Star Wars

  • Title:  Star Wars (aka Star Wars IV:  A New Hope)
  • Director:  George Lucas
  • Date:  1977
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox
  • Genre:  SF, Fantasy, Adventure
  • Cast:  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Your father’s light sabre.  This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight.  Not as clumsy or random as a blaster.  An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age.”  — Obi-Wan Kenobi

“The force is what gives a Jedi his power.  It’s an energy field created by all living things, it surrounds us and penetrates us, it binds the Galaxy together.”  — Obi-Wan Kenobi

“I want to come with you to Alderaan.  There’s nothing for me here now.  I want to learn the ways of  the force and become a Jedi like my father.”  — Luke

“I’m Luke Skywalker, I’m here to rescue you!”  — Luke

Hands down one of my favorite movies, ever!  Star Wars is the classic science fantasy film, mixing the cultural mysticism of Old Japan, with the classic tale of farm boy who wants adventure, then he becomes very important.

The film opens with a scroll revealing this is “Episode IV” like the old movie serials from the 1930s. This catches up on the plot for a “pre-quel” that in 1977 didn’t exist, but it explains the background for what’s going on.  We see an impressive, but small ship being chased and shot at — then a shot of a much, much larger ship chasing it.  The ship seems to go on forever.  It’s blasting lasers at the smaller ship.

Inside the ship we meet two ‘Droids (or androids), R2-D2 and C3PO.  R2-D2 communicates only in whistles and beeps (meant to suggest machine language) though we have an idea what he’s saying from C3PO’s responses.  C3PO, a “protocol” droid and translator, seems a bit like a bad butler.  The entire ship is swallowed by the larger one.  Imperial Storm Troopers in metallic white armor burst in. Vader strangles one of the rebels, and Princess Leia is stunned unconscious.

R2-D2 and C3PO leave the ship in an escape pod.  Because the pod registers no life signs, the Imperial troops let it get away.  They land on a dessert planet.  Jawas, dessert scavengers, pick up the two droids.
The Storm Troopers arrive, thinking the “plans” are hidden in the pod, then find evidence of droids and tracks.

Meanwhile, the Jawas arrange their droids to sell.  Luke and his Uncle Owen take first C3PO and then R2-D2 from the Jawas and bring them back to their farm.

Luke stumbles on to part of Leia’s message while cleaning R2-D2.  He claims he’s the property of Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Luke discusses going to “the Academy” with Uncle Owen, but Owen wants him to stay and help with the harvest.  R2-D2 goes off on his own in search of Kenobi.

The next morning, Luke and C3PO search for R2-D2 and find him.  They’re attacked by Sand People.  Obi-Wan Kenobi rescues Luke, and the droids.  Obi-Wan fills Luke in on some of  his father’s history, and gives him a light sabre.  He starts to teach Luke about the Force, and they listen to Leia’s full message hologram.  Kenobi asks Luke to help go to Alderaan.  Luke says he can’t.  Then they find the Jawas attacked and destroyed, it’s meant to look like Sand People were responsible, but Obi-Wan realizes Imperial Storm Troopers were responsible.

On Vader’s ship they discuss the disappearance of  the plans, and Vadar strangles a man using the Force.

Luke rushes home, but the farm’s been destroyed and his Aunt and Uncle burned to death.  He returns to the Jawa site, meets with Kenobi, and vows to go with him, learn the ways of  the Force, and become a Jedi Knight like his father.  They head for Mos Eisley spaceport, the famous “hive of scum and villainy”. There they meet Chewbacca and Han Solo and book passage on the Millennium Falcon.  Luke sells his speeder to get cash.

Imperial troopers show up at the space port and there’s a brief laser gun fight.  The Millennium Falcon escapes the Imperial cruisers by making the jump to light speed and cruising into hyperspace.  During the brief trip, Obi-Wan Kenobi begins to train Luke in the use of  a light sabre.  When they arrive at Alderaan, it’s in the middle of  a meteor shower.  And the planet isn’t there.

We’d seen Vader coldly and calmly use the Death Star to destroy the entire planet, Leia’s home, and one she insists is peaceful with no weapons.  Obi-Wan Kenobi had felt the tremor in the force, the millions of lives silenced, and nearly collapsed, while aboard the Falcon, in hyper-space.

Back on the Falcon, they see a small moon near Alderaan, or what was, Alderaan.  Quickly, Luke, Han, and Obi-Wan realize it’s a space station and they better get out of there.  But they are pulled into a tractor beam.  When the ship lands, the Imperial Troopers think no one’s on board, as they had all hidden in Han’s smuggling compartments.

