In Preparation For: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
It's hard to believe that Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is just right around the corner! We have been waiting patiently (mostly) for so long, and it's finally here! So with this release, of course, comes my reviews for the original Star Wars trilogy. Let's forget about the other three. I hadn't seen these movies in a while, so I ordered my Blu-Ray copy and got all set to re-experience the magic of Star Wars. So here it is: my review for the original trilogy!
This is my review for Star Wars Episode VI: A New Hope. Keep in mind that there will be spoilers.
There is no denying this movie is a classic. It absolutely is. And it has changed movies forever. Jaws may have created the summer blockbuster, but Star Wars really made it what it is today. This was a true event film. And for generations today, it's a right-of-passage film. I remember when my dad sat me down to show me Star Wars for the first time. I don't remember watching the movie itself; all I remember is my dad telling me "Now, if you get scared by Darth Vader, just remember: it's the same guy who voiced Mufasa from The Lion King", referring of course to the legendary James Earl Jones. But when I recently put in the disc and sat down to re-watch this film, I was afraid that maybe my childhood memories had clouded the film a bit. Is it really as good as I and everyone else in the world remembers it to be, or is nostalgia simply protecting it?
This is a magical film, and it certainly holds up. George Lucas, though he may not be the best director or screenwriter, is without a doubt a masterful visionary. Even in the prequels he had fantastic concepts and ideas, though they weren't executed perfectly. With A New Hope, though, the execution is great. It's not a perfect film, but it still is great. Even from the opening scene of Darth Vader attacking the Rebel ship, you are thrown into the chaos of this world. And that's what A New Hope really does best: it's establishes and sets up this world perfectly. Instead of starting at the beginning of this war, Lucas throws us right into the middle, and that creates an investment and a need to learn more of what is going on. The unveiling of this world and mythology is very natural. There is no needless exposition, or overly long explanations. Even when it is needed, it is used perfectly by the vehicle of Obi Wan Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness). You learn more and more as the movie progresses, but you never feel like the movie is telling you everything. You're learning it and experiencing it with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
When you watch this movie in retrospect, the story can feel over-done. It's a classic and cliched story, but only because so many movies and books and other stories got it from this movie. And in retrospect, this is a very familiar movie because so many other properties have been inspired by this. Entire generations of filmmakers and authors grew up watching Star Wars, and thus have taken from the series in a good way. So when you re-watch A New Hope, it feels cliched but only because it was the first. One thing that really stood out to me was how low budget it felt. When you read about what happened behind the scenes on this film, you realize that Lucas had a very minimal budget. No one really believed in this film. Not the actors. Not the crew. Not even Lucas himself. This understanding allows for an excusing of many different aspects of the film.
While creature and set looks are immaculately designed, the executions can look fake. When you enter the Cantina, many of the aliens' designs are awesome, but they look like costumes. This can be excused by the minuscule budget, and the lack of proper CGI at the time to enhance make-up and costumes. But it does stand out as something that you overlook as a kid and as a fan watching this magical movie. The acting also stands out as so-so, and even poor at certain parts. We all know that Lucas is not the best at directing actors, and especially with such unknown and inexperienced actors (at the time) as Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, certain lines and scenes could have been done better. Sure, Luke has a character arc, but his early scenes on Tatooine can be unbearable at times when he whines. The delivery of lines could have been improved greatly.
But even if the acting itself isn't the best, the characters themselves are incredible. Darth Vader is such a classic and well-crafted villain. He's ominous, strangely powerful and has such a threatening demeanor. He stands out as being one of the best parts of this movie, and you never want him to go off screen. Though the Stormtroopers can be a bit hokey at times, their armor is menacing looking and work well as faceless soldiers. And, of course, the characters of Luke, Han Solo, Princess Leia and Obi Wan are all three-dimensional and well-rounded. Like I said, the acting may be sub-par, but the characters are written so that they have different aspects to them. And they all bring different dynamics that make them work well as a team. Luke is young, but a promising force-user. Han is brash and selfish, but is the best pilot. Leia is independent and knowledgeable about the Rebellion. Obi Wan is wise and knows more than he lets on. Together, they work well in furthering the plot of the movie.
And it would be wrong to not give a standing ovation to John Williams' score. This is probably the single best score I have heard in a movie. When the title first appears on screen, and I heard Williams' bold music, I got chills. The music stands as being probable the single best part of this movie, and deserves every accolade and acknowledgement. However, I also want to point out that I have major problems with the special editions done in the 1990's. Many of the additions made to the film are just awful, especially the bad visual effects. Some additions are good, but most of them simply tarnish the film. Han definitely shot first. But unfortunately, we may never get to see those original, theatrical editions again.
In the end, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is, and always will be, a classic. It has inspired so many people over the span of generations, and has changed the face of filmmaking. The story is brilliant, and the characters are effectively written and crafted. Lucas expertly throws the audience into the middle of the story, and doesn't bash us over the head with exposition and mythology. Instead, he uses different characters and scenarios as vehicles to give us more and more information and backstory. The designs of characters and sets are fantastic, but the budget shows with the execution of them. Aliens sometimes look clearly like rubber costumes, but this can be overlooked. The acting is also sub-par, and can be hard to watch at points. But in the end, the story, characters, design and score shine as being the best parts of this magical movie.
What do you think? Do you agree with my points on Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope? How has this film impacted you? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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