Welcome to Star Wars week. On Friday, Episode VII: The Force Awakens opens in theatres around the world. In anticipation of this historic event, I’ve decided to rewatch the original six and review them here, with a new review coming out every day this week.
Today’s review is for a movie that not only defined a generation of fans, but a generation of filmmakers. In 1977, Star Wars (as it was simply called then) became one of the first blockbusters and spawned one of the largest film franchises in history.
So how does it hold up? Just fine.
It’s amazing to see the difference between the vast, chaotic worlds of the prequels and the extreme simplicity of A New Hope. It’s a movie about a hero destined for greatness, who has to rescue a princess from a sinister villain. That’s it. But the characters are so well written, so likeable, that it grasps the audience in a way few films have.
Take Han Solo. George Lucas recently said in an interview with the Washington Post that Solo was supposed to be like a cowboy. With that in mind when I watched A New Hope again, that description makes perfect sense. His swagger and confidence, combined with his reluctance to be a hero, is a compelling mix that draws the audience in. He’s just cool.
Same with Luke. The audience sympathizes with a character who, like them, has no idea what’s going on. And as he learns more and more about the war around him, so does the audience, slowly and organically. The prequels suffered from trying to cram too many references and plot points into a film. A New Hope doesn’t rush anything, giving just enough information to hold the audience’s attention.
Obviously, over time, the special effects don’t all hold up. The alien costumes in the scenes on Tatooine are really well done, as are the droid puppets. But the lightsaber battle between Darth Vader and Old Ben is comically outdated. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to blame George Lucas for not using technology that didn’t exist yet. When you don’t have top of the line CGI computers, you make do.
What I think A New Hope does better than most movies is the world building. It starts small, introducing just a handful of characters and giving them a small mission to complete. References to a greater war and a greater purpose for the heroes are made, but aren’t heaped onto the story. Therefore, A New Hope can stand alone as just a good movie period. The sequels and prequels just expand on it, almost like bonus material.
Every story has to start somewhere. And there are few better starts than A New Hope.