1977

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

A cultural revolution. That is what perfectly describes Star Wars: A New Hope. Movie historians have longed said that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas gave cinema a rebirth. The early 70’s were a period for American and arthouse films, but these two men allowed movies to become fun again. According to Lucas, who created THX-1138 and American Graffiti, the purpose for this movie was just for movies to become fun again. What he did for cinema today, well we have this man to thank for it. This small low-budget sci-fi film spawned six more movies with many more to come. Star Wars has now spread across three generations, three generations of love. I love hearing stories from people who saw this when it came out in 1977. They tell me how much this cultural phenomenon impacted their lives. My father is a mega Star Wars fan, and it’s safe to say this is one of his favorite movies. How could such a small movie impact the movie business the way it did? Well, it helps that it’s a fabulous movie. The movie features an iconic villain named Darth Vader who is known for his deep breathing noises. We have two incredibly memorable heroes in Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. The two most famous robots in movie history are C-3PO and R2-D2. We have everyone’s favorite scoundrel in Han Solo, the pilot of the Millennium Falcon and his favorite sidekick Chewbacca, a bear-like Wookiee. So what I’m trying to stay here, is the film has instantly memorable characters. This film pushed new ground with visual effects. Luca’s own company, Industrial Light & Magic worked very hard in creating never-before-seen effects from the humming of the lightsabers to the robotic language of R2-D2. The film looks impressive for a 1977 feature, and that could have attracted scores of people. Most of all, this is a fun movie. It’s simple story of good versus evil set in a space setting, and many people were looking for such a feature.

Lucas, who is the director of the film, wanted to engage the audiences in a fun, space-filled adventure. Believe it or not, the production of this film was nearly a disaster. The honest fact is Lucas is not a great director, and he had a hard time keeping the cast in line. Lucas lost the support of nearly everyone, and he suffered from anxiety issues. The cast hardly took their jobs seriously, and they often called the movie a joke. Harrison Ford, who plays Han Solo criticized a princess who has her hair in a bun and he called Chewbacca a giant, hairy monkey. The film also went over-budget and nearly over-schedule. An eight-million dollar budget ended with ten-million plus by the end of shooting. Post-production also was troublesome for Lucas. Lucas wanted an opening scrawl, which was very unconventional for its time, and everyone was against that idea. His company had to create special effects that would normally take over a year to make in just six months. The film was originally scheduled for a 1976 release, but it had to be pushed to a May 1977 release, which would end up as a godsend for the movie. With all these troubles and then some, it just amazes me how great this movie turned out to be.

Why do I love this film? Firstly, it’s a very engaging story. A simple one, but an engaging one. I love science fiction films, so this film would be in my wheelhouse. Maybe it’s because of Star Wars that I love sci-fi so much. George Lucas had to go through so much to bring his vision to cinema. He had his ideas early as 1971, but it look many years to get Alan Ladd Jr. of Twentieth Century Fox studios to back his vision. Despite the lack of great direction, the performances were still sharp as I will discuss later. Memorable performances from everyone. I mentioned in earlier reviews on this site that composer John Williams is my favorite composer. Well just listen to this mighty impressive score and you’ll see why. The movie was fun to look at and to listen to and it enhances the story in a very positive way. The planets and their landscapes are wonderful to look at. I was impressed with the scale of the desert on the planet of Tatooine. There is a scene located at an intergalactic bar and it’s just amazing how good practical effects looked with all of these aliens together. (This bar also happened to be where the controversial scene where you wonder who shot first. Han Solo or the bounty hunter, Greedo?) Believe it or not, I hated Star Wars as little kid. Luckily, that has changed as the years went on.

So without further ado, let’s go into the story of the film. It’s a very simple, but well-defined story. The characters are simple ones, but they are given such deep characterization. This film follows a young man named Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) as he sets out with his older, wiser Jedi mentor named Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) and a scoundrel pilot named Han Solo (Harrison Ford) as they set out to rescue the Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from the evil second-in-command of the Empire, Darth Vader. (David Prowse, but famously voiced by James Earl Jones). They also must destroy the Death Star, a moon turned into a planet-destroying weapon, if they have any chance in stopping the Empire. See how wonderfully simple this story is? It’s incredibly easy to follow, but there are layers to everything in the story.

Which such a wonderful story, there has to be good performances right? Of course there are amazing performances! Career-defining performances in fact. Harrison Ford later stated it was because of Star Wars that he had such a great career. Shoulda not talked thrash about this movie during filming Harrison, huh? Well, despite Ford talking crap, he delivers the goods as Han Solo. I loved his cocky attitude, but deep down he was a man who is caring (if you count his love towards Leia) and someone who had no love for the Empire.  Mark Hamill is great as Luke. His performance is shaky at first, but he grows as the film moves on. Carrie Fisher is great as Leia. A powerful heroine, which is something not seen in many 70’s movies. Alec Guinness added a veteran presence as Obi-Wan and he truly embodies his character. Of course then there is Darth Vader. He is played by David Prowse, but is voiced by James Earl Jones (an iconic voice for the villain). Wonderful performances all around, even from the robots. The first thirty minutes of the film is mainly R2 and C3 wandering around in the desert. These scenes were very fun to watch, even if the pacing became ploddingly slow at times during the beginning.

So to sum up my feelings about the movie, I just about loved it. I have this movie to thank for giving me my undying love for the science fiction genre. I appreciate what this film did to change the way movies were made. Starting in 1977, summer blockbusters were going to be very prominent. Star Wars is a series that will live on forever and ever. This is something that everyone loves. But way beneath the implications, the film is a low-budget sci-fi film that only wanted to deliver fun to audiences worldwide. It certainly did that. One of my favorite movies of 1977. Thank you, George Lucas, for creating Star Wars.

My Grade: A

 

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