johnlink ranks STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE (1977)

Going to take the five-year-old to see THE FORCE AWAKENS when we go to visit family in Rhode Island next week. Running out of time to get through the original trilogy, so it was a forceful Christmas Eve last night. And I get the feeling that the Empire may well strike back tonight on Christmas.

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I watched STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE (1977) on 12.24.15. It was my fourth or fifth time watching it from beginning to end, and probably the first time I’d done so in a decade. And I know that putting the whole title in is blasphemy to some since it should always just be called STAR WARS.

This is a movie which is nearly impossible to watch in an objective way. STAR WARS is as much part of American culture – world culture, really – that to try and untangle the movie from what it represents is a nearly impossible task. There are many reasons that THE PHANTOM MENACE is such a disappointment. But a good number of those reasons also show up in the original STAR WARS films.

The acting isn’t great. Mark Hamill as a young and whiny Luke Skywalker is not much better than a young and whiny Anakin Skywalker from PHANTOM MENACE. Some of the special effects are bad. Some of the aliens define logic or belivability. The plot has major holes and or major leaps of faith which make no sense. The bad guys can’t shoot anybody. The script can – sometimes – get a little cheesy.

But for all of those flaws, the first STAR WARS is still a really good movie. There are many reasons for that. Harrison Ford as Han Solo is a necessary presence that the prequel trilogy was never able to match. His mercenary smuggler is funny, sometimes mean, and really enjoyable to watch. Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia (who I noticed watching this time is called “LEE-ah” by at least two different characters) adds a strong female presence who provides genuine decision-making strength. Chewbacca is a much better sidekick than Jar-Jar Binks. Alec Guinness provides weight to a role that needs it, in Obi-Wan Kenobi. The villains are not wasted. Darth Vader is a nasty villain and Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) gives legitimacy to the military portion of the Empire.

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This first STAR WARS is smart, though, in that it keeps its story rather small. Act one mostly takes place on a dusty planet, act two on the Death Star, and act three in a battle just outside the Death Star. We get a little traveling, a little planet annihilation, and a little rebel base. But we don’t wander the universe all that much. This allows the characters to be developed. Fortunately, there are enough good ones to counter-balance just how annoying Luke Skywalker really is.

Alec Guinness famously thought the movies were terrible and that the dialogue was terrible while he was making the films. When the Special Editions hit in the 90s he said “Twenty years ago, when the film was first shown, it had a freshness, also a sense of moral good and fun,” (before trashing how big they had become), but his involvement in making the film made him feel old and uninspired. Seeing the movie today, it isn’t hard to see why Guinness had reservations. The series definitely sees Luke improve as he learns the force, but he really is annoying and unbearable in the first STAR WARS. It isn’t until the escape from the Death Star, when he gets to show off his shooting skills, that he is even remotely likable.

But STAR WARS is a movie which is far better than the sum of its parts. The introduction of ‘the force’ as a concept turned out to be a major development in the history of blockbuster films. The action scenes are enjoyable, the characters are a pleasure to be with (Luke aside), and there is an unquestionable sense of fun across the board.

There is no question that the series would improve over the course of the next couple of films. But, though it may be impossible to separate the movie of STAR WARS from the legend of STAR WARS, the first movie still is a great time.

SCORES

FILM: 6; MOVIE: 9; ACTING: 5; WRITING: 6; BONUS: 2

One bonus point is for the legendary John Williams score. The other point is for the ambiance the film creates. Maybe that second point is cheating in an attempt to artificially raise the score. But I don’t really care.

6+9+5+6+2=28

FINAL SCORE: 7 out of 10

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~ by johnlink00 on December 25, 2015.

One Response to “johnlink ranks STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE (1977)”

  1. Good review. In my eyes, it will still forever and always be a great movie. It has its faults for sure, but most of them, I can push aside for the sole fact that it’s everything fantasy has aspired to be since.

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