Rabies and germs, I’ve procrastinated on it for the last couple of months, but it’s finally time to Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, progressing further in my retrospective of the Star Wars franchise which has so far included reviews on Episode One, Two, and Three. Although the film serves as the fourth film chronologically (or sixth, if we’re counting Rogue One and that one Solo film), as many of you know, it’s where the adventure begins in the original Star Wars series, an epicspace opera, and this film, as well as Episode One thru Three, was written and directed by George Lucas. I don’t feel the need to focus too much on the ins and outs of A New Hope, as it currently stands among the fifth highest-grossing films worldwide of all-time (adjusted for inflation), but it mostly focused on the Rebel Alliance and their efforts to destroy the Galactic Empire’s space station, the Death Star. The film introduces us to the beloved cast that includes Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and, also, the infamous antagonist Darth Vader.
The story-line unfolds in a way that I much prefer to the Prequel Trilogy, which is something I wasn’t originally planning on talking about. I find that it has a certain looseness in structure whereas the “earlier” episodes felt a lot more complicated and heavy-handed with their metaphors and sentiments, I would regard A New Hope as simpler in that regard, and I think that works to its benefit. The layers and undertones aren’t what appeals most in the Galaxy Far, Far Away, instead, it is chewing on the scenery and dealing with the larger than life characters. This film is straightforward – Luke is an apparent nobody thrown in a situation over his head. Darth Vader’s the big-bad with a deep-talking voice and a presence. Luke and the Rebel Alliance will band together to topple the Galactic Empire. The subject-matter doesn’t claim to be anything deeper than what it is, it’s a cinematic science-fiction adventure and it carries the feeling that a larger world awaits you.
The music is distinctive and is rightfully regarded as classic, and although I feel like overexposure has set in for some of my appreciation, in the context of this film, I think it all comes off very well. One of my favorite shots in-particular shown in A New Hope is of Luke Skywalker looking on at the binary sunset as the music plays, a hanging-shot that preludes the adventure that waits, accompanied by the backing score.
The acting itself verges from competent to robotic in instances, and that isn’t simply in-reference to R2D2 and C3PO. For instance, in one scene, Luke becomes aware of his aunt and uncle’s unfortunate demise, and his reaction to it, I would describe as stilted. Some might argue his character is in-shock, but the impression it left on me was devoid of any real registrable emotion. The same can be said for Princess Leia’s reaction to her home-planet being destroyed. In truth, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a deliberate decision, I simply think that it could have had more of a punch and the scenes should’ve been portrayed as more significant acts, building up the antagonist as dastardlier in the process.
I remember when I was younger I always used to hate the early portrayal of Luke Skywalker by Mark Hamill, at least in A New Hope, because I thought it was whinier than I wanted. This was upsetting because how much I enjoy Mark Hamill in other roles (most notably, as The Joker). In my recent re-watch, I realized most of my criticism was unfounded and I think the portrayal is passable as a character coming into his own that will one day become a Jedi. Still, I remember when The Force Awakens came out, I heard a lot of criticisms referring to Rey’s character as a Mary Sue, a phrase meant to describe female-protagonists that are portrayed as too perfect, the phrase has other sexists undertones to it as well, but, even if we accept she is a little unrealistically skilled, Luke’s development as a character portrayed in this film could as easily be dubbed as a Gary Lou. I don’t really have an issue with how Luke adapts as a character, I think it also could’ve been more nuanced, I simply thought I would acknowledge what I believe is a double-standard.
The characters through and through are enjoyable and memorable, but I think that has more to do with the imaginative visuals more than the substance of them as characters. Han Solo is my favorite character in this film, which is a very common opinion, but he’s boasted by the sheer likability that Harrison Ford is able to inject into his characters, coming off cool, a cliché, in some respects, but he’s the hard-edged type with the heart of gold.
Something I’ve always found about the action-sequences in Star Wars is that they lack in-terms of pizazz or sophistication, which, although I admired the simplicity earlier, I don’t in this respect. The battle between Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader exemplifies this fact. The exchange is slow and looks less impressive than the lightsaber battles I had in the backyard with my brothers as a kid. Obviously, special-effects hinder the film, which was made a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, other-wise known as the seventies, but that doesn’t excuse off-putting slogging choreography.
Star Wars – Episode Four: A New Hope is an above-average film. The world presented feels robust, imaginative, and realized through the special-effects and array of different creatures and characters. The story-line is simple and straight-forward, and the action-scenes, especially at the time of release, are executed well, even if I think certain aspects like the light-saber duels are a missed opportunity in-terms of choreography. I might not hold it in as high-regard as many others do, but I do appreciate it as an enjoyable, creative action flick.