Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Luke is nowhere near as buff as this poster portrays.
|Directed by||George Lucas|
|Produced by||Gary Kurtz|
|Written by||George Lucas|
James Earl Prowse
|Music by||John Williams|
|Edited by||Marcia Lucas|
|Running time||Just right|
|Language||Arbitrary switching between British and American English|
|Budget||Lower than you'd expect|
|Box office||Far greater than anyone could possibly imagine|
Star Wars (also known as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Star Wars: Episode IV: Chapter Four: First Movie Filmed But Fourth Chronologically: A New Hope: Volume 4: Movie: Chapter Volume: Episode: Star Wars: A New Hope: Star Wars, Episode IV, A New Hope, and That Movie You Like With the Glowing Laser Kajiggers) is a 1977 American epic space opera film directed by George Lucas. It is the first film to be released in the Star Wars saga and the first of the original trilogy, yet the fourth in terms of the series' internal chronology. Confusing, huh? For those who have never seen Star Wars, it's a parody of Spaceballs.
Set in 0 BBY, nineteen years after that third prequel with the memes, the galaxy is know under the tyrannical rule of the Galactic Empire. The Empire is nearing completion of a giant mechanical moon called the Death Star, which will allow them to pwn the Rebel Alliance, an organized resistance formed to combat the Empire's tyranny. The story centers on this one dude named Luke Skywalker who lives on a farm with his aunt and uncle. He also had this one dad...but, he's a bad guy...And he's totally not Darth Vader!...Luke comes home one day from the Sand People's Club to find his aunt and uncle are dead, having gotten their asses whupped by stormtroopers. So then he finds some rambling old man, Obi-Wan Kenobi, who shows the boy a lightsaber for the first time and tells him about the Powers of the Glowing Stick You Can Hold In Your Hand. They then go to a bar to look at some weird aliens, and recruit a pilot named Ham Salad and his dog Chewbacca. They're taken to Darth Vader's (that's the bad guy, FYI) space stronghold, the Death Star, and rescue Princess Leia. After a bunch of stuff happening, Obi-Wan dies, Luke blows up in the Death Star in one hit, Vader is sent flying into space, and the good guys all get medals except Chewie.
Star Wars's sci-fi storyline, partially lifted from Alejandro Jodorowsky's treatments for Dune (minus the Islam) and set within the framework of an Eastern film with Buddhist mysticism, was unheard-of at the time. The studio doubted Lucas's vision, thinking his film was going to be a box office bomb. It was also the first movie since the Flash Gordon serials of the 1930s to use cheesy wipe-away transitions, which would later become commonplace in Microsoft's Windows Movie Maker. The rough cut of the film, by John Jympson of A Hard Day's Night fame, was a disaster; Lucas luckily fired Jympson and hired new editors (Richard Chew, Paul Hirsch, and George's wife Marcia) to salvage this piece of space junk.
Upon release, Star Wars grossed a planet-shattering $775.8 million, surpassing Jaws (directed by Lucas's buddy Steven Spielberg) to become the highest-grossing film of all-time (at that specific time), until E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (also directed by Spielberg) dethroned it in 1983. It received acclaim for combining groundbreaking visuals with a compelling-yet-simple storyline and characters. It received 50 Academy Awards, winning seven; it is often regarded as one of the best films ever, as well as either the second, third, or fourth best Star Wars movie (depending on who you ask).
Star Wars takes place "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away," if you are slow and didn't quite get that the first time I mentioned it. Yes, George Lucas was such a mastermind, he didn't have to set his story in the future, which is clearly a sci-fi cliché. Instead, Star Wars takes place in the past, completely ignoring every law of science and common sense about technology there is to ignore. The movie also takes place in an alternate galaxy, because it seems like it should. Really, look at the Milky Way. BORING! Unless you throw in an extra dimension or two, you just can't make our humble little galaxy interesting.
So, the movie begins, with Lucas, in his eternally laudable sense of storytelling, giving us a bit of background info on the story. Apparently, at the start of the movie (after the cool scrolling letters), it is a period of civil war. Also, it is a period of galactic unrest, and um.....Princess Leia's ship is under attack...Ha ha! Ship. Ha ha ha ha! Holy ship!....Yeah, anyways, the bad guys are after the good guys. There are lasers, badass guys in white suits with bad aim called stormtroopers, and cool explosions and stuff, so...yeah....I forget exactly what happens next, since I went upstairs at this point to grab my popcorn. Anyways, a couple of these robots (I know, robots in a sci-fi movie! Who would've thought?) wind up on a desert planet, apparently Yootapootapowpow, or some such creative name, where they're captured by hooded creatures called Jawas. Princess Hair Buns, meanwhile, is captured by the heavy-breathing Darth Vader, who apparently is not a very nice person. Presumably both characters are lonely and would like friends (or maybe even a hug). He and Leia pass the time by staring menacingly at one another and threatening to blow up planets.
