The original Star Wars. What can I say that hasn't already been said. I absolutely love this film and it has touched so many souls and has inspired countless people over the last 40 years almost. George Lucas created a world unlike what we've ever seen before and I am forever grateful for that.
This is an almost perfect movie and it captures us right from the moment it begins. This little ship being hunted down by the much larger Imperial ship is so taunting and the shot as they fly over is magnificent. Right away, we are pulled into the battle of good vs evil and Darth Vader emerges and is instantly a memorable villain before he even says anything. Just the height of him, the helmet, the black costume surrounded by all white, amazing!
We are introduced to two droids who are sent on a mission by Princess Leia after she is captured by Darth Vader and they land on Tatooine. These droids, C-3PO and R2-D2, are very much our protagonists for the first 15 minutes or so of the movie. We follow their adventure and we are seeing rapport as longtime friends and you are actually pulled in. R2's beeps are high pitched, making them very cute and innocent, and his sense for adventure is a perfect foil for 3PO's cautiousness and stuck up attitude.
When they are caught by these thieves called Jawas, and they are eventually sold to Owen Lars, they are given to his nephew, Luke Skywalker, to clean them up. Suddenly, the film switches to Luke's point of view and we are finally given a truly human view of the Star Wars world. From here, I start to really love how simple this film really is. You are really just watching a day in the life of these two droids, and then a day in the life of Luke Skywalker. This is a kid yearning for adventure and through these droids, he is given one.
R2 has a message for a Jedi Master named Obi-Wan Kenobi and only plays part of that message for Luke before running off to find Obi-Wan. Luke goes after R2 and is attacked but is saved by Obi-Wan himself, who is watching. I love his intro scene. The music is great, and Alec Guinness just takes over the movie from this point on. You believe that he is a legendary warrior and you believe that he has been through so many things over the years. I love the scene when Obi-Wan introduces Luke (and the audience) to the Force. My favorite part is when Luke tries to avoid his ultimate calling and Obi-Wan simply says, "You must do what you feel is right, of course." It was always so cool to me.
Then bam, after all this time, a return to the bad guys. We are introduced to this ultimate weapon talked about in the opening crawl, as well as Grand Moff Tarkin, played by the late Peter Cushing. His greatest line to me is when he turns and says "Fear... will keep the local stations in line. Fear of this battle station." He is so confident and is matched only by Vader, who uses his force choke for the first time and increases the terror of his character. His line is great too.
Oh, and special props to the guy getting choked. He made that scene so much better by that acting. I used to think Force chokes were real as a kid because of this guy.
Then there is the scene that changes the whole movie around. Luke returns home to find that his family is gone forever. This is the moment where Luke's life changes and he makes a decision to go on the path that has been placed before him. Obi-Wan then takes him under his wing and leads him on his journey.
The Mos Eisley sequence is just great storytelling and awesome visuals, giving us a brand new world to enjoy. We experience everything the same way Luke does. Obi-Wan, again is great in these scenes with his Jedi Mind trick and the first use of his lightsaber, but it is here that we are introduced to one of the greatest movie characters of all time: Han Solo. His first line is his name. How cool is that? He just flows right into the movie and within seconds, like Obi-Wan, becomes very unique and memorable. Guinness and Ford shine in the Cantina scene and it shows that our group of characters are a very diverse group in terms of personality an character, giving everyone in the audience someone to relate to.
Now, here are two sequences that stir a lot of debate among fans. First, the scene with Greedo. I grew up with the special edition versions of these movies, but I also have the original VHS of this movie so I know both versions. In version 1, Han shoots Greedo in cold blood. In version 2, Greedo shoots first but misses and then Han returns fire. This change has caused so much hatred from the fans and has led to the now famous term, "Han Shot First". I understand why George Lucas did it and even defend his right to make that change, believing it makes him less cold of a character. However, I don't believe it was necessary. I don't think people watching that scene originally thought Han was evil, just that he was a badass and he handled his business. It also doesn't make much sense given how Han definitely shoots first in countless other situations. But for me personally, I think it's cool either way and it doesn't ruin the scene, the character, or the movie for me. In fact, I think it's pretty badass that he dodges a laser shot that close to him in the first place.
