How does one even begin to review this movie? It’s like reviewing the ABC’s or the Green Lantern oath or the Konami up up down down etc code. Star Wars is an integral part of our culture, language, idioms, and even philosophy, whatever apocryphal horrors inflicted on the franchise by its very maker, which sounds like an oxymoron and it is. I will endeavor to view it as a first-comer. Who knows what I’ll find?
The film captures you from the beginning with the 20 Century Fox fanfare and then explodes into the inimitable John Williams Star Wars theme from which the cool font heads into the distance and the written prologue scrolls up serial style from bottom to top. This alone convinces the viewer that this film is large scale and not to be taken lightly. This is serious stuff.
The prologue scrolls away and the camera pans down to a Corellian Corvette being chased by a Star Destroyer over the desert planet of Tatooine. The disproportionate size of the two ships is made readily apparent through the impressive unfurling of the Destroyer into the view of the camera. We see inside the fleeing ship at a thin golden droid (save for one shin) C3P0 speaking with a Dalek, um, a stubby missile-shaped astromech droid named R2-D2 who returns the former’s whiny British accent with a series of random beeps and electronic whoops. A battle ensues as the Corvette is tractor beamed into the Destroyer and Stormtroopers attack. These Imperial forces are attired in their trademark white armor with dour expressions on their helmets, which completely cover their faces. Unlike in later scenes in the series, their aim here is spot-on and they quickly capture or kill all of the Rebel forces who wear only white helmets that cover the tops of their heads kind of like WWI armor. Among their ranks emerges a tall broad-chested specter with a black cape, and a helmet of a quite different design from that of the stormtroopers. He has robotic dials and buttons on his chest piece and breathes like a diver wearing an oxygen mask. He speaks with the iconic voice of the great James Earl Jones. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else voicing the figure, who is Darth Vader, Lord of Sith. Vader demonstrates his strength by lifting poor souls by their throats. He speaks with authority and his biting baritone begs to be listened to.
Vader and his minions are searching for plans for a battle station which are reported to have been stolen and brought upon this ship, despite the claims from the guy hanging by his throat that all are on a diplomatic mission.
Meanwhile Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is taking action to set events in motion that will change everything and advance the plot of this genre breaking, action packed, well scripted landmark. There is so much creativity here and the lack of any exposition other than the spare opening prologue plants us firmly in this galaxy so far, far away.
Eventually we meet Luke, a young man in his early 20’s who lives on the aforementioned desert planet of Tatooine He and his aunt and uncle live on a moisture farm and meet the droids C3P0 and R2D2 under interesting circumstances. Events follow the droids and eventually Luke meets an old wizened man named Ben Kenobi played by the great Alec Guinness. Ben will later reveal himself to be Obi-Wan Kenobi Jedi Knight. He further explains that Luke’s father was also a great Jedi Knight until he was betrayed and murdered by Darth Vader. Luke attains his father’s lightsaber, a sort of laser sword which can be turned on and off and cut through anything and is the signature weapon of Jedi, who were all hunted down and murdered by Vader and his ilk.
Luke joins Obi Wan to find the Princess, who had left a video message for Kenobi in the R2 droid and enlists the help of a smuggler by the name of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his first mate Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), an 8 ft hairy Yeti like creature called a Wookie. Chewbacca or Chewie as he is fondly called by Han, speaks only in random growls and howls and yet is fully understood by his Captain.
Great adventure ensues as the aforementioned battle station is revealed to be a moon-sized monstrosity with the power to destroy entire planets. The action turns to suspense as the Death Star, as the station is called makes its way to the Rebel Base on Yavin-4. The rebels attack it with cooly designed X-Wings and Y-Wings, fighters which seek to hit the Death Star in its weak point while being attacked by ship to ship TIE fighters deployed by the Imperial Fleet in one of the greatest battle scenes in film history. The checking in of each fighter pilot on the com invokes WWII films of fighter jet pilot radio chatter.
Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope is a fascinating film with remarkable creativity, wonderfully drawn characters speaking memorable dialogue. The viewers truly feel thrown into the action and the galaxy and identify thoroughly with the characters and story. A true masterpiece of not just Science Fiction but in filmmaking altogether.