Release Date: May 25, 1977
Running Time: 2 hours 1 minute
“After discovering a hidden message from Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker is catapulted into an unforgettable adventure. Along with Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as rogue smuggler Han Solo and his co-pilot Chewbacca, Luke sets out to rescue the princess, destroy the Empire’s ultimate weapon, and become a Jedi.”
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…. There was Star Wars! It’s been 40 years since the movie was released in theatres, and it’s weird to think that the movie and the franchise is that old, in a way that changed the movie going experience back in the late 1970s. When this movie was released, it was 15 years before I was born, and I grew up watching the original trilogy a ton of times thanks to my oldest brother (38 years old) who loved the movies and had the VHS tapes that included the version where Han shot first, before the changes made by Lucas.
It’s unfathomable to me to really know what that experience was like seeing that world for the first time. I don’t know if trailers were just bad back then, but you can see the original trailer below, and it is hilariously bad. It’s a wonder that anyone went to see this movie in theatres before word of mouth made it an instant classic. I’ve always loved this movie as it was the first one that I saw, and was my first introduction into that magnificent world. I stupidly grew tired of the slow pace that they had compared to the the new, faster paced movies that were coming out around the time of my childhood, but when I started to appreciate movies and their stories more, I learned to relove the movies that started it all.
Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope Trailer – Source: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Cast and Crew
Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) was written and directed by George Lucas, who had just come off a very good first film in ‘American Graffiti’ in 1973. I’ve already talked about Lucas in my reviews for Episode I-III, so I won’t expand too much on him for this one. I will say that I will forever be grateful to him for having created this wonderful world and characters that I’ve grown to love so very much throughout my childhood and even now as an adult.
Cast includes Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, Phil Brown, Shelagh Fraser, Alex McCrindle, Drewe Henley, Denis Lawson, Garrick Hagon, Jack Klaff, William Hootkins and James Earl Jones.
This movie, along with the other movies that Lucas wrote alone, is really bad in terms of dialogue. While it’s very much from its time, I feel like the dialogue was particularly bad in this movies when compared to similar movies from that era. It’s not the worst Star Wars film overall, but the weakest of the originals, and I know that I just lost a lot of people with that one statement. In my opinion, Empire and Jedi are both better quality films overall, while the nostalgia factor, and how amazing this movie was at the time do not equate an amazing movie today.
I love this movie, and for the most part, every other Star Wars movie in the franchise, however when I look at it in terms of quality, this movie is sadly in the bottom three, above The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, but not far behind Revenge of the Sith either. I still think this movie is a really good movie (you can see my scale at the link here), however, for me, this movie does not quite meet the level of great.
The structure of the story of Star Wars is a very old one, and one that has been done many times before it, and many times since. A young unsuspecting hero type character gets roped in by a magical wizard to fight the bad guys in order to save the beautiful princess. The movie itself, and the intricacies of the characters and the mythology that this movie created is why it stands out above many similar movies.
The character of Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill starts out the film as a typical young adult, naive, genuine, whiny, and overconfident in their own abilities. The fact that his uncle Owen and Aunt Beru decided to have Luke keep his last name instead of going with Lars is something that after watching the prequels is something that would have been a very obvious thing to do, considering that one of the most powerful men in the galaxy used to have that same last name, even though almost nobody is able to associate Vader with Anakin. Luke had a short and quick character arc in this movie, learning a lot in a small amount of time, and joins the Rebels after falling for the beautiful princess (who just so happens to be his sister).
Luke Skywalker goes through a lot throughout the movie, after having lost all his friends who went on to join the academy in order to become pilot cadets for the Empire, to having never known much of his father or mother, his only family that he knows gets burnt to a crisp for owning a couple of droids that could help the Rebels. This all happens before he even leaves Tatooine, and then he has a lot more that happens throughout the movie and the rest of the series.
