March 29, 2015

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

George Lucas, 1977
Making the decision to revisit The Star Wars franchise comes with some early thoughts. Is the franchise going to live up to the test of time? So often we go back to these films from our childhood, films that made an impact, and they just look horrendous. The special effects look campy, there’s bad acting, sometimes even the story itself seems elementary. And in my case, where it’s been 20 years since I’ve seen this film, those thoughts were certainly floating around in my head. First off, it’s actually a bit difficult to get the Star Wars films in your hands. Sure, you can go out and but the DVD’s at Best Buy or off of Amazon. But like most films nowadays, you can’t get that $4 rental from Amazon or iTunes. This is likely because negotiations are probably still going on pertaining to the digital release of the films. This will probably happen fairly soon seeing as Disney now owns the franchise. So we got the DVD from Netflix, put it in and pressed Play. The menu screen loads, and you hear that eternally familiar theme song.

The pacing of the story in the first film is really noticeable. There is a two hour window to squeeze in a lot of setup. George Lucas really does a fantastic job of keeping it moving along. In fact, damn. Watching “A New Hope” again really evokes a nostalgic feeling. George Lucas, what the fuck happened dude? This first film is really a masterpiece. The special effects are bafflingly good for 1977. The set design is elaborate, comprehensive, creative, innovative. The alien creatures, who clearly went on to influence every future Sci Fi film from The Fifth Element to Total Recall, are impressively constructed. This is a remarkable film that doesn’t necessarily feel like it was made 38 years ago. Did Lucas have this kind of foresight, where he knew that the air battle scene would look that good decades later? Even the light-sabers hold up. Sure, there are some of the dated effects like that electrical effect we see so much in films like Back to the Future or Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but it feels excusable here. The only real criticism that can really made for this film is it feels like it lacks a certain occasional emotional component. Luke sees the incinerated bodies of his aunt and uncle outside of his home on Alderaan, and instead of grieving for a period of time he immediately departs his home planet to fight off the Imperial forces. Later, when Leia is reunited with her father who considered her lost and dead, there are no tears. But these are things that would likely slow things down, when it’s pretty important that the story moves forward.

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