Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 1 minute
MPAA Rating: PG for Sci-Fi Violence and brief mild Language
Directed by: George Lucas
Written by: George Lucas
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, James Earl Jones, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker & Peter Mayhew
Studio execs never believed that STAR WARS would become as massive, popular and influential as it is today. That sounds kind of hilarious when you consider what a juggernaut film franchise this series is (with Episode VII causing pre-sale sites to crash two months before its release). Seeing as the seventh film is arriving next month and I already covered the prequel trilogy last year, I decided to revisit the original STAR WARS trilogy. The three films that started it all have gained a loyal fanbase throughout the years. I’ll admit that I’m not exactly the most hardened or devoted STAR WARS fan out there, but I do enjoy the series as a creative space-opera saga. STAR WARS Episode IV: A NEW HOPE (originally released as just STAR WARS) is a highly entertaining science-fiction adventure that matches its ambition with a joyous sense of intergalactic excitement.
Presumably set 20 years after Episode III, our story begins as a ship of rebels are captured by the cold, calculating Empire. Princess Leia records a desperate message for help inside of a small robot, R2-D2, and sends it out in an escape pod. With the helpless princess in the clutches of the evil Darth Vader and his Empire, a young farm boy, Luke Skywalker finds R2-D2 and Leia’s message. This leads him on an adventure with a band of allies (smuggler Han Solo and retired Jedi knight Obi-Wan Kenobi) as they journey to rescue Leia and take down the Empire’s ultimate secret weapon, a planet-destroying ship known as the Death Star. Luke also discovers that he can harness a psychic ability known as the Force (a power used only by Jedi knights and Sith lords).
Though George Lucas has attempted to butcher his original films by overpopulating certain scenes with useless CGI (one of the biggest problems with Episode I), this “fourth” film still packs a punch and serves as a very exciting sci-fi epic. This comes from a relatively simple plot with a lot of creativity on display and well-developed characters who are simply fun to watch. You can summarize the general story of this movie in three words: good versus evil. The good can be seen in the Rebels and the evil is personified by the Empire (stormtroopers, random generals and, of course, Darth Vader). The journey that eventually leads to a huge showdown/chase in space is entertaining as we get plenty of cool set-pieces. Even if these moments only last for a few minutes, they’re still very fun to watch. One of my personal favorites is a garbage chute that has something living underneath the disgusting waste.
The main characters are heroes for the ages and have been rightly celebrated. Though his career hasn’t exactly gone on to do wonders after this trilogy, Mark Hamill shines as Luke Skywalker. This budding Jedi knight can be a bit of a spoiled, whiny brat at first, but makes a gradual on-screen maturation into a hero worth rooting for. Carrie Fisher is not your typical damsel-in-distress as Princess Leia. Though a good portion of the movie may be dedicated to rescuing her from Darth Vader, Leia has an attitude and strong personality that comes out once Luke and Han Solo finally meet her. Speaking of which, Han Solo (a wonderfully cast Harrison Ford) is probably my favorite character in the series. He’s a grizzled rogue with a sarcastic sense of humor and a bad attitude, but also a big softie underneath his tough guy exterior.
As far as the effect go, the sets are vast and the miniatures (glimpsed in a lot of space scenes that have remained intact without Lucas screwing with them) look far more impressive than you might believe possible. As cheesy and silly-looking as the aliens are, they serve as creative characters with Chewbacca being a fan favorite. My only gripe with A NEW HOPE comes in a plot hole involving how the Death Star can be destroyed. It just seems too easy for everything that our heroes have endured up to that point in the film, but it does make for an exciting finale.
A NEW HOPE is a reminder to how entertaining, solid and well-written space-operas can be. The plot is simple and serves as a canvas for many unique worlds, weapons, colorful characters, exciting battles, and packs in as much adventure as anyone could hope for. Almost 40 years later, A NEW HOPE still holds up as a testament to how good the STAR WARS series can be when done right. I’d tell you that Episode IV is well worth revisiting, but you’ve likely already done that or plan on doing it before Episode VII hits the big screen.