Sir Alec Guinness played the character of Old Ben Kenobi, the crazy old wizard who lives out in the middle of the desert. His point of view on certain stories that he tells Luke is very interesting in the amount of creative license that he uses. I feel like the final confrontation with his old apprentice was interesting in the tenseness between the two combatants. I love that Kenobi was still trying to advise Anakin all the way until his death, telling him that if he were to strike him down, he would return more powerful than he could possibly imagine, and Vader didn’t listen to him, which lead to Kenobi teaching Luke the Force through this film and the others.
The fact that he starts helping Luke almost right away after he falls, shows that he most likely learned what Qui-Gon had learned, and was able to teach him during his years on Tatooine that Yoda had instructed him to learn at the end of Episode III.starting with telling him to trust in the Force, and not the machines. He ends up being able to blow up the Death Star thanks to that advice.
Han Solo played by Harrison Ford, was the typical rebellious roguish character that was prevalent in many films of that era, and still are to this day. Han Solo is the Rebel with a heart of gold, especially when he decides to go back after having the money that he needed, decided to go and help his newfound friends at the risk of his own life. This movie, along with Indiana Jones is what launched Harrison Ford into super stardom in the 80s. Harrison Ford is so charismatic in his role that it was extremely difficult to not love the character and root for him.
The wonderful and unintelligible Wookie Chewbacca was played by Peter Mayhew, who got the gig because of his height, and did a marvellous job in being a first mate to Han Solo. While I do want to know how they met, and what happened to the other Wookies after the attack on Kashyyyk, I still don’t know how I feel about the Solo movie coming out in May. I enjoyed the interactions that he had with the other crew mates, and to me, he was never a walking carpet.
Princess Leia was wonderfully played by Carrie Fisher who added intensity, sassiness, and spirit to the character, and was a very strong female character from the get go. She’s now a princess of a destroyed world, and still manages to help in leading the Rebellion in their fight to take down the Empire, and the super weapon space station. The fact that she ended up partly saving the two men when they rescued her, and her quick thinking to take the garbage shoot, shows her ingenuity.
There’s not much more that I can say other than her character was a brilliant role model for everyone, not just the young girls who wanted to be like her, but the young boys as well, who were getting to see a strong female character, that would maybe change their view on the ‘fairer sexe’. Carrie Fisher did an amazing job in that role, and what happened last year is a terrible loss for her family, the franchise, the industry, but most importantly, the world lost their princess that day, and I think that her legacy will continue to live on throughout the years.
Darth Vader, acted by David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones was perhaps the scariest and coolest villain of my childhood, even surpassing the evil Scar from the Lion King. The character just oozed evil, and the intelligence and wisdom that that character uses was fascinating to me, as well as the fact that he didn’t die at the end of the movie, which was strange to me as a child. The bad guy is supposed to end up in jail or dead, those were the options, and then my brother showed me the other VHS tapes, and we watched Episode V right after, as I wanted to know what happened to the bad guy. The good guys were rewarded, and would have more adventures, but what about the bad guy. I wanted to know more about him.
My wish was soon granted, as we got the prequels (if you’re not a fan of the prequels, I’m sorry that I wished that). Darth Vader, and the tragedy of the character is not explored in this movie, all we see is a good pilot, killed off the old wizard character in Kenobi, can use magic powers to choke people who disrespects him and his religion, and has a cool costume and a red laser sword (which was my favourite colour as a child). The voice of James Earl Jones was a perfect fit for the character, and added a weight and depth to the character. Prowse doesn’t get enough credit for the acting that he did in that costume that must have been hell to perform in, but I can easily see how he would slip through the cracks of fame.
I’ve already talked briefly about my love of the character of Grand Moff Tarkin in my review of Rogue One, thanks in part to the magnificent book about the character, as well as the great job that Peter Cushing did in that role. He’s the one person that we see in this movie tell Vader to do something, and he does it. Vader respects that character, and for a character like Vader to respect the character of Tarkin lets the audience know that this person is someone that should be feared and respected. It’s a tragedy that his overconfidence in the power of the Death Star that he stole out from under Krennic (Rogue One), ended up being his downfall, refusing to leave when notified that there was in fact a danger.