Meanwhile, the two robust robots are sold to moisture farmers Owen and Beru Lars, and fall indirectly into the hands of a spry, rather whiny young lad named Luke Skywalker, who's Owen and Beru's step-nephew (Yes, that means Skywalker was the real family name of both Luke and his father. Whom Luke was hidden from. By really smart Jedi. With his father's family name. On his father's home planet. Why didn't Owen and Beru just rename him "Luke Lars"?). Luke's robotic companions lead him to the first-class abode of three Sand People, who proceed to beat the living shit out of him, until an old white man comes along and politely asks them to leave by shouting unintelligible noises. The really old man, after revealing himself to be Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi, takes a shot at Luke as well. Luke takes this opportunity to whine like an engine, and is again punched, this time by C-3PO, one of the droids and a translator who apparently does not fight usually. They reach Ben's hut home, where Luke is told of his father, one of my personal favorite parts of the movie. Ben speaks to Luke: "Uncle Owen...never told you about your father..." Luke says that "He told me enough. He told me he died while navigating a spice freighter!" "No," says Ben. "I was once a Jedi Knight who fought in the Clone Wars, same as your father. Search your feelings, boy! You know it to be true!" Oldy-1 Wasabi then gives Luke his father's lightsaber, which he totally didn't use to kill ten kids, and tells him about the Force, some kind of magic substance that apparently binds together all living things and has a "light side" and "dark side". Luke wants to become a Jedi and learn the ways of the Force like his father; Jedi are wizard samurai space cops with robes and glowing sticks, who use their psychic powers from their infinitely amazing and brilliant minds to choke people and destroy their planets.
At this point, a walrus man attempts to mug Luke; his hand is chopped off by Obi-Wan's lightsaber, and the entire Cantina goes silent. The walrus man, now with one hand less than before, grovels on the ground. A surprised Luke goes to another table and recruits the help of the rugged and manly space captain Han Solo, whose gruffness hides his soft spot for soap operas and kittens. Put simply, Han Solo is not a stock character, nor is anyone else in the Star Wars movies, and anyone that says they are is obviously not an expert on the movie like me. Along with Han, they meet Chewbacca, the lovable yet internally tortured companion of Han. His greatest dream was always to be a spaceship-piloting smuggler-mercenary-type thing, but his father always wanted him to be a baseball player. "Someday I'll make you proud, Dad," sighs Chewie as he boards Han's spaceship.
At this point, the movie moves into space, territory previously uncharted by science fiction, which Lucas bravely opted to venture into. Han Solo, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan, and Luke take off in Han's spaceship, the Centuryhawk, or some such device. There are a couple space battles, but they all get to the Death Star and rescue the trigger-happy Princess Leia, who proceeds to somehow wind up with a firearm and shoot nearly every human, alien, and droid in the station. This clears the way for her, Han, Luke, and Chewbacca to escape the Death Star while Obi-Wan wanders away and apparently gets lost, being the senile old man he is. Darth Vader finds him, and he is not really the nicest of people. A downright meanie-head, if you'll excuse my fucking language. Yeah, he kills Obi-Wan. It really didn't take him very long, either. Obi's last words are.....irrelevant, really, because he comes back later as a ghost, anyways.
At this point, there is a final, climactic, frantic, conclusive, final, climactic battle. In space, of course, as Lucas's aforementioned genius permits the aforementioned battle in the aforementioned movie to take place in the aforementioned setting, space. Space, of course, being aforementioned, like many other aforementioned aforementionings. Essentially, Luke is flying through some evil-looking canyon-y thing, when Darth Vader has locked onto his spaceship with his lasers. Darth is dramatically pausing before finishing his opponent, which he knows will certainly happen, because all the odds are in his favor and at this point nothing could possibly go wrong to stop him. Suddenly, and completely unexpectedly, Han Solo appears in his spaceship, which was apparently not around for any of the actual battle and just showed up at the end to serve as a deus ex machina. Either way, he shoots Darth Vader's ship, and Luke uses the Force to shoot some shiny things down a hole, which was apparently important, because it makes the Death Star explode, killing hundreds in the process. So it's powerful enough to blow up an entire planet, but weak enough that two shots up an air duct destroys it?
