Saturday, May 10, 2014

MR Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope

Sorry for the delay... I originally intended to put up this review for MAY THE FOURTH (be with you!), "Star Wars day"!

Before the upcoming Disney films, before there was a Star Wars franchise, before the trilogy and even before there was "A New Hope" - there simply was "Star Wars"...

Don't miss out my previous Star Wars-related reviews!

Movie: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope aka originally as simply Star Wars
Directed by George Lucas
Release date 1977
Genre Science-fiction/space opera epic
Country USA

The original Star Wars was a landmark in movie history.

There had been no such thing at the time of its release, and it still is to this day very much relevant to our pop culture and continues to have such a huge influence on how we perceive movies.

Opening new grounds in term of technology and imagination.

I still wonder how a then-30 years old George Lucas was really able to sell such an outlandish idea.

Following his first debut film THX 1138 in 1971, George Lucas had the first idea for what would become "The Star Wars".

At first it was to be a single film. Inspired by the old pulp serials such as Flash Gordon that were such a huge influence on him as a child. He had several ideas on this whole fantasy take on science-fiction. The setting came out quickly. But then the ideas grew way too big for a debuting filmmaker, this would take him well over multiple films to take all in.

He based his story on fairy tale structures, taking several cues and elements from traditional medieval tale as the tale took different shapes and titles from "Adventures of Starkiller" to "Saga 1: The Star Wars". The problem was that is original outline was still way too long for a film, so he decided to split it into multiple chapters and dropping the entire establishment of his plot (part of what would become the "Prequel Trilogy"). Finally he tried to focus on one single tale of Good Vs. Evil and finally ditched the 2 final acts of his film, keeping some ideas aside if he would ever get to make some more movies one day.

Basing the overall structure on Akira Kurosawa's 1958 classic chanbara film "The Hidden Fortress". 

Lucas wrote a concrete draft right after American Graffiti in 1973 and took it to several producers, but nobody seemed interested at the time. After asking him for several rewrites, Universal finally rejected his film anyway! Finally the film caught the attention of a producer at 20th Century Fox.

Lucas hired artist Ralph McQuarrie to work on concept art/the direction the film would take. He was finally able to sell his screenplay to the studio with McQuarrie's paintings as only visuals at time.

He started working on the spaceships sequences of his big space opera epic by constructing some effects based on drawings by future big name film director Joe Johnston.

But there still a problem missing, Star Wars would require a lot of sets, effects and costumes crafted specifically for the film.

Star Wars as a series took form right alongside the evolution of special effects in Hollywood. The series is simply responsible for the big boom special effects would leave on movie history. Needing to control and shape the effects specially around his story, Lucas ended up founding the studio Industrial Light & Magic specifically for Star Wars.

Chronologically the 4th episode in the overall saga but the first film in the saga Lucas directed and produced. It was originally intended as merely the first act had it been produced following the very first draft which comprised both Episode V and Episode VI in the same film. (I believe this would have made a very condensed rushed story in the end...). It ended being the very first entry in the franchise, before it was later retitled "Episode IV", before a "A New Hope" was later added when it received a couple sequels.

Star Wars follows a story I believe everybody knows by now.

The film opens unlike any film at the time, which is still quite very unusual in films nowadays. To no such thing as any form of credits, whatsoever, which was very usual at the time. No actors' name, nothing.

It starts in media res, right in the middle of an action scene. But first a quick glimpse at the dense and original political setting of the Star Wars universe in the form of an introduction text. Another little homage to old serials.

The film is set in "A Galaxy Far, Far Away", a Rebellion is trying to fight off an Empire oppressing the entire galaxy. At its head, the mysterious "Sith Lord" Darth Vader.. 

The Princess Leia, head of the Rebel Alliance, is able to send a message to the last "Jedi Master" Obi-Wan Kenobi via two droids, R2-D2 & C-3PO.

A message that would change the destiny of young farmboy Luke Skywalker forever..

Along the way we get introduced to the charming smuggler Han Solo and his friend wookie Chewbacca. The gang gets into trouble when they collide with the Empire's Stormtroopers. They fly aboard the Millennium Falcon, rescue Leia and end up forced to join the Rebels.

A final strike against the Empire's Death Star reveals Luke's secret link to "the Force", his heritage from a mysterious father he never knew, the Jedi Anakin Skywalker...

For its time it was such a fantastic setting... Something nobody had ever seen before.

It captivated the collective imagination of people all over the world, children and adults alike. It was an adventure film. An old school swashbuckling film. A fantasy tale set in space. A pure science-fiction tribute to Hollywood's Golden Age. With pieces of pure comedy, romance and dramatic film all rolled up into one.

Like I said, the film was written and directed by George Lucas. Based on all the things he loved and which influenced his work and career.

