Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)
Directed by George Lucas
Finally, I reach the original “Star Wars,” Episode IV, fittingly retitled “A New Hope” (since it gives viewers of Episodes I-III hope that the franchise can actually be good). I know I’ve made it when I see a fire…yes, a real fire…on the set. Not a billowy spread of CGI flames that have no apparent source. Not CGI at all. Real flames. It’s astounding.
Twenty years after the demise of Anakin and the rise of Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones), the evil Empire, the dark side, is in power. Their Death Star, an enormous space station, has enough power to destroy any planet it sets its beams on. The only one with the knowledge to stop the Death Star is Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), but she’s trapped inside, held prisoner by Lord Vader. A young farmer’s son, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), finds an encrypted message that leads him to Jedi-in-retirement Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness). Obi-Wan knows he needs to save Leia, so he and Luke find pilot Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and together they attempt a daring rescue aboard the dangerous, storm trooper-filled Death Star.
Everything in “A New Hope” looks real because, aside from a few sleight-of-hand tricks, everything is real. No CGI here, just the magic of moviemaking. I hadn’t seen the original trilogy in a while, so I was amazed to see how incredible “A New Hope” looks, especially for having been made nearly 40 years ago. Is it possible that the originals look even better than the CGI-filled prequels? Absolutely. (That’s partly because I haven’t seen Yoda yet…yikes). Unfortunately for me, though, I too prefer the bygone days of lightsaber battles, while Han Solo prefers his beam gun shootouts. This effect, however, looks far less convincing. Red lines flying around the room do little to tell me “Oh, hey, someone has been shot.” But the few lightsaber duels do look impressive, even back then.
Mark Hamill is a typical ‘70s movie teen, a Marty McFly in a galaxy far, far away. He’s totally out of this world (used both as a relevant pun and a ‘70s slang reference). He’s such a ‘70s teen movie character, he can’t keep it in his pants even though Princess Leia…wears her hair in honey buns. Harrison Ford is another walking archetype, the cocky pilot. Granted, “A New Hope” is probably the original source of some of these, so I can’t fault them for playing into my expectations. All give marvelous performances though, keeping the movie light and fun to watch while maintaining constant excitement.
Also, can I mention that John Williams is the greatest film score composer of all time? Because he is. “A New Hope” proves it. Not only does he give us the incredible entry music, which many great composers can do, but Williams also gives us two or three other movements in his “Star Wars” suite that remain memorable and incredible examples of brilliant composing. Bravo!