Obi-Wan Kenobi will take care of the tractor beam.  The rest are to check for info, but stay put.  However, R2-D2 plugs into a Imperial computer port, downloads data, and finds Leia and that she’s scheduled for execution.  Luke convinces Han to rescue Leia.  Han reluctantly agrees.  They rescue Leia, get caught by troopers trying to escape, and Leia blows a hole in the wall with a blaster rifle and they end up in the garbage compactor.  Luke calls C3PO for help and they barely escape.

Getting back to the Falcon isn’t so easy, with more blaster battles.  Everyone gets to the Falcon, but Kenobi is fighting Vader.  Luke sees this on the other side of the hanger deck.  Vader kills Kenobi, and Luke angrily fires at any Imperial storm trooper he can.  The Falcon escapes, after a space battle against TIE fighters, but Leia insists “they let us escape”.

She’s right, the Death Star follows them to the rebel base at Yavin, on a nearby moon. The rebels study the plans and come up with a plan.  Small, one-man fighters (X-wings), will fly through a trench and send photon torpedoes through a 2-meter thermal vent.  If placed directly, and perfectly on target, the torpedo will reach the center of  the moon’s reactor, blow it up and cause a chain reaction to blow up the entire Death Star.

Luke, Wedge, and two squadrons of rebel pilots, head for the Death Star to make their attack run. Meanwhile, Leia and the rebels watch battle screens and listen.  They watch as the Death Star comes closer and closer, knowing that when or if  it clears the planet, they are all dead.  And they listen as the rebel pilots, one by one, die — either in collisions in the trench, blown up by Imperial TIE fighters, or destroyed by anti-aircraft batteries on the Death Star.  Finally, it’s down to Wedge and Luke.  Wedge gets a bit cooked and has to pull out (but he survives).  Han Solo arrives in the Falcon, and destroys two TIE fighters, and clips Vader’s fighter so it rolls off  into space.  Luke disables his targeting computer, and let’s the force guide him to make the shot.  He succeeds.

Later he and Han reunite with Leia and are congratulated.  Both receive awards at a huge ceremony. Chewbacca is also honored and  R2-D2 and C3PO are present at the ceremony.

Star Wars is a fun movie – but it has a lot to say too.

The color palette is bright white, black, and grey.  There’s occasional pops of blue, orange, and brown. But mostly it’s white, black and grey – which gives the film an almost monochromatic look, even though it’s a color film.  And, the sharp whites and blacks add to the feel of being in space.  Despite the obvious fantasy elements of  the film, the star fields, uni-directional lighting and such, feel like space.  Even when R2-D2 is in the back of Luke’s X-Wing fighter, his normally blue markings look black because there’s no light in space to see the blue.

The plot, about an orphan who discovers he is meant for greater things also isn’t that different – after all Frodo Baggins and Harry Potter are also orphans.  The farm boy who longs for adventure, and finds it is an old idea, a classic idea.  And in part, Star Wars, is a classic fantasy tale – with a princess to be rescued and plenty of sword play and (blaster) gun battles.  We even have the old mentor, Merlin-like, teaching the young boy.

But far from being derivative – Star Wars brings all these elements together and cooks them up into something no one had seen in 1977, and the film is still popular, even legendary today.  Because of  the futuristic fantasy setting, it doesn’t feel “old”, unlike many science fiction films (or even buddy cop films or musicals or other genre films).  And that is because the film was made with so much care and precision and the young cast is brilliant.  The script is also brilliant – as the many famous quotes from it bare out. After all, who doesn’t know what “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for?” means or where “May the Force be with you” comes from?  It’s just a brilliant, brilliant film.

The film, like Raiders of  the Lost Ark (1981), is actually split into relatively short sections (again, inspired by movie serials), which allow for a more complicated plot and prevent any boredom from setting to setting.  Star Wars moves at a break-neck speed, and with surprising amounts of humor, although the overall tone is that of sheer fun adventure.

I saw Star Wars when it came out in 1977 – I was eight years old, and the perfect age to fall in love with this movie.  It, like the Indiana Jones films, inspired a life-long love of film.  It also inspired my interest in not only watching science fiction, but reading it.  And reading fantasy also.  A couple of  years ago I had the privilege of showing Empire and Jedi to my at-the-time eight-year-old niece and nephew (they’d seen Star Wars) and it was fun to see the films as new through their eyes.  Because I must admit, I’ve seen these three films so many times I’ve memorize whole sections of dialog from them.

Recommendation:  A must see!
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Star Wars:  The Empire Strikes Back

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