RELEASED: May 25th 1977
DIRECTED BY: George Lucas
WRITTEN BY: George Lucas
PRODUCED BY: Gary Kurtz
MUSIC BY: John Williams
STARRING: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing, David Prowse & James Earl Jones
When people ask me how I would rank the Star Wars films, my answer often changes depending on my mood or which films I’ve watched recently. At the time of writing, Star Wars (also known as Episode IV – A New Hope) is definitely up near the top. The promotional material definitely doesn’t lie; Star Wars definitely is ‘the most extraordinary motion picture of all time’ (or one of them, at least), and it’s mind-boggling to think it was written and directed by the same man who brought us The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. It’s a whole different level of film-making.
The story sees Luke Skywalker, a young farmboy, whisked away on a mission across the Galaxy, after his family purchases two droids that were formerly the property of the Rebel Alliance. Now hunted by the evil Empire, Luke travels with wise Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi and smugglers Han Solo and Chewbacca to rescue Princess Leia from the clutches of the Empire and take out their new planet-destroying super-weapon, the Death Star.
First off, let’s talk about the cinematography of this film. Considering that George Lucas was a rookie director at the time, this film is phenomenal. Not just in the way it looks, but in the fascinating mythology it depicts in its imagery and the sheer creativity that bleeds out of the screen in nearly every frame. Thanks to Lucas, concept artist Ralph McQuarrie and others involved in the making of Star Wars, this film features shots that have inspired generations of film-makers to come, and captured the hearts and minds of people across the globe. Whether it’s the shot of Luke staring out at the twin suns of Tattooine or the stark white armour of the stormtroopers, nearly everything in this film is incredibly memorable.
But of course, a good looking film still doesn’t amount to much without a strong story or characters. Although it does follow Joseph Campbell’s ‘the Hero’s journey’ point-for-point, there’s still something special about it. It’s a simple story that’s fascinating in its conception. The ideas and universe George creates around Campbell’s structure are genius, and the way everything is brought to life through a mix of practical effects, computer generated imagery, models and even leftover costumes from other movies blends together seemlessly. Likewise, the dialogue, although corny, is incredibly sophisticated in that it takes us deeper into the universe than what we see before us. A simple throwaway line can open up a whole new storytelling opportunity (as evidenced by Rogue One and Solo).
Furthermore, the characters are instantly loveable. In this one film, George manages to create more likeable characters than he did in the entirety of his Prequel trilogy. And the praise doesn’t stop there, as the characters are made larger-than-life by the excellent performances of Hamill, Fisher, Ford and all the rest, despite the fact that half of them, at the time, were fairly fresh to the acting game. They feel incredibly real, and even when they’re being jerks (looking at you, Han), it’s impossible not to root for them.
And that’s just the heroes. The villains, Tarkin and Vader, although they get far less explanation, are both charismatic and intensely threatening, making it hard to argue the claim that, Vader in particular, is the greatest film villain of all time.
And let’s not forget the music. Thanks to composer John Williams, Star Wars has a theme tune and score that everybody knows. Every song is timeless and touching.
The really extraordinary thing about this film though, is that even forty years on, it still holds up. It still looks fantastic (and sometimes better than contemporary films), and anything that looks like it could be a production mistake or strange acting/directing choice is so heartwarmingly lovable that it just adds to your enjoyment of the film (example: the scene on the Death Star when a stormtrooper hits his head on the top of the door)
All-in-all, I give this:
“No legendary adventure of the past could be as exciting as this romance of the future”.