The second scene is the added scene with Jabba the Hutt. The issue here is also that it is unnecessary and it recycles some of the same lines from the scene with Greedo. I actually think that the lines were first filmed here and then dubbed into the Greedo scene. People have said that Greedo is in the scene, but that is not true. There are just others of his kind that look like him in the scene. I know George Lucas would not be stupid enough to have Jabba say, "Why did you fry poor Greedo?" and have Greedo in the scene. There is a particularly bad part when Han is digitally lifted above a CGI Jabba to make it look like he stepped on his tail but it doesn't work. I do however, like the scene and I think it does some good foreshadowing of the later films, with Boba Fett being in the scene, even if it is ultimately unnecessary.
Next, we finally get a scene with some Leia dialogue again. I never noticed how little screen time Leia actually has in the first hour of this movie. Even still, she is a strong character and a clear role model for young girls. She stands up for herself against the villains showing no fear for either one of them and even lies when she is captured to protect the Rebels. The Death Star truly becomes the Death Star at that moment, when Tarkin orders the destruction of Alderaan, her home planet. I love how Tarkin says, "You're far too trusting." And Vader just holds her back as we watch the planet explode, it's crazy! And the fact that the destruction is immediately felt by Obi-Wan makes it seem even more heartbreaking.
Much of this movie's lasting impact is the sheer wonder of it all. Every scene builds upon the next and the film constantly changes as the story becomes more and more involved. Once our heroes reach the Death Star, the film turns into a rescue mission/escape movie. Obi-Wan goes off to disable the tractor beam keeping them in the Death Star and had this movie been made today, they probably would have given him more to do during this sequence. Unfortunately, Alec Guinness disappears a bit during this part of the movie. The focus then turns to Han, Luke, and Chewie as they attempt to rescue Leia.
These are some of the funniest moments in the movie. From Chewie growling at Luke, to Han's conversation over the intercom, to Leia's bickering with Han, to the garbage chute scene. The trash compactor slows down the action for a bit, bringing a sense of suspense but it quickly turns back to the action as the heroes race back to the ship to escape. Between all this is the duel between Obi-Wan and Vader. This is a quiet, slow, but effective duel. Yet again, Alec Guinness is so great in these scenes, showing complete calm and poise against an enemy who clearly hates him. Not once is Obi-Wan ever intimidated, as they both knew that this fight was coming. Obi-Wan's eventual sacrifice for the others is also touching and the wonder of his body disappearing and then his voice urging Luke to run was amazing to watch as a kid, but it also made me really sad.
Once the heroes escape, there is an exciting Tie fighter sequence where Han and Luke must defend the ship and destroy the fighters. It's some great stuff here and there's still about a half hour left of the movie. The tie fighter attack was just a trick to put a homing beacon on the ship, and I just realized that I forgot to mention how amazing I find the Millennium Falcon, Han's ship. It has a great design and is instantly memorable.
Our heroes now must make a heroic attempt to destroy the Death Star. Han unfortunately decides to leave after receiving his money, leaving only Luke to stand up and join the rebels. There is a nice scene in the special edition that establishes a past relationship between Luke and his friend, Biggs, who is a rebel fighter. It's a nice, small scene, and it gives a sense of camaraderie and it increases the impact once Biggs is eventually killed in battle.
The battle itself is a landmark in filmmaking. I love how it shows everyone getting ready for battle and their reactions to the death star. Lucas makes these rebels seem relateable and we see their point of view as they fly into the trench. This sequence has never been repeated and there has never been anything like it in the entirety of the series. While the later films added more to the spectacle and made it bigger, which I love, there is still something to say about the simplicity of this battle which speaks to the winning simplicity of the film. Some scenes are even without music just the sounds of ships flying and firing away. Many rebels are killed during this sequence which adds to the suspense of it all and through the majority of this fight, Luke is merely a spectator helping out when he can. He doesn't even make the first attempt at destroying the Death Star. Making matters worse, Darth Vader joins in the fight and helps kill most of the rebels. Then, Vader goes after Luke. All seems lost and suddenly, Obi-Wan's voice appears, telling Luke to trust in the Force, and soon after that, Han returns and saves Luke, sending Vader flying into space. Luke destroys the Death Star and the heroes are rewarded for their bravery.
The throne room scene is a perfect ending (aside from Chewie never receiving a medal! HaHa) and I love the music. Han and Luke have both grown into heroes by the end of the film and they have given the rebels a great victory. What a great way to end a movie!
Star Wars is a such a fun film and it takes us on a great journey, all while both entertaining us and teaching us some lessons about life in the process. Without even watching the film and writing this mostly off memory, I can see how much this film has stayed with my heart after all these years and it has actually made me love and appreciate this movie even more. I give Star Wars: A New Hope an A+