Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope (1977) Review

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This where everything started. This is the movie the laid the groundwork for the Star Wars universe we know today. There have been many video essays that cover the excellence of this movie. I do agree that this movie is fantastic and accomplished so much with the struggle it had just getting made. However, unpopular opinion, A New Hope is right dead in the middle of my rankings of all of these movies. As far as quality goes, this movie is a masterwork of all of the technical aspects whether it be editing or sound design, but what my list comes down to is the actual enjoyment factor and the urge to watch it again. It’s a classic and a staple in the history of cinema for everything it was able to do and the boundaries it pushed, but because of how tightly controlled this movie was from the studio as far as where the story could go and how much leeway George actually had, it suffers some. Going into watching this movie again for the review, I thought back and remembered all of the time I spent watching this movie and all the rest growing up, but then I started to realize that I actually hadn’t seen this one in a while. I’ve actually seen every other Star Wars movie, maybe two times over since the last time I watched A New Hope. There wasn’t a reason or anything for it, I love the movie! There’s just some deeper reason in the back of my mind that made me skip to what is my favorite of the series with The Empire Strikes Back. I’m hoping my feeling haven’t changed overall for this movie since the last time I’ve seen it, but let’s find out!

 

The first thing that struck me was the hilarity of  remembering how viewers of this film when it originally came out always praised the fast pace, but in our present day its actually relatively slow in comparison to today’s movies. That isn’t a bad thing per say, but I do believe it’s an important factor into why some of the younger generation aren’t as big a fan of the older movies which is unfortunate but just a progression of the business. While the film does feel slower in comparison, it still has a quick pace that engages you. The first ten minutes doesn’t introduce you to our main character, but sets up so much in such little time that you don’t realize it until you actually look at it and process all of the information that is actually given to you. There’s a rebellion that’s fighting an empire, a princess that has plans to a planet destroying battle station, a black clad villain that steels the screen, and two droids that take us through these events. It also sets up the plot in the first five minutes which is a feat that a lot of movies tend to take too long to do. This is where the pacing is important and really holds up regardless of how old the movie is. This may be the best paced movie of the whole series, but is often overlooked. Why its overlooked seems to come down to the simplicity of the movie while not simplistic at the same time. It’s not simplistic because of the new world that we aren’t familiar with (if you watch this movie first before seeing any of the others) but it’s simplistic because it can be broken down easily into the heroes journey. It doesn’t stray too far from this formula, but shrouds that simplicity with all of the lore being created and given to us at the same time. Where this tends to stand out to my brain or thought process now is that without thinking too much about it when I’m deciding which movie to watch, my brain leans more towards the other movies because of the formulaic simplicity of this movie. That’s not a knock on the movie at all, but it is an important factor that plays into not only the success but also the failure when it’s trying to bring in new fans. From a personal perspective, I know many people that I’ve introduced this movie to that tend to like the newer movies or prequels more than the originals and I think it’s because of these points I’ve made that are a reason for this issue.

 

Back to the movie. This is easily the worst version of Luke that we have in the movies. I think some people forget how whiny Luke is in this movie. He’s very clearly a fish out of water from the point of him leaving with Ben to begin his journey in this much larger universe. I was never a fan of Luke in this movie because of how insignificant he is until we get later into the movie and he actually gets to do some things. The acting is also not the greatest in this movie from Mark Hamill which progressively gets better with each installment following and that tends to happen when an actor sticks with a character for more than one movie. The more time they spend playing that character, the more they embrace and understand that character which carries over to the acting. It’s only highlighted more by how easily Harrison Ford embraces the Han Solo character that almost seems like his own personal life in another world. Han Solo is one of the most recognizable characters ever and gets that stardom by how well Ford plays the role. He’s the badass smuggler that has a soft side but seems to be the most relatable character for the casual viewer with his feelings towards the force and Jedi. His development from the first scene we meet him in to the end is fantastic along with Luke. While I gave Luke some crap about how his character was in the beginning, he does go through a great character arc that brings him around to being a complete and more mature character that is set up for success for the sequels. Leia and Ben both come off as one note characters with great moments. They don’t go through much of a character arc and don’t have a lot to do or opportunity to do much, but they both have great moments that define their characters. It’s these moments that define who Ben Kenobi is and what keeps his legacy as a character timeless. Leia however doesn’t gain her timelessness for me until the next film The Empire Strikes Back, when she actually is given more material to work with and goes through an excellent character arc. Darth Vader is arguably the most iconic villain in all of cinema, however I feel this falls along the lines of the Leia character also. Vader doesn’t have a whole lot to do minus being threatening and killing our heroes mentor, but he doesn’t get his real moments to shine and solidify his icon status until the next film. Finally we get to our tour guides R2D2 and C3P0. R2D2 is fine because he doesn’t have dialogue and just does his own thing which I find hilarious while C3P0 has always been a character that I could do without. I know people love him and he does bring comedy, but sometimes it’s just too much and over the top. The movie wouldn’t work without him, but I’m just not a fan overall of the character.

 

Unless you get down to some specific aspects of this movie, it’s pretty much a near perfect film. There’s easily some issues with the writing, acting and character development and there’s some problems with logic like how Luke’s photon torpedo’s make a ninety degree turn. It’s things like these that you just have to ignore and move past because. The story works overall for what it is and what it does. It’s a great setup for the following movies and a great setup for characters that we want more adventures with, but doesn’t go much further than that. I think that this movie gets a pass from most people from the fact that it’s the first Star Wars movie in the series. It’s the most formulaic and most simplistic of all of them, but manages to tell a story in a way that keeps you engaged and makes you excited for what comes next in the story. It seems like a knock against the movie but it’s not. I consider this a win for the movie because it does so much without having to do that much and still keeps its quality in a timeless way. It really is a great study trying to understand this film and Rogue One. They both have more to say the longer you look at them. I could keep going into trying to nitpick this movie or do a complete study, but this is just an overall review of the movie that certainly stands up and is timeless and a necessary staple in the history of cinema. This is absolutely a must watch for anyone that likes movies and I feel it’s a movie that should be taught in classes because of how you can study it.

 

Grade: A-

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