Blast From The Past: Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope
Today we dig back into our “Blast From the Past” series with the highest grossing film of 1977 that ended up launching a worldwide franchise, Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope. The space saga was written and directed by George Lucas and ended up being the first in a trilogy. The film starred Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, and Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. It also featured Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, and David Prowse. The film also featured an original score from one of the greatest film composers of our time, John Williams.
The tale begins with what now has become the iconic opening scroll. In the text, it is revealed that the Rebel Alliance has had its first major victory against the evil Galactic Empire by retrieving the plans for their super weapon, the Death Star. Princess Leia (Fisher), a senator and rebel leader, is transporting the plans when her ship is captured by imperial forces led by Darth Vader (Prowse). Before she is apprehended, Leia hides the plans in a droid, R2-D2 (Baker). R2-D2 and his fellow droid companion, C-3PO (Daniels), flee to the surface of the nearby planet of Tatooine in an escape pod. The droids are picked up by Jawa traders and eventually sold to farmer Owen and his nephew, Luke Skywalker (Hamill). When Luke sees the message from Leia he is intrigued, but when R2 goes in search of the message’s intended recipient, Luke encounters the old hermit Ben Kenobi (Guinness) along with information about his past. When the imperial forces come looking for the droids, Luke decides to follow Kenobi in delivering the Death Star plans. This decision aligns them with Han Solo (Ford) and Chewbacca (Mayhew) and soon puts them in the crosshairs of the Galactic Empire.
Can I just begin by saying that I might be a little too excited to officially review this movie? This whole trilogy was a staple of my childhood, and it’s fun to view it with new eyes as I review it. I already enjoy a good sci-fi project, so naturally, I’m inclined to automatically love this huge, sweeping space epic. The greater universe it sets up at large is fascinating, and I love all of the individual droids, character, and alien species we discover just in the first film.
One cannot talk about A New Hope without talking about the impact it had on film. George Lucas fought hard to make this movie and even established Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) in 1975 in order to create the special effects the film required. They developed and used digital motion control photography to create these space sequences and in doing so changed the industry and dizzied moviegoers. My parents remember seeing the original in theaters, and even now, they talk about how it was unlike anything they had ever seen. People in theaters literally felt sick watching the immersive experience of x-wings flitting through the narrow pathways of the Death Star. It’s still an incredible thing to behold 40 years later.
However, the reason this film truly succeeds is the story. We all love a fight between good and evil, and A New Hope thoroughly delivers on that. The larger narrative set in place through the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire is fantastic, but it is also the individual stories that shine. You cannot help but identify with Luke as he longs to leave his home and embark on something new. Han Solo becomes a beloved scoundrel, but even he must decide what part he will play against an enemy like the Galactic Empire. Princess Leia must cope with loss and fight to escape and survive, and it her courage and pluck that still stand out to me after all of these years. All of their journeys revolve around getting these Death Star plans to the Rebel Alliance, and the movie sets the stakes high as they pursue this goal.
This movie is an all time favorite that I could easily ramble about for quite some time. I will say it has an even greater weight to it after the release of several novels and the recent addition of Rogue One in the Star Wars universe. Is it perfect? No, but it is one wonderful fantasy adventure. To this day, I still find Luke too whiny at moments, and I tend to cringe at the special effects added in the 1997 remastered edition. However, this is a timeless story and one that sets up an entire universe. It contains the timeless struggle of good versus evil, and it introduces such alluring concepts as the Jedi and the Force. It also does contain what I consider to be one of the greatest film scores of all time. It’s truly a movie for the ages and worth watching over and over again.