At this point, I assumed the movie was over, because only a filmmaker with such brilliance as Lucas could think to end a page with an explosion. Still, there was more! An awards ceremony where Han and Luke get medals from Leia, presumably for being in what is without question the greatest fucking movie of all-time. But being the biggest fan ever, I noticed that Chewie seemed to be sad at the ceremony. Then it hit me. Those nerf-herders don't give him a freakin' medal! After all he does, he gets nada. Zilch. Zippo. I mean, c'mon, he's the pilot! All Han does is shoot a couple of TIE fighters and save Luke. But no one ever realizes how hard it is to steer the ship while being shot at. So, nothing. At least he gets the last line in the movie.
Cast and characters
- Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker: A whiny farmboy who wants to become a Jedi like his father once was. He is slightly attracted to Princess Leia, who turns out to be his sister two movies later.
- Harrison Ford as Han Solo: A scoundrel smug smuggler who Obi-Wan and Luke hire for transportation to Alderaan.
- Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia: A sassy member of the rebellion who has stolen the plans to the near-complete Death Star but gets captured.
- David Prowse (suit) and James Earl Jones (voice) as Darth Vader: A Dark Lord of the Sith who is one of the three "faces" of the Galactic Empire, the other being Emperor Palpatine (unseen until the next movie) and Grand Moff Tarkin.
- A Midget as R2-D2: An astromech droid who conceals the Death Star plans, as well as virtually all of the galaxy's other secrets.
- Antwan Danyells as C-3PO: A prissy protocol droid who is R2's heterosexual life partner.
- Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca: Han's lovable Wookiee co-pilot who speaks in growls that only Han understands.
- Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi: An exiled Jedi hiding from the Empire, who is now passing as an old hermit under the alias Ben Kenobi (yet he didn't bother changing his last name). When Luke asks about his father, whom he has never met, Obi-Wan blatantly lies and tells him that Anakin Skywalker was a good Jedi friend who was betrayed and murdered by his pupil Darth Vader. In truth, Anakin was an annoying brat who needed a good slap (or at least a better acting coach), and became Vader after turning to the dark side.
- Phil Brown as Owen Lars: Luke's step-uncle who wants the boy to stay on Tatooine for the harvest and not go off on a damn fool idealistic crusade with crazy old Obi-Wan.
- Shelagh Fraser as Beru Lars: Luke's step-aunt who seems a bit too chipper when she says that Luke "has too much of his father in him."
- Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin: An Imperial moff who's supposed to be Vader's right-hand man, yet this movie makes it seem like it's the other way around.
In the early 1970s, after the success of his films THX 1138 and American Graffiti, indie filmmaker George Lucas was watching re-runs of Star Trek on a UHF TV station from San Francisco and hatched an idea. In a galaxy far, far away where paragraphs floated in space. Where big teddy bears growled at people, and where the Star Wars began. After this, George wrote a script titled The Star Wars: The Great Doomship Offensive, Chapter IV from the Journal of the Whills, in which the Imperial Star Destroyer attacks Princess Leah's stronghold on the planet Mushooine. In a nutshell, this film was about a young boy named Lukas Skynetlogger being taught magic by an old man who lived in the middle of a desert named Mace Windy. Windy taught Lukas that he was destined to bring peace to the galaxy, and that in order to do this, he must use a glowing sword to kill anyone who disagreed with his religion. They then traveled to a bar, where they befriended a robotic car salesman and a talking carpet. After escaping from the police, they flew into outer space, blew up millions of people, toppled a government, rescued a princess, and killed a 90-year-old man, finally bringing peace to the galaxy.
Most of the themes in Star Wars were "inspired" by the Akira Kurosawa classic The Hidden Fortress. In that movie, a pair of bickering and self-involved peasants (one short, one tall) accompany a warrior and a princess (who learns humility along the journey) to the safety of her kingdom. The borrowing is most noticeable during a sequence where the two peasants take separate paths only to both be captured by the same enemy, find each other in amongst a horde of prisoners, and then cross paths with the warrior. Many other ideas, like the Jedi Mind Trick where a Jedi gets someone to do something they want by speaking a command or a suggestion, comes from Frank Herbert's Dune and the Bene Gesserit power of The Voice. In later Star Wars installments, Lucas is still ripping off Dune with the idea that the Force comes from midi-chlorians, akin to Alejandro Jodorowsky's idea for Dune that the Bene Gesserit powers came from microscopic worms in the blood. Whether the Western film influences in Star Wars are surviving elements from The Hidden Fortress (Kurosawa was known for borrowing from Western films), or George Lucas's own is really none of your business. Because Lucas is more successful than you ever will be, nerds.
