LUCASFILM LTD. / 20th CENTURY FOX (1977)
Director: George Lucas
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker
Winner - Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
Winner - Best Costume Design
Winner - Best Sound
Winner - Best Film Editing
Winner - Best Effects, Visual Effects
Winner - Best Music, Original Score
Star Wars (as it was originally known), made in 1977 by a visionary director and a cast of actors who thought they were making a one-off hokey film about space wizards. How wrong they were – a movie that defined the term blockbuster and spawned a thousand ideas and movies, not to mention an enduring pop culture phenomenon. To the point though, is the movie any good? Yes, yes it is.
Telling the story of intercepted plans for the Empire’s super weapon, the planet destroying Death Star – the Empire wants them back, the good guys have to get them to the right people – we are introduced to the evil machinations of the Empire, and intertwined with the innocent dreams of a farm boy on a forgotten planet.
Star Wars spawned a host of memorable characters – the bad ass Darth Vader, the plucky Luke Skywalker, Mr Cool Han Solo, the strong Princess Leia, the wise old Obi-Wan Kenobi, the two arguing droids and a host of others, also a string of classic movie quotes also. The movie follows the basic three act principle, and concludes as a standalone movie pretty much, so beats are fairly obvious throughout, but some are thrown in for a greater narrative (the burning homestead, Alderaan, the Vader-Kenobi duel) However, we have the good guys to root for, the bad guys to root against, and a Princess thrown into the mix. It’s clear who’s good and bad here.
The key to the movie was the story and how it was written, and portrayed. Much has been said about the special effects drawing the crowds in and setting the tone for sci-fi movies, however the simple story of the journey of a young man with dreams, and the obstacles and alliances he creates on the way to fighting the big evil machine, is what pushes the movie along. There’s enough self-awareness throughout as well, not everything is taken with the utmost of seriousness and the humour throughout lends to the storytelling – the cynic Han Solo amongst the laser swords and magic is our entry into the world. It’s like an old fashioned heroes vs villains story. Carrie Fisher is the key to the movie as her wise-ass princess stands up with the men and drives the movie along, and Alec Guinness is imperious as Kenobi (watch him stare through Vader during their duel). Darth Vader is fearsome as the throat crushing killer and Cushing chilling as the cold Tarkin.
As further films came out, plot holes began to form – how did Vader not sense his daughter was in front of his face before torturing her? – however contained in this movie, there is no issue. Some of the dialogue throughout is clunky and was only changed at the angry behest of Ford and Guinness (“you can type this shit, but you sure can’t say it” was a famous behind the scenes quote) and whilst the acting is good for the most parts, the 1970s comes smashing through in some of the delivery, and Luke Skywalker’s whining (like father, like son) is prevalent at the start. The pacing is a bit awry in the first act but soon picks back up again in the second act.
John Williams lent his magical hand to the score and created gold. From the opening blast of the theme song to the Binary Sunset, the Cantina song and the Last Battle, the themes are as memorable as the movie and become integral part of the scenes. The swelling theme as Luke gazes into the twin suns of Tatooine is as iconic as the scene itself, and creates just one of many memorable scenes throughout the movie.
A world bursting with lived-in character and history, A New Hope (as it was eventually re-captioned) lays the foundation for what is to come later. Within itself, it is a brilliantly fun romp with the upstart good guys against the impregnable bad guys and a fight against the odds. With iconic characters and moments, A New Hope blazed a trail for cinema and helped by being a damn fine movie too.
Han shot first.
December 7th 2016