In 1977 the world changed. Star Wars (now known as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope) inspired and amazed movie goers both young and old, and it’s still doing that to new fans today.
The original Star Wars film was written and directed by George Lucas. The script was shopped around with many studios declining and even after Fox gave it the green light and all during production, they were nervous to say the least. However, the film that was released, and the subsequent altered versions that have been released since captured the hearts of so many that saw it. It’s hard to review a film like this, a film that I have loved since I first watched it with my Dad in 1998 (in preparation for The Phantom Menace), when I was 6.
In the countless times I have watched it since, I have always believed that A New Hope is the quintessential Hero’s Journey, a young farm boy is living his hum-drum life and is caught up in a war between the two factions, the mighty Empire and the underdogs, the Rebel Alliance, aided by his super-natural guide and band of friends he takes on the extraordinary hurdles in front of him and comes out on top. The film borrows heavily from Kurosawa films like The Hidden Fortress and military films like The Dam Busters but it this sort of retooling of elements people are familiar with and putting them in a setting like the Star Wars galaxy that makes it so believable and relatable.
This film is a masterpiece of cinema and it’s curious that George Lucas writing and directing Star Wars turned out so well when upon trying to emulate the success and take over for the prequel films, it fell short. I am certain that it is because of the success of this film and the other two (to be reviewed soon) that George faced no hurdles when making the prequels, there was no-one doubting him, no-one giving input. Star Wars was plagued by producers doubts, limited budget and an even more limited time frame and that’s what made it what it is. For all intents and purposes this is an indie film. It feels real and is only using special effects when needed, a stark contrast to the films made in the late 90s and early 00s.
To get to Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope itself, the main characters were portrayed by largely unknown actors. Mark Hamill was on a television show, Carrie Fisher was the daughter of actors and starting to make it out in her own right and Harrison Ford was beginning to make waves but it wouldn’t be until this film released that he became a household name. These young and very talented actors were complimented by well-seasoned veterans in Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness. All were great additions to the film and shone through in their own parts. It felt like there was care taken in the development of these characters and they were directed well to become these, now iconic, roles.
The visual effects for the time were mind-blowing, and this is what started the industry leading company Industrial Light and Magic who while working on almost every film to hit the screens these days have become synonymous with Star Wars. The rotoscoping of the Lightsabers, the detail in the practical models and making them come to life would not have been possible with out George Lucas’ vision coupled with John Dykstra and his team at ILM.
Star Wars: A New Hope is filmmaking 101 but its that simplicity combined with the care and attention that made it into a film that has stood the test of time and started a legacy that will live on for a long time.
Star Wars: A New Hope: Above Average