A majority of the actual filming was conceived upon a small velvet scroll which measured at around 2X2 inches. A couple of characters such as Vader and Luke himself were drawn upon the material, and sent to an editing room, based in a pothead's basement in the San Francisco Bay Area. George overlooked the film, from up to bottom, at times coughing on scenes that gave him a fit of hypertension and exhaustion and nearly caused a heart attack. This deep symbolism is currently being applied to Lucas's flannel shirt via sequins. Victoria Beckham, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Cambridge, suggests that the sequins are a vain and futile attempt to recapture youth and artistic creativity.
Upon its release, Star Wars was showered with praise by everyone everywhere, and nobody disliked it. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called the film "an out-of-body experience that doesn't require drugs," compared its special effects to those of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and opined that the true strength of the film was its "pure imaginarrative and brisk pacing, compared to the glacial LSD boredom of 2001." Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film "the most poppy and accessible serial ever made," comparing its content to that of an ELO song. After Star Wars hit it big at the box office, it spawned a ton of spinoffs, media, merchandise, action figures, comics, video games, breakfast cereals, cardboard Halloween decorations, tennis shoes, Expanded Universe backstories of characters who appeared for five seconds in the cantina, television shows — anything. Star Wars was no longer just a movie but a marketing machine driven by Lucas's insatiable hunger for Cali-pineapple hamburgers. The absolute pinnacle of this marketing frenzy was the 1978 cocaine-fueled Star Wars Holiday Special, which really has to be seen to believed (too bad Disney+ won't let you watch it).
Contrary to that last paragraph, not everyone everywhere was so positive, however. "What is Star Wars?" asked Pauline Kael. "To save you two hours: plagiarized Akira Kurosawa works mixed with World War II and cowboy shows like Bonanza set in space. Hey, next time someone sees George Lucas, why don't they ask him about Valerian and Laureline? Go on, do it." Unfortunately for Kael, the film became extremely popular, and produced an entire generation of turbo-nerds that collect suggestive fanart of Jabba the Hutt.
Legacy and the Other Stuff
For a while, there was only one Star Wars movie. Of course, after such a massive success as that, fans, and the faceless Hollywood corporations were left wanting more. The fans desired more movies so that they could escape from their boring lives for a few more hours. The faceless Hollywood corporations desired more so that they could leech money off of said fans until there was nothing left to take, and they control all the money. This is because if they control the money, they control the spice, and if they control the spice, they control the universe. Still, this left Lucas with only one option: numerous sub-par prequels and sequels!
Well, the next two original trilogy movies, also known as the second and third movies made, also known as the fifth and sixth episodes, weren't really that bad. It was the prequels that really sucked. Though they received mixed-to-positive reviews from critics, they also received mixed-to-negative reviews from fans. Many older fans thought that the saga had "degenerated into an unholy mess of juvenile, dull storylines and CGI slapstick characters which can only be appreciated by 12-year-olds." However, George Lucas countered: "What fans conveniently forgot was that they THEMSELVES were 12-year-olds back in the '70s when the first Star Wars film released." Positive reviews have noted how the prequels successfully cashed-in on the concepts of the original trilogy, by once again simplifying complicated issues like intergalactic wars, intergalactic trade routes, and intergalactic decays of democracies into fascism down to a brain-dead level in order to appease their target audience of 12-year-olds. Then George sold Star Wars to Disney, and they produced the lackluster sequels which shamelessly rehashed the original trilogy, and are best left forgotten.
In 1997, Lucasfilm hyped the return of Star Wars by releasing Special Edition versions of the original trilogy. $11 million dollars were utilized in changes/additives/subtractions for the original Star Wars alone, including cartoony added CGI, altered dialogue, re-edited shots, remixed soundtracks, added scenes, Greedo shooting first, Han stepping on CGI Jabba's tail, X-wing miniatures being changed to CGI, orangutans, breakfast cereals, and fruit bats; these changes were done to conform to Lucas's "original vision". "I always thought it would be funny if Han stepped on Jabba's tail," said Lucas, "but back in the '70s, I didn't have the technology needed to change a fat Irishman to a CGI gangster slug. Now I do." More changes were grafted onto the 2004 DVDs, 2011 Blu-rays, and 2019 Disney+ 4K scans, such as rocks being added in front of R2-D2, and Obi-Wan's krayt dragon call being changed to that of the lizard from Revenge of the Sith and again to that of a rambling drunk.
- Time in the Star Wars universe is reckoned using as a basis the exact moment in A New Hope when the stormtrooper entering the control room on the Death Star bangs his head on the door and yells. Using this system, events occurring before this moment are designated BBY (before bang/yell), and events after ABY.