Jan 27, 2012

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Wow, I can't believe we're already starting the reviews for the original trilogy of Star Wars movies. Where has this month been going? Does time really go by this fast when you're having so much geeky fun?

Regardless, we press on, yes?

This is part of an on-going series of blog reviews where I finally post my thoughts on all of the 6 Star Wars movies. It's just my little way of celebrating the upcoming release of The Phantom Menace in 3D this February, whether or not this whole 3D translation is necessarily a good thing for the franchise as a whole. I'm weird that way.

Admittedly we're going to look at things with respect to the Special Edition of the movies that was re-released in theaters around the time the prequels started up a well. Purists may argue against this stance, but you have to admit the new version is supposedly closer to George Lucas' original vision and thus merits some study. Plus it's the more commercially available version now, thus it's what more people are going to end up watching whether on DVD or on whatever pay TV movie channel happens to be showing it.

Star Wars, although technically this is Episode IV: A New Hope, was the first Star Wars movie to be released back in 1977. It was written and directed by George Lucas for about $11 million while receiving ten Academy Award nominations and nabbing 6 Oscars.

The Galactic Empire is now dealing with full-on rebellion that threatens the enforced peace brought about by the rise to power of the Emperor. Now the Rebel Alliance has managed to stolen secret plans for a new weapon that the Empire plans to use to bring the rest of the Galaxy back into order through fear and the threat of annihilation. Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), who is secretly a rebel leader, currently has the plans and is attempting to deliver them to the rebel leadership when her vessel is intercepted by an Imperial Star Destroyer. She manages to secret the plans with two droids - C-3PO and R2-D2, who escape to the nearby planet of Tatooine via an escape pod.

Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Image via Wikipedia
On Tatooine the droids eventually find themselves being sold to moister farmers, these being Owen (Phil Brown) and Beru Lars (Shelagh Fraser) and their nephew Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Naturally Luke eventually stumbles across part of the Princess' message for one Obi-Wan Kenobi, whom Luke assumes must be an old hermit named Ben Kenobi (Sir Alec Guiness). But of course, this is just the beginning of a much larger adventure, one that will take Luke far beyond the Lars moisture farm and into the greater conflict at large.

What is most amazing about this movie is how it has managed to withstand the test of time despite the limited special effects technologies available during its creation. Even without all the special editions and remastered versions released over the years, the original movie alone is a gem in storytelling and a giant step forward for science fiction. While it's not necessarily the most technologically-savvy science fiction piece out there, it did a lot more for the genre in terms of bringing such concepts to a wider audience.

And while the story was pretty much just patterned after your the classic Hero's Journey / monomyth structure, it was done so in a pretty stellar way that seemed far different from everything else at the time. The best stories don't need to be excessively complex after all. Sometimes keeping things simple and focusing more on execution can make all the difference.

The three lead protagonists of Star Wars, from...
Image via Wikipedia
And this movie had all the elements for a true blockbuster hit. We had dashing scoundrel heroes like Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). We had a fearsome and seemingly all-powerful villain in the person of Darth Vader (David Prowse with voice acting by James Earl Jones). We had comic relief through C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker). We had romance, rescues and big space battles. Seriously, there are few things to complain about in this movie, and I saw this even from a non-geek perspective (as far as I can mange to represent that).

People love this movie for different reasons. Some just think lightsabers are cool. Others invested time because of the way they depicted interstellar warfare as patterned after naval strategy. Others really found Princess Leia's hair buns fascinating. Whatever the reason, the movie managed to find a way to present interesting and appealing sides of itself to viewers of different backgrounds, ages and whatnot.

In terms of the Special Edition, I'm not sure if we needed a lot of the fluff added in. The whole "Han Solo stepping on Jabba the Hutt's tail" was done a bit too comically for me. And of course there's the infamous "Greedo Shoots First" controversy that really didn't seem as bad as it was presented but I didn't exactly like it either. The overall clean-up work was still great though and I certainly appreciated the CGI-enhancements done for the space battles around Yavin IV. So in general, I liked the little touches here and there but the full-length additional scenes probably could have remained on the cutting room floor.

Star Wars: A New Hope is a classic movie, one that deserves to be watched by individuals (not just geeks) of all ages. It's a timeless tale that I foresee to remain relevant and popular for many, many, many years to come. And given its overall contributions to geek culture, I can think of no other rating for this movie apart from a full 5 TIE fighters appearing out of no where out of a possible 5.

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