The destruction of Alderaan is something that is difficult to really comprehend without truly seeing the power of the Death Star, however after the release of Rogue One, you are able to imagine the absolute destruction that it caused. The third official victim of the Death Star (Jedha City & Scarif), Alderaan was destroyed to prove a point to the princess.
The Death Star, while seemingly indestructible, turned out to have a fatal flaw that we would later learn (39 years later) that it was planted there by Galen Erso, who was the architect of the space station. It’s lasers are powered by the same type of crystals that power lightsabers, something that is an interesting little factoid.
The Millennium Falcon was a cool and interesting ship that this ragtag group of heroes were using throughout the movie, but it wasn’t until later that people would love it almost as much Han Solo does.
The ultimate rescue of Princess Leia started out because Kenobi, Skywalker, R2-D2, C-3PO, Solo and Chewbacca were going to Alderaan to bring the plans of the Death Star to the Rebels, but arrived too late, and were trapped by the tractor beam of the space station. I loved the first meeting between Luke and Leia as well as Leia and Han. There was a bit of bickering and attraction from Han’s side, which would later serve him well as they would eventually have a child together. While Luke’s attraction at first with Leia might come back to haunt him when he will discover that they’re twins.
Unfortunately for everyone, Kenobi’s time with Luke is cut brutally short after he sacrifices himself in order to be able to provide guidance to Luke in the future, and Kenobi never gets to see Leia again (met extremely briefly when she was born). I both loved and disliked the fight between the old friends (Vader and Kenobi), as it was slow and boring visually, but interesting and meaningful story wise after learning everything in the prequels.
The Rebels in this film are stuck between a rock and a hard place, after receiving the plans to the Death Star from Princess Leia and R2-D2, they have very little time to get ready and analyze the plans before the Death Star is upon their base thanks to the tracker that they planted in the Millennium Falcon. There’s not much organization among them from what we can see, but they’re able to set up a good attack against the space station due to the small size of the X-Wings.
The Stormtroopers are supposed to be the elite force that the Empire uses in order to strike fear into the residents of the worlds that are controlled by the Empire, however throughout this movie we keep seeing how bad they can be, and it could be because of plot armour of the characters, but for an army that supposed to be so precise, they sure do miss a hell of a lot.
The music by John Williams in Star Wars is probably the best score in terms of the level of enhancement that it adds to the overall movie. It’s as if every single scene works extremely well because of the music that it utilises at the right time. From the Star Wars theme, the Imperial Attack, Princess Leia’s Theme as well as many others.
The cinematography was done by Gilbert Taylor, who did a really good job in the framing of the scenes, and managed to capture the beauty of the desert planet of Tatooine. The visuals of this movie is something that Lucas and the production team should have been and are extremely proud of themselves for the work with the costume design, the puppets, the makeup, and the amazing hair piece of Sir Alec Guinness that kept moving all around his head.
The climax of the film, where Luke, with the guidance of Obi-Wan is able to destroy the Death Star, also thanks to the return of Han Solo and Chewbacca in causing Vader’s ship to spin out of control just in time. I’m having trouble finding the right words to convey when I watch that scene, but every time I do, I’m just happy. This unsuspecting farm boy becomes a hero to the galaxy in all but a few seconds. The selfish rogue turns out to have a heart of gold, and risks all the money that he got in order to help his friend.
The celebration scene, where only Han and Luke get medals for their service to the Rebels is a nice touch, and with the music going at full blast, it’s truly a hopeful scene for the future of their group. R2-D2 turns out to be okay, and Chewbacca roars in approval, and the credits role.
Overall, this movie was a fantastic start to the series, in terms of world building, however was not quite a great film overall. I will always cherish this movie for what it did at that time, and for launching this amazing franchise, but unfortunately, it isn’t in the top part of the franchise for me. At the end of the day, I would give this movie a score of 7.75/10.
What did you think of the movie that started this beloved franchise? After looking back on the film, do you have a different opinion than what you had when you first watched it? Do you agree with my score, if not what would you give it? Let me know in the comment section below, I would love to hear your opinions!
Thanks for reading,