was released in 1977, it changed the way films were made and created a multimedia empire. It spawned several sequels, comic books, video games and original novels. Along with “Jaws” before it, the movie also defined the modern box-office blockbuster.

What surprised me most when I viewed the film again for the purposes of this review was just how much the film still sucks me in. I’ve seen “A New Hope” several times since I was introduced to the movie when I was six-years-old. Never once am I bored with the outcome. I still cheer on the Rebels and their fight against the evil Galactic Empire.

“Star Wars” drew from the mythologies of old to present us with a contemporary fantasy. A young boy named Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) realizes that he has a destiny beyond his humble beginnings. Soon, he encounters two droids, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), and they set him on his journey.

He encounters a wise old wizard named Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), the rogue Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and a princess named Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). Along the way, they must fight the forces of a dark wizard named Darth Vader (David Prowse). It’s an ageless story of heroes and villains but simply with an updated sci-fi twist.

Lucas was smart to update the legends, though. Leia, for example, is not just a helpless damsel in distress that needs to be rescued. She is a headstrong and confident female character and when her fellow heroes do come to her rescue, it is Leia that is quick to save them a time or two as well.

The performances all around are spot on. Hamill is perfect as the everyman character that the audience roots for and can relate to. Ford gives us a rather interesting character as Han starts off as a carefree smuggler who soon has to make a choice about whether he should leave with his reward or stick around to help out the good guys.

Fisher is a fantastic early example of strong female characters in films. Several other characters, from Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley in “Alien” to Uma Thurman’s Bride in “Kill Bill”, owe a debt of gratitude to this pioneering character.

Unfortunately, Guinness would go on to resent playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in later years. After all, he was a prestigious actor long before “Star Wars” and he hated that the audiences remembered him more for this one role than some of his other performances. While I do think that he deserves to be remembered for his other films, I must say that he gives it is all in this film and he plays the role of Luke’s mentor to perfection and he is the main reason that Obi-Wan is still one of my favorite Jedi Knights.

In the action department, the story is a race against time. The Empire’s deadly space station, the Death Star, is operational and it has the ability to destroy entire planets. It is also about to bring its deadly power down on the Rebel base on Yavin 5 and there is only a short amount of time for the Rebels to exploit a weakness that could stop the station.

There are several fantastic action sequences including shootouts on Tatooine and on the Death Star. Also, there are plenty of good space battles as well including the Millennium Falcon’s thrilling escape from the dreaded space station and the climactic space battle between Rebel and Imperial fighters. Yes, no matter what Lucas added in later editions, some of the effects have definitely aged but not nearly enough for the sequences to lose any of their impact.

I do believe there are better entries into the Star Wars saga, including “The Empire Strikes Back”, but this film has definitely earned its status as a genuine film classic. The Force is still strong with this first entry into the Star Wars saga!

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