Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope – Film Review

star-wars-new-hope.jpgFor all its massive flaws which I wrote plenty about, The Force Awakens did manage to pull me into the Star Wars world, so I’ve decided to revisit the original trilogy, which I haven’t seen in over 15 years. Well, not the “original” trilogy but the one George Lucas updated, which is ironic considering that all that extra CGI crap he added looks really really dated these days. Luckily, the annoying tweaks in this movie are minimal and mostly involve a few fake-looking critters and environments.

My first ever memory of Star Wars is watching the first few minutes of A New Hope dubbed (badly) into Russian when I was maybe ten years old, either at a school camp or when whiling away time at the airport, I can’t quite remember. I saw the entire trilogy from start to finish years later in Australia, when I was about fifteen. While it’s always been in my nature to develop obsessions with fictional worlds, Star Wars never really captured me the way other films/books did, though of course I always appreciated its amazing iconography and that epic John Williams score. Then of course came the prequels. While I actually like quite a few things about Revenge of the Sith, the best thing that came out of the prequels were the classic Red Letter Media reviews which, other than being hilarious (at times in rather, um, disturbing way), offered intelligent and scathing insights on why the prequel trilogy was such a colossal failure.

Anyways, A New Hope. It was interesting to revisit even just to observe the huge difference between this movie from 40 years ago and the modern overcrammed, ADHD blockbusters. By today’s standards, the story in A New Hope is shockingly simple adventure/coming-of-age stuff and the pace is relatively slow. That bit with C-3PO and R2-D2 getting captured by the Jawa traders would have happened in a flash had this movie been made today. While I moan a lot about the modern tentpole films, it’s also fair to say that it’s impossible for one to not get affected by them, and to my eyes A New Hope does feel rather dated and clunky. It’s also short on the kind of dark epic drama that only appeared in the later films and that, to me, helps to salvage a lot of the above-mentioned Revenge of the Sith.

That said, it does have oodles of charm and the pleasure of watching young, hot Harrison Ford swagger through his role as Han Solo. To the gang responsible for casting the young Han Solo in the upcoming prequel, good luck finding someone with half of Ford’s charisma. Seriously, daaaaamn. I’ve seen comments that Luke is something of a whiny kid in this movie, but to me he came off no more whiny than an average teenager who is restless to leave his family nest – which made him relatable and gave him room to grow in the later films. To be honest, I thought that Carrie Fisher and her wandering British accent was the weakest link in the cast acting-wise, with some stiff line reading here and there, but still the main trio of characters are terrific fun to watch. After The Force Awakens, I appreciated the fact that there was no superficial insta-friendship between them – Han initially thinks that Luke is just a dumb kid and patronises the hell out of him, Leia doesn’t think much of Han’s mercenary attitude (although the sexual chemistry between them is obvious from the start – sorry Luke but you really didn’t stand a chance, even if you and Leia didn’t turn out to be related). It’s just much more satisfying to see the characters’ relationship change and grow; like most people I really enjoyed the bromantic chemistry between Poe and Finn in the new movie, but their relationship was nothing but 10 minutes of “duuuuude! broooo! woooo! yeaaaaaah!”

Speaking of build-up, story build-up is another thing A New Hope does really well. Despite the dated visuals the final attack on the Death Star is legitimately exciting to watch, because that’s what the entire movie and Luke’s own personal journey were building up to the whole time.

Heresy ahoy! Considering his unmatched iconic status as probably the greatest cinematic villain of all time, it came as a bit of a shock to me how… unimpressive and unimportant and downright unmythical Darth Vader is here. I don’t know much about the history of the series, but judging by this movie I doubt that Lucas ever intended Vader to be this grand, tragic figure which the prequels then elevated to the Chosen One no less. Here he’s just basically a henchman to Peter Cushing’s reptilian Tarkin and even stoops to taking personal part in a space fight. Plus his helmet and suite are kinda cheap-looking and he even has a few goofy moments like his “What???” just before Han comes to the rescue near the end. And yeah… the duel between Vader and Obi-Wan is pretty much old men awkwardly trying to poke each other with the sticks.

The characters and designs of Star Wars are so ingrained into popular culture at this point that it’s easy to take them for granted, but it’s really mind-boggling how many iconic scenes, musical themes, catchphrases and visuals this movie alone has. The only thing I didn’t remember at all were the guys with rather silly giant black helmets. On a random note, I tend to watch movies with subtitles on, and it amused me that the last spoken line in the movie, according to the subtitles, was Chewbacca’s “argh!” What’s the deal with Chewie not getting a medal like everybody else, by the way? I smell speciesm!

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