DIRECTOR: George Lucasstar_wars_ver2

CAST: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Phil Brown, Shelagh Fraser, Jack Purvis, Eddie Byrne, Denis Lawson, Garrick Hagon, Don Henderson, Leslie Schofield

RUNNING TIME: 121 mins

CERTIFICATE: U

BASICALLY…: Young farmhand Luke Skywalker (Hamill) teams up with old Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi (Guinness) and smuggler Han Solo (Ford) to rescue Princess Leia (Fisher) from the clutches of Darth Vader (Prowse/Jones) and the Empire…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Just briefly, before we begin looking at the original Star Wars films, we feel you should know something: we’ll be reviewing the ORIGINAL editions of each film, and NOT the divisive Special Editions that George Lucas put out in the lead-up to The Phantom Menace. That means, starting with the very first Star Wars – later subtitled A New Hope – we’re going to be seeing exactly what the audience in 1977 onwards saw for the first time, and not what many considered to be unnecessarily-CG bastardisations of the classics.

Given what we saw, therefore, it’s easy to see why the first audience nearly forty years ago went absolutely bananas over it.

A New Hope – which is what we’ll be referring this film to from hereon – is still such fascinating entertainment even in its unaltered edition, as you can still get a feeling of these different environments and characters without having to have pointless CG creatures roaming about the place. The deserts of Tatooine, where we first meet our hero Luke Skywalker (a foppy-haired and endlessly Mickey Mouse Club-esque Mark Hamill), still look as vast and empty as we remember, the destructive Death Star is fiendishly corporate with its colourless tone and authoritarian design, and the effects used back then to bring the several space dogfights and flying scenes to life are just as impressive now as they were back then, dodgy blue-screen aside.

Lucas’ directing and writing isn’t as stilted here as it would later become in the prequels, with actual emotions being convincingly conveyed by pretty much all his actors, and the full-on exposition not being as heavy-handed as people may think. Sure, some of his writing here is also a bit hokey – actors Alec Guinness and Harrison Ford went on record several times to voice their dissatisfaction with the dialogue they were given, with Ford famously declaring to Lucas that “you can type this shit, but you can’t say it” – and the lightsabre fight between Darth Vader (played physically by David Prowse, and vocally by James Earl Jones) and Guinness’ Ob-Wan Kenobi is pretty, erm, weak – you have to wonder if they ever had moments to reflect on how old they got, especially when the last time they met they were duelling over a friggin’ volcano planet – but here it feels acceptable. Don’t forget, the 70s were a time when it was cool to be corny, and this fits well in with the rest of the silliness that the decade provided; even to this day, it’s somehow both timeless and also a product of its time.

It is also, by far, the most simplistic of all the Star Wars movies. Before Lucas even had an inkling of what was to come with the later sequels, he just stuck to a very basic “boy-rescues-princess” storyline told in countless fairy tales, only this one has droids, spaceships and laser swords. Luke Skywalker is, of course, the wide-eyed innocent sent on an epic quest, Obi-Wan Kenobi the wise old wizard who helps him out with his “magic”, R2-D2 and C-3PO (Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels respectively) the peasant comic relief duo whose body parts literally represent a lower class than most (the scene early on where both are captured by Jawas and forced to be sold to owners rings alarming bells of American slavery), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) goes without saying, and Darth Vader and his evil Empire the oppressing bad guys. As for Han Solo and Chewbacca (Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew respectively), they’re just the rogue observers of this story, commenting on the ridiculousness of the situation and just generally taking a more cynical approach to everything. Maybe that’s why they’re considered some of the strongest characters in the entire Star Wars universe, because they’re probably the closest person some people can relate to that can also comment on how everything feels so farfetched and corny, yet commit to actually going along with the corniness because there’s no other choice in that situation.

The simplistic nature of all these characters, especially Solo, would eventually evolve over the course of the forthcoming sequels, but this is a nice introduction to their most basic of traits and neat groundwork for the building that has yet to commence. In fact, it’s not a bad place to start off watching these films for the first time; after all, it is the one that introduced the world to Star Wars in the first place, so it only makes sense to start off with A New Hope and go from there. Now, we know that’s slightly hypocritical of us, given that we started this very retrospective with the prequels before moving on to the originals, but given the rocky nature that trilogy started off with it’s better to introduce people to something that’s slightly smoother and easier to understand than just putting them off altogether upon first viewing of Jar Jar Binks’ antics.

It’s a classic blockbuster for a reason, and should definitely be checked out in its original format. Even better, things would only proceed to get better from here on…

SO, TO SUM UP…

A New Hope is the same fun blockbuster that we all remember, one that even gave the blockbuster the street cred it had today, and it is one that deserves viewing in its original and unaltered state where you can appreciate the characters and simplicity of the story even more.