Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
In my humble opinion, STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE is one of the greatest films ever made. When it debuted in theaters in 1977, it forever changed movies and created a world so intricate and amazing that it has managed to be relevant for over 40 years. Although Star Wars has been reduced to a punch line (thank you, prequels), it’s important to sit back and reflect on just how truly special the original trilogy is. It’s true that George Lucas has gone back and tweaked the films to add in special effects and small changes, but his unnecessary tinkering hasn’t managed to change the greatness of the film that tells the simple story of a young farmer that rescues a princess.
It doesn’t take long for the audience to get hooked by the Star Wars saga. George Lucas masterfully sets up a mysterious villain in Darth Vader, famously walking through a group of Storm Troopers and smoke as he’s revealed for the first time. The first scene of The Empire seizing a rebel ship set the tone for the entire film. Then we get thrust into the world of Tatooine, where we meet a young farmer named Luke Skywalker. And even here, we get introduced to another great and mysterious character, Obi-Wan Kenobi, who is sought out by Princess Leia, but we have no idea why. Watching the film 30 years later, everybody (even people that haven’t seen the film) knows who Obi-Wan and Darth Vader are, but the next time you sit down to watch A NEW HOPE, try to imagine what it would be like watching these films if you knew nothing about any of the characters and each scene revealed a little more information until you were hanging on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what happened. That’s storytelling at its best and one of the many reasons A NEW HOPE is so brilliant.
The story structure is patient and even, allowing all of our favorite characters, Han, Leia, Luke, Obi-Wan, the chance to be developed. We were able to learn about each of them over the course of the film and each character that was introduced had a purpose. Luke didn’t just pick up a lightsaber and instantly master it. He had to train and learn the ways of the Jedi, just like a normal person. And we felt tension as Luke flew his X-wing into the heart of the Death Star because we knew there was a chance he wasn’t going to make it. Han Solo was the mercenary with a heart, beginning the film as a charismatic loner, content just flying around with his pal Chewbacca but developing over the course of the film as a key part of what the Rebel Alliance was trying to do. Even the droids, C-3P0 and R2-D2 had emotions and character arcs.
We all have our problems with George Lucas, but I’ve always felt frustrated when fans forget how great he used to be. STAR WARS and AMERICAN GRAFFITTI are two of the best movies of all time and Lucas wrote the scripts, developed the characters and told a story that was not only interesting, but that we also cared about. The man may be obsessed and intent on ruining what he created, but the fact remains that he’s created one of the greatest series of all time.
Of course, given how many times this film has been tweaked and changed over the years, I feel obligated to comment on those changes. I don’t like them, but I stop short of saying they ruin the film. It doesn’t really fit to have Jabba The Hut show up in A NEW HOPE, but the scene doesn’t destroy the movie. I don’t like the added special effects, but I will admit that it was nice to see the added definition in the final battle and the effects in the background on Tatooine weren’t completely horrible. At the end of the day, I don’t feel Lucas did anything so severe that my feelings of the film merit being changed.
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