STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE

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Alright, here it goes, i’m going to start reviewing all six movies of this franchise, it gives me an excuse to watch them again and finally put my actual thoughts about these things out here for nobody to read. I’ve decided to go in order of how they were released as opposed to chronological order of story. I have no real explanation as to why though.

I’ve already covered how and when i first watched this film in my : “Star Wars Experience” essay, however i feel that i must stress a point, lest anyone who does happen to stumble upon these reviews and sees my lower than popular opinion scores on these movies particularly with the original trilogy whereby they may flip out or discount my arguments of that of the lowest common denominator and perhaps not worth reading. The point is as follows:

I can never in my life ever successfully argue that the original trilogy are made up of mediocre movies, because they aren’t. However, i do not hold them to the same level that seemingly everyone else does, as a result i can and do find flaws and faults in them. I’m not trying to deliberately enrage anybody, nor go against popular opinion because it is the “cool thing to do”, these are my honest thoughts and feelings on these films. Now if that is something that has perked your curiosity please read on.

With that being said lets jump straight into…

THE GOOD

If we look at the absolute fundamentals of this film we can see that it has great example of a three act story structure. Having a clear beginning, middle, and ending, that also complements and motivates a satisfying character arc; that of Luke going from an aimless listless youth, To having a purpose and destiny that he must fulfil. As a result the film can always be used as an enduring example of how structure drives story and character development.

From the screen filling shot of a space battle between two ships the film is absolutely bursting with imagination, every frame is an example of ingenuity and one can only imagine the problems that had to be surmounted on set everyday to bring it to life. But the best thing about it is the fact that the movie doesn’t ever dwell on any one segment, costume, or set for longer than necessary. The pacing of the film brings all of these fantastic settings to us in a casual way, as the film runs through its narrative briskly it lets our imagination run with all of the little details of who and what all that is transpiring on screen is, which i believe is one of the keystones as to why so many people are endlessly fascinated with exploring and expanding upon this universe.

John Williams, following up on his promise with JAWS, gives us many great themes to hum in our spare time. Although they would be expanded upon in all of the other movies to follow here we have the solid groundwork for all of it. Just mentioning the theme of the force, its lovely melody comes straight to the forefront of my mind, as does the imperial march. I’m willing to bet you probably have one of the other stuck in your head already.

You also can’t really talk about the good of any of these movies without first mentioning how they changed cinema when they came out; In both the technical and business side of things A New Hope is unarguably a watershed moment in cinema, i won’t go into too much detail as to how as other people have covered it more thoroughly then i could possibly do so here as they are frankly more interested in doing so than i am. I will say in closing though despite my reservations as to how much i like this particular entrance into the franchise i will never deny that it remains an important movie.

THE BAD

I do, i’m sure to many people’s disappointment have a lot of criticisms to level at this film. Firstly i do not find that the special effects have aged well at all in this entry. Although the make up on the aliens remain top notch, all of the ships have a really boxy movement to them that really hammers home the feeling that they were all indeed moved by strings. I am aware of the fact that they were inventing the techniques as they went along, however i compare it to how 3D graphics in the mid to late 90’s were being refined and as a result when you look back on games even just 10 years old you are still liable to say: “Good god why did i think these looked even remotely good?”

Compared to the look of The Empire Strikes Back, i find despite my aforementioned point of the films imagination A New Hope’s visual presentation to be quite bland. It has a much more limited colour palette, than its sequels and the dusty deserts and gun metal/garish red corridors of the death star don’t really lend to some memorable images. I have no doubt that this is a result of time constraints or budgetary factors that just weren’t prevalent in the sequels, but it doesn’t change the fact that i don’t find much of the movie to really jump off the screen at me.

