A Saga In Review: Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope

We're just a couple weeks away from The Force Awakens. Read the first of the original trilogy reviews right here. 

"Look, Bob. I made them fall down.
My evil is never ending."
They say that it is more difficult to write a positive review than a negative one.  It is more difficult still when the film you're reviewing is 38 years old and considered by anyone's definition to be a classic.  But as we stand just weeks away from yet another Star Wars renaissance, we revisit the past to celebrate the greatness that came before, and regain perspective on those parts of history that we hope do not repeat themselves.  And so we return to that galaxy far, far away, where good and evil have perhaps never been so clearly defined, and search our feelings for what we know to be true.  With the prequels out of the way, our focus shifts to the revered original trilogy, beginning with Episode IV: A New Hope.

A New Hope is one of the most beloved films of all time, and for good reason.  It is Joseph Campbell's A Hero's Journey applied to a vast, elaborate science fantasy universe rich with interesting, mysterious characters.  It succeeds as both a standalone adventure and as the origin story of something much greater.  Controversial retcons aside, it has stood the test of time, excitedly passed down by generations of parents who grew up watching the films to their equally wide-eyed children.  There is action and adventure, comedy, drama, horror, suspense, shocking twists, and good triumphing over evil.  It is basically anything anyone could possibly want from a film.

Alas, so few films can truly be considered completely flawless, and A New Hope is certainly no exception.  The dirty little secret among fans of the original Star Wars trilogy is that everyone knows that the acting and dialogue in the original films (particularly ANH) is a bit shaky at best.  George Lucas, while nearly peerlessly innovative, has never really been an actor's director.  The downside of working with relatively unknown actors is not really knowing what you're going to get performance-wise.  Combining unseasoned actors with a director like Lucas can make for some occasionally awkward performances, particularly that of Mark Hamill (who certainly improved over the series and beyond, eventually earning acclaim for voicing The Joker in several animated Batman films and TV series.)  Lucas's screenplay unfortunately does his actors no favors either, and while we still fondly remember and quote much of the dialogue, there are still plenty of exchanges that make us cringe a bit on the inside.

"No. The walking dog doesn't get a reward.
He'd just chew it up."
Perhaps the greatest understatement that can be made about ANH is that "the good outweighs the bad".  There are a great many more things that ANH does exceptionally well.  The primary exception to the acting discussed above is Sir Alec Guinness, who despite famously hating the film brings his A-game here and gives the film just the right amount of gravitas.  The action sequences, particularly the climactic trench battle on the Death Star, are among some of the most exciting ever filmed even to this day, and even before the special editions the effects were light years ahead of their time.  The sweeping score is John Williams's masterpiece, which considering his vast and unmatched resume is saying something.  A New Hope is Lucas's labor of love, a magnificent tribute to the old adventure serials and war films he loved growing up.

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Related Article:
A Saga In Review
The Prequels
Cynics will say that Lucas's endless tinkering and the saga's over-commercialization have tarnished the legacy of A New Hope.  Most others continue to see it for what it is: a fun, nearly perfect film that aims mainly to be a fun, exciting adventure movie and succeeds with flying colors.  It's a movie that generations of film lovers of all walks of life continue to enjoy and rewatch and pass down to the next.  It is one of only a few films in history that can take credit for transforming the entire filmmaking industry as we know it forever.  Whether or not this is a good thing is perhaps up for debate, but no one can argue that A New Hope is a revolutionary, visionary film, and one that will assuredly continue to stand the test of time far into the future.  May the Force be with us, always.


-Mike Stec