It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!
Title: Star Wars, Episode Four, A New Hope
MPAA Rating: PG
Genre: action, science fiction
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Alec Guinness, James Earl Jones, David Prowse, Peter Cushing
Director: George Lucas
Writer: George Lucas
Budget: $11 Million
Box Office: n/a
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: n/a
Emperor Palpatine’s ironfisted rule over the galaxy has inspired Rebellion among the people. Princess Leia, Senator of Alderaan rushes on a diplomatic mission to the outer rim world of Tattooine. She hopes to find General Obi Wan Kenobi and recruit him to fight for freedom as he did during the Clone Wars. Along the way, she has intercepted vital information to the Rebel Alliance. Captured by Darth Vader, she is forced to send her faithful droid, R2-D2 on a mission to get the message to Obi Wan Kenobi. On the surface, R2 is himself taken by Jawas and sold to Luke Skywalker. R2 escapes Luke to continue his mission and Luke goes after him. They find Obi Wan Kenobi and the message for him, but Imperial Stormtroopers are on the trail of the droids. Luke finds himself thrust into a larger galaxy and deeper into the conflict than he expected as he is forced to flee Tattooine, and ends up in the grip of the Death Star itself, where Princess Leia awaits.
What a time warp. Pardon me a moment while I take off my nostalgia goggles and try to review this movie with some objectivity. It is hard to review this film in a way, because I have to do it in two contexts. One, this film was made before the prequels so there just isn’t the same level of technology and special effects from the three previous movies. So, we must take in the context of the time it was made. And at the same time, take it in context of the series overall. So, it is really hard to say, would George Lucas have made the same type of movie if he had made them in order or not? (Not really too important to think about, but still a good question.) In the later releases, George Lucas did go back and add more modern special effects which stand out in some places more than others.
The strongest point about A New Hope is what most of the prequels sorely lacked. The stakes are clearly drawn out. There is a very clear goal in mind. The Death Star, a battle station that can destroy entire planets, which the Empire is determined to use to crush the rebellion, must be destroyed. Our heroes are unlikely, a farm boy peasant and a scoundrel smuggler. They are introduced in an organic way that makes them feel important, instead of being contrived and shoehorned in. Almost by chance it feels, they are put into a position to rescue the Princess and escape to the Rebel base. Where they form an all or nothing strategy that might have a chance of destroying the Death Star for good. Who knew that a basic pig trench run could be so tense? (No really, that trench run sequence has me on the edge of my seat even all these years later.)
The dialogue is also funny, memorable and no one is particularly flat. There were a few cases where things were told rather than shown.
The weakness of this movie is that the pacing is slow. The Cantina scene in particular went on a little overlong, mostly I think to showcase some of the aliens to hit home that this was a science fiction movie. Scenes where they could have been good dramatic action to increase tension and conflict were simply never filmed. For instance, the confrontation between the Lars’ and the Stormtroopers over the droids. We are told that the Imperial Senate has been disbanded, but are not shown it. (This possibly isn’t important in the context of the original trilogy, however in the sequence of the entire films, this was very important.) This is the downfall of filming out of order.
Overall, the strengths to me outweigh the weaknesses. So, one cookie.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a completely unnecessary explosion in the entire film. So, no cookie.
I do remember the lightsaber fight being entertaining when I first watched it. Though, now that I’m older, I realize that the lightsaber part of the fight was never the point. It was more a fight about wills and belief than an actual sword fight. Still entertaining, one cookie.
Princess Leia, the fact that she’s immediately captured and then subsequently rescued by Luke, Han and Chewie is almost incidental to her character. She immediately takes over her own rescue, proves that she’s as good of a shot if not better than the boys and often provides the voice of wisdom that was lost with Obi Wan Kenobi. In fact, in a nice reversal of roles, Han and Luke have a talk about her rather than the Leia talking about Han or Luke with another girl. But despite this, she doesn’t really get to do anything in the movie. She’s more motivation for the boys to do all the action hero work. She was almost there. Half a cookie.
The color palette of A New Hope is mostly grim, grey and dark. In the twenty years after the rise of the Empire, it is like all joy has been leached from the galaxy. The bright spots of color only come towards the end with the Rebellion pilot’s bright orange flight suits and the splashes of red on the X-Wing snubfighters. Instead of the broad scopes of what we saw in the prequels, the lens of the galaxy has focused to a very small area. The movie suffers for it. The whole world building feels a bit flat. We are only given this glimpse into the universe with its colorful aliens. In fact, despite the colorful cantina scene, our most important players are all human from the soldiers of the empire to the pilots of the rebellion. It is distressing that Lucas didn’t take that one extra step at the end of the film to create diversity in his pilots to at least contrast just that much more with the Empire. I’m going to eat a quarter of the cookie for him just not taking the one little extra step.
The original Star Wars movie comes out with a strong plot. Though the pacing is slow, the end sequence is a tension filled and riveting piloting sequence that gives the movie a strong finish. Aptly named, I come out of the movie feeling uplifted and hopeful that good can win the day. Unfortunately, Princess Leia wasn’t given enough to do and Lucas didn’t keep up his glittery alien world building at the end of the movie. Three and a quarter gingersnaps.