The film ended up an influential work on his own, leaving a mark on generations of directors since then be those that where only children back then or those in their 30s or 50s at the time. It opened the doors to the like of Alien or the Star Trek feature films which were then able to know a second popularity at the time.

The film also owed a lot to how well it came up to be, the simple circumstances that led to the film's creation all the way through its final release, no thanks to several troubles behind the scenes.

Filming took place in Tunisia and England, the crew went through a lot of weather conditions and other production problems.

Not counting on how most of the executive producers didn't really believe in both the film's success and even it's entire premise.

Actually most people on the set had no idea what they all signed for, what all these strange creatures and design would end resulting in. Nobody believed in this "so called" Star Wars.

Thanks to its main cast, the film could at least count on a lot of great talent. The film featured a young captivating Mark Hamill, an always charismatic Harrison Ford, the lovely and talented Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, and many more!

It was unique. It was fun. And it was highly imaginative!

The Force was cool and mysterious. The spaceships and the universe were unique. And creatures, the lore and Jedis were so original!

And let's not forget the magistrale score composed by a then-relatively unknown John Williams, besides his dramatic work on Jaws and a decade worth of work already behind him. John Williams went all out and tried his best on coming up with such an original incidental musical score, following certain motifs and themes relatively to the action on screen by Lucas' own suggestion. And it worked brilliantly! The score was recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra in about 12 days!

As soon as the film hit theaters, Star Wars imploded all over the world!

It was a stunning film, despite some pieces of clunky dialogue here and there, and some effects not entirely mastered a couple times.

Star Wars took over all of popular culture.

The series went on living off its huge fandom for years to come by (not actually needing any sequels nor new entries for years).

And then, the second coming, as soon as the film was received through home release and Television it spawned a relentless fan-following, merchandising, etc.

Star Wars was released on almost every single available home media at the time from VHS to Betamax and Laserdisc!

This second success helped establish the series for good and sold it forever into the mind of young children over the whole wide world.

The film was a huge hit a second time setting new records of the highest grossing film at the time. The entire "cinema industry" was born as we see it to this day. Films were watched a lot, particularly in drive-ins, but there was no such movie culture before Star Wars. Sure Citizen Kane and King Kong were huge classics and success, but nothing on this same scale.

Star Wars became not only a merely influential work but an entire unique experience through and though.

The film went on spawning thousands of toys, novels, comic books and more - touching all forms pf medias, spread on all kinds of mediums...

It went on to become one of the biggest (and the sole biggest one for a while) all-time grossing films AND franchise in history.

(Pop culture) history was made.

Overall, Star Wars: "A New Hope" is a cult classic that not only was part of cinema history but also made cinema history.

The film was pioneer in both terms of technology and the industry.

It was a first at the time, be it on its scale or its influence if would continue to provide for ages.

There's so much you can comment on or talk about regarding Star Wars. The Death Star assault alone is such a stunning flawless piece of cinema, probably one of the best sequences in movies of all time. Yet so simple nowadays, in retrospective. Fluid and well choreographed, with focus not spent on the special effects themselves but on the narrative (don't let the CGi-added Starfighters since then tell you otherwise).

It's a fantastic 1970s piece of science-fiction that still hold up pretty well to this day, compared to other yearly products that come and go in Hollywood nowadays. Maybe only thwarted by its original sequels.

Following ILM's work on Steven Spielberg's 1993 film Jurassic Park and the advancements they came up with in digital effects, the studios was now finally able to bring some of Lucas' original vision on screen for the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the series in 1997. It was then decided the original film would be remastered and re-released on theaters along its original 2 sequels (also to help build up the hype for the planned Prequels at the time and keep the franchise on the collective consciousness). The Special Edition added a bunch of quirks to an already classic film, since then those very "new" Special Edition scenes and effect have now started to date a bit as well and are now expected part of the ride, if you like it or not! Sure there are some questionable "additions", but others "new" elements are perfectly fine in my eyes only worth nitpicking for nerds that love to hate.Several of these changes includes added CGi effects, new minor edits already imagined when the first sequel hit the big screen back in 1980. There are some relatively well handled improvements such as the scene regarding Jabba the Hutt while a couple of other ones are a bit more questionable... Mostly minor cosmetic changes and a big change in composition regarding the infamous Han/Greedo "who shot first" scene (mostly annoying in my eyes not because it changes the idea behind the scene like most nerds like to criticize, but because it's mostly badly one at the end of the day...). 

But let's be honest here.

At end of the day it doesn't change what Star Wars is.

A great classic film.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Anakins!


  1. Good review.

    I am in the "HATES the added CG and other edits" camp. In part because most are needless. And in part because the CG is not all that great sometimes. It lacks the feeling of being real that the models and suits had. Its really bad in THX1138 too.

    1. I think it did help expand the battle of the Death Star at the end, but, yeah, otherwise it didn't had much really.