I am also largely not a huge fan of two of the major characters in this film. Luke really is a whiny teenager, and as i grow older i do start to find that adolescents really aren’t interesting people and can’t really make interesting characters by the very nature of the fact that they haven’t lived for very long. But that’s not to say that i’m a fan of Han-Solo either, he is a rude selfish asshole. I know that everybody is thinking that i missed the point, and that he redeems himself by showing that he actually does care about his friends by coming back, but this only leads to more of my aggravation, he literally swoops in and gets all the glory that everyone else worked extremely hard and/or died for. That just rubs me the wrong way. He is a guy that i really wouldn’t want to spend the time to get to know in order to get to “the good guy inside”, the only reason luke and leia did was by necessity and circumstance.

The last point i bring against the film is very subjective to me and my viewing experience that i don’t expect many people to share. It is the quite simple fact that i’ve seen most of what is presented here before and in a much more engaging way. Here you see Luke as a listless youth dreaming of getting away, so what? I started by seeing him as the last Jedi Knight skilled in the use of his Lightsaber. You also get treated to a budding love triangle between Luke, Leia, and Han. Again, so what? I already saw that Leia chooses Han and i also, when i first watched as well as today don’t really care very much about love triangles to begin with. What about the Death Star? Or the Star Destroyers? Or the Space Battles, and shoot outs? Once again all of this i saw first in the Return of the Jedi and they were all bigger and better there. Now that isn’t a fault of the film but it effects my viewing experience and overall feelings towards the film.

THE DUEL

As all of these films feature a Lightsaber duel and all are quite different from one another i find it fitting to discuss them separately. The duel in A New Hope stands as the worst in the series, and yes this is mostly because it has the worst visual presentation of any of them. I wrote in detail about this one in my Phantom Menace rebuttal pages, since i took them down for reasons i have explained previously i will reproduce the pertinent points of my argument against this duel. This isn’t a copy and paste thing and i have edited the original text to better suit the tone of this review:

No, I don’t miss the point of the duel in A New Hope. That of sacrifice and knowing when it is time to hand the torch off to a new generation (giving “a new hope” a chance so to speak). Its just horrendously executed on a technical level and i’m sorry, but that really matters.

The duel is awful to watch; It is clumsy and slow to the point of feeling unplanned and unpractised. Vader and Obi Wan move like they have back braces on, with every move of their bodies and arms being stiff and clumsy. The actors seem like they had only been shown the moves a day or two before the fight was to be filmed, so naturally they concentrate on trying to get them right and not waste film on hundreds of takes.

The camera for the most part stays locked off in one position (there is indeed a sequence with some movement though) to give the SFX guys a chance to properly rotoscope in the blades. Knowing this the editor tries to make up for the lack visual dynamism, movement, and poor choreography by constantly shifting angles. The result is a sequence that has the movement so chopped up by the changing shots as to call attention to itself and add to its overall awkwardness.

My final point is the fact that film is a visual medium. So it matters intrinsically how a fight looks on screen. Lucas must have known this duel was bad, you only have to look at the next movie to see improvements. In The Empire Strikes Back although there is still a certain amount of clumsiness to the movements of the actors as a whole it is shot a lot more dynamically than this duel, locations change, the special effects are better and the editing is much more smoother, as a result it looks much better than the one on display here.

Visual dynamism and a smooth presentation is like the cherry on top of the deeper meaning. The sugar to the substance. Interesting visuals make a nice compliment to drama presented in this medium; its the reason we make these stories into movies and not books. A New Hope’s duel although necessary to the story is not presented in a manner that is easy to digest, and as a result will always remain a blemish on an otherwise well shot, excellently edited franchise.

THE UGLY

When i first watched A New Hope, it failed to impress me. This is indeed a result of my viewing experiences, and although my tastes have indeed changed and i can appreciate the deeper metaphors and ingenuity on display here. However i never find myself returning very often to it. Why would i watch this film when i could watch The Empire Strikes Back? Or Return of the Jedi? Because everyone else tells me its worth it? Or better than one or the other of those films? Nope. It will always be one of the last picks of mine when i want to kill some time and watch some Star Wars and as a result i give it a rating of:

** 1/2 out of Five

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