In all my years of viewing movies no film has ever frustrated as much as “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.” Released in 1977 as simply “Star Wars,” this movie launched a six movie series that ended up being one of the most lucrative franchises in history. It made director George Lucas a lot of money (and all it cost him was a serious directing career) and type cast almost all of the actors. The music is so legendary that people forget it was a score so great it won an Academy Award. Can I even review the film at all? I mean, not only does everyone have an opinion on it; Lucas has made so many changes to the film over the years that a side-by-side comparison is depressing to view.
Indeed, “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” is such a huge force in the retail world that it’s easy to forget it started out as a simple movie. One that is still entertaining people all these years later. Not because it was overtly complex or deep, but because it wasn’t complex or deep. In fact, if I were to sum up “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” is would be “fun!” Rarely are you going to see a movie that is as much fun as “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.” From the opening shot where two space ships do battle to the final attack on a massive space weapon, “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” opens by putting you into the action and not leaving until there is no more to see.
Before “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” almost no science fiction film had been taken seriously enough to be a major hit. Sci-fi was always there, but it was something for kids, not anything serious adults would watch. The brilliance of the movie though is that it became a success because Lucas grew up watching old science fiction shows and seeing the fun in them that others couldn’t. That he was able to bring that sense of joy he felt as a kid to a new generation speaks volumes of his talent as a director. Not anyone could do something so radically different and have it succeed the way this did. Other directors might have overstated things a bit.
It wouldn’t be enough for most directors that Darth Vader was a “cool” villain; he’d have to have a dark past and everything. The fact that Lucas went back to Vader’s past in the future would prove to be almost fatal to the character, and many people would find his ambiguity to be more interesting than his background story. Other characters also prove to be fairly simple: Luke Skywalker is the naïve hero, Han Solo the cautious man for hire, Princess Leia is the hands on leader, and Obi-Wan is the wise old sage. The characters who appear to have the most personality in this film are the two droids C-3PO and R2-D2, whose playful banter is key to much of the film’s success.
The action sequences are also of note, as they are probably the biggest reason the films are so popular. Lucas knew how to pace an action sequence so that they were always tense and exciting. Even his later, lesser films would have action sequences that would be fun to watch. They don’t always make sense when you think of them (why is it the Storm Troopers have difficulty shooting anyone even if they are in close range), but they are always fun and exciting. Re-watching “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” always provides mixed feelings. Part of the reason is because Lucas continues to tinker with the films to the point where I have difficultly remembering what everything originally looked like.
But the other reason is because it’s hard to view it as just a film anymore. It created its own empire and has become its own culture. Its been engraved in everyone’s minds so much that it’s difficult to go back and view it as just an entertaining film. It may even have been affected by the fans who love it with such passion, that you wonder if that passion wouldn’t be better channeled to something in their world that would truly matter. George Lucas would never match this level of artistic triumph again in his life and is largely someone who spends his time merchandising the rights to this film.
That, I feel, is the biggest tragedy in all this. Star Wars the franchise became his job. Making movies took a back seat for years, and he didn’t return to directing until it was time for him to make the prequel trilogy. That a man could take such a basic and simple concept and exploit it for one of the most enjoyable movie experiences of our lifetime makes me wonder what he might have done with material that was more complex in nature. I also wonder all this while I ponder yet again why a review is even necessary. How do I even end this? To say that “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” is required viewing for any serious film fan? I think everyone already knows that. Oh well, regardless what the point of this is, the force has always been with me, somewhere deep in my heart. As it has been for millions of other people throughout the years.
Kevin runs the website The Movie Wizard.com and it’s corresponding YouTube series! Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube! He is also known in some circles as Encyclomedia!