Mixing gorgeous visuals with ambitious filmmaking, George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope is a fascinating watch from start to finish. Is it always entertaining? Actually, yes. Yes, it is. It has been edited perfectly so as to not include too much exposition and world building, yet manages to include enough so that you know the world it takes place in far exceeds what you see on-screen. Any potential sequels can build on this and take advantage of it.
The basic story of the film involves an unlikely team of heroes teaming up in order to defeat the bad guy and save a princess (Carrie Fisher). The heroes consist of a bunch of interesting and colorful characters, most of whom you’ll know intimately by the time the film concludes. The lead, if you consider him that, is Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), raised by his aunt and uncle but soon set on an adventure with the arrival of two droids, the human-like C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and the beeping and booping R2-D2. There’s an ongoing war between the Empire and the Rebels, and they’re going to play what I can only describe as a relatively large part in it.
Accompanying these characters on their journey is a mercenary named Han-Solo (Harrison Ford), who owns a ship that is co-piloted by Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), another character — this one looks kind of like a sasquatch — who can’t speak English. There is also an old man, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), who goes about teaching Luke how to use the Force, which has rules and is essentially telekinesis as far as I can see, but is another one of those “world building” things.
The villains: Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing), the man who operates the Death Star, which is a huge fortress currently holding the princess; and Darth Vader (acted by Darvis Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones), who also has Force powers. You can expect all of these characters to clash at some point, although you’ll be surprised with how it all works in the film. Some of these confrontations are anticlimactic, or don’t even happen. Some of the heroes never even meet — or are particularly aware of — the villains.
What we’re left with is a swashbuckling adventure film that happens to take place in space. Does it have to? No, of course not. The basic story is based on a Japanese film, The Hidden Fortress, which took place on Earth. But that it’s in space allows for it to utilize impressive visual effects, build an incredible universe for its events to take place within, and make it feel far bigger than it might actually be. The characters move great distances in their ships and you’re left wondering exactly what else is out there to be explored.
The action itself isn’t particularly violent, which actually makes the film better. That it’s essentially bloodless and you don’t really see anyone die is beneficial because the film is rather light in tone to begin with. It’s humorous at times, and yet there’s still a very real sense of danger. When the climax is being built up, you actually feel tense. You wonder what’s going to happen and how these characters will pull it off, and it’s very effective despite not being gruesome.
It’s at this point when I realized how transfixed I was on this movie. How I was engrossed in these characters and this universe, and how I needed to see what happened to them. It takes a special type of film — especially one that takes place in space, and makes you suspend your disbelief with every frame — to draw you in as well as Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope does. You become immersed, sucked into this movie, and it’s really hard to take you out of the experience.
Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope looks great. It uses a blend of computer and practical effects, and both are done to great effect in this movie. This might be the best looking movie since 2001: A Space Odyssey. There are often lasers being fired, or great, sweeping shots of vehicles moving through space, and you’re engrossed. Not only in the story, but in how George Lucas managed to put all of this together and make it work. Even the alien creatures look great. It’s surprising just how much work went into creating this movie in order to make it as effective as it is.
Where does Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope not completely succeed? Well, for one, the way that the princess character was written made her come across as inconsistent. She goes from bossy to compassionate between scenes for no reason. Some of the actors aren’t exactly great, although most of them do a decent job. None of these things detract from the film enough to even considering not watching it. It overcomes any and all flaws with ease and becomes a great viewing.
Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope is a fantastic movie. Despite that taking place in space, you become completely immersed. You don’t have to work to suspend your disbelief; you simply feel like you’re a part of the experience. It’s a lighthearted, swashbuckling adventure, that will keep you entertained from start to finish, while also building up a world you want to explore in future installments. The basic story is simple, but everything going on around it is engrossing. This is a great movie and a film you